Unleash your mind power | Sunday Observer

Unleash your mind power

19 September, 2021

If you look at yourself closely, you will realise that you have been doing all kinds of mindless activities such as leaving your parents over a trivial argument or throwing away your study materials into the dustbin when you fail an examination.

A friend tells me a strange story of three generations of mindlessness. One day, a newly married young woman was about to cook a pot of rice. She took a handful of rice and put it away in a small container and then started cooking. When asked why she did such a thing, she said it was because her mother had always done that before cooking rice. Her own curiosity aroused, the young woman telephoned her mother to ask for the reason. Her mother’s answer was the same: “Because that’s the way my mother did it.”

Not satisfied by her mother’s explanation, she phoned her grandmother why she always took a handful of rice and put it away. She gave a somewhat different answer. She said, “That’s the only way it would fit into my pot.”

These are the consequences of operating on autopilot range from the trivial to the catastrophic. The example cited above demonstrates how we treat information as though it were the gospel truth. If you can keep your wits about being mindful, you can stay in control while remaining open to life’s many possibilities.

Think in absolutes

The main problem appears to be our inability to think in absolutes. I once experienced how people respond to problems. One day, a cyclist knocked down a woman crossing the road and fled the scene. She complained that she had sprained her knee and needed help. She asked a passerby to get her an elastic bandage from the nearby pharmacy.

The pharmacist told the customer that elastic bandages were out of stock. The passerby returned and told the woman that elastic bandages were out of stock. He could have possibly bought some other bandage. Unfortunately, once people set their minds on a single solution, they often fail to look for alternatives. Whatever problem you face, you will find more options if you realise that there are no absolute answers, but rather a range of possible solutions.

When I was in school, a friend narrated a peculiar story about his grandmother. She was in her 70s and complained that a snake was crawling in her skull and giving her a severe headache. Her family doctor after diagnosis said she was talking nonsense as a result of senility. An autopsy following her death after a few days revealed that she had a brain tumour. Can we question a doctor’s diagnosis? When a woman makes frantic statements, how can a doctor assume that she is senile? However, we assume that doctors cannot make mistakes.

Question your assumptions

The lesson I learnt is that when you face a new problem, question all your assumptions before taking remedial measures. One day, I walked into a supermarket, collected some items and presented my new credit card to the cashier. Noticing that I had not signed it, she gave it back to me. After I signed it, she took the card and passed it through a machine. Then she handed me a tiny piece of paper and asked me to sign it. Then she verified the two signatures.

On another day, I walked into a different supermarket. When I gave my card she ran it through the machine and gave it back to me. She did not ask me to sign a form and I walked away with the items I had bought. This is one instance to drive home the point that people react differently.

I have heard of a plane crash that took place in the United States in 1982. An Air Florida plane crashed in Washington DC killing 78 people. It was a regular flight from Washington to Florida with an experienced crew. Although the pilot and the co-pilot had conducted their checklist routine, they had not considered the engine’s anti-ice system.

The plane crashed on takeoff largely because the pilots had failed to deal with the snow problem. This means knowing the script by heart does not help all the time. You have to be extra vigilant in certain situations.

Sweeping generalisations

As experienced adults, we like to make sweeping generalisations. We express our likes and dislikes authoritatively. When I was working in a small office with several others, we found it impossible to work without an air-conditioner.

However, a woman working with us objected. She complained of getting “air-conditioner colds” in the office. Then we suggested that she should wear a sweater. The lesson we learn was simple. By forcing yourself to look more carefully for the specific source of your dissatisfaction, you will increase your potential for solving the problem.

Very often we tend to think automatically of what we cannot do rather than what we can do. A young scriptwriter recently told me of his longstanding inability to finish his script he was writing. He thought he was a failure. Then he teamed up with another scriptwriter who had a positive outlook. Together they flourished as scriptwriters. The technique is simple. When you are not sure of what you are doing, seek help from a competent person. The world is full of such people.

Mortally scared

Some people are mortally scared of getting the vaccine because they imagine it is a painful process. The situation is worse if you have to go for a major operation. In an experiment, patients facing major surgery were told to put their pain in a different context.

They were asked to imagine themselves either playing football or preparing for a dinner party during the operation.

In a football game you get minor bruises which you do not feel. Similarly, if you can think of such a game when your eye is being operated on, you will hardly feel any pain. During my cataract operation, a nurse who was holding my hand repeatedly said, “Now everything is ok. The operation is almost over. In a little while you can go home.” I did not feel any pain. That means pain is not inevitable. It can be influenced by the way we view it.

We all need to live as creatively and mindfully as possible to stay open to new information and perspectives. At the same time, avoid talking about your troubles, your ailments, your diseases or your hurts with others. By doing so, you give a longer life to what makes you unhappy. Give recognition only to what you desire.

Think and talk only about the good things that add to your enjoyment or your work and life. If you do not talk about grievances, you will be delighted to find them disappearing into thin air.

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