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Care of the Mind

For the past week, I have been doing a daily meditation of gratitude and prosperity early in the morning, before I start my day. Caring for the Mind (in my opinion) takes on so many forms. Just like our bathroom routine in the morning consists of a number of actions, so should taking care of the Mind consist of a number of actions.

Many years ago I read “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore. One of the things (sad that it is one of the few things I remember) that he suggested was to look at the way you treat yourself, for instance, when you make yourself a cup of tea. I then came into the habit of really taking care when I make tea for myself. Always in a pot, decent tea, a cup with a fine rim, first the tea, then the milk. (Yes, many disagree on this simple act!). The thing is, a cup of tea has such significance. When things get tough, we offer someone a cup of tea. It soothes. Do it properly.

Caring for the Mind means that we should be mindful of what goes in, very much like being Mindful of what we eat. Facebook first thing in the morning is a bit like having a beer and two cigarettes when you wake up. And a slice of cake. The gumph (mostly) that we are fed by the algorithms feeds our addictions, tarnishes the blank canvas with which we wake up, and sets the pattern for the day.

When we think of a vulnerable person living with memory loss, cognitive impairment and/or frailty, we are mostly at the mercy of other people. I still think that it must be terrible to not wake up when you feel like waking up (being woken at 04h00 by someone who wants to “wash” you), not being able to just lie in a little, then go to the bathroom, then make yourself that much needed first cup of something…but having to wait until 08h00 that a big pot of lukewarm, middle of the road whatever comes your way, perhaps poured into a plastic mug that has seen better days judging by the teeth marks on the rim…

When are dependent on others, what priority is ever given to the needs of our Mind or Soul? What moments are created to soothe the turmoil of confusion or forgetting? Do we create a space of tranquillity, of gentle quiet where our Minds can be at ease? Between call bells and cleaning routines, trolleys in the passage and overhead announcements it must feel like living in the departure lounge of Heathrow airport. My Soul would die a slow death…

In the past year, I have become more and more aware of the fragility of our Minds, our inner world that is so easily disturbed and upset. We spend our days (if we are at all Mindful) worrying about what we said, how we look, climate change, crime, family matters, money, our jobs, and the weather. We are busy from the moment we open our eyes until we shut them at night, often forgetting the care that our inner landscape needs. We go to the gym and run up the mountain, walk the dogs, cook and clean. But how much time do we spend on cultivating a rich inner landscape, a place of refuge when one day when we can no longer run around and go places and eat out, we need to retreat to? Imagine if tonight (God forbid) you should get a stroke, be paralysed, confined to a bed, and all you have is your inner landscape. Your thoughts and memories, your Mind. Not able to do anything for yourself, others fussing and making decisions on creating a life worth living for you. What music would they play for you, if any? Would they know how you like your tea? What your favourite food is? How do you like to sleep, your preferred toothpaste? Will they simply leave the television on and walk away? (Please do read “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – about locked-in syndrome). But more importantly, what would it be like to spend day after day on the inside of your own Mind? When the outside world is confusing and chaotic, your Mind will be your only companion. Would it be a healthy place filled with positive thoughts and loving feelings? What would go on in your Mind when your loved ones walk through the door?

Again, the best long-term investment you can make is to nurture your Mind, to take care of your Soul, to create an inner sanctuary in which you can dwell. Thoughts, like a garden, in which your weary Soul will rest. Peace. Tranquillity. Love. Affection. Invest in becoming that person who others want to spend time with, regardless of your ability to communicate verbally.

Your Mind, in fact, your Consciousness, will never disappear or be eroded by old age or cognitive impairment. Make sure that everyone who cares about you knows how you would wish to be if you can no longer communicate verbally. Write it down, talk about it, make peace. Death will come for all of us. Make sure that when it comes you have completed your journey. That you have peace, that you have lived in every moment, used it all. It might happen tomorrow!

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