The Secret to a healthy mind

Imagine someone who absolutely needs to be in the moment.

For safety’s sake.

Say someone like a surfer who is out there in the ocean hanging ten.

Picture this surfer riding a huge wave.

Can you see how thoughts don’t help the surfer?

What’s the surfer doing? Paying attention to the wave!

Information about what to do comes via insights arising in the moment.

There are no predetermined, premeditated actions or thoughts that can help.

What happens if the surfer on that massive wave focuses on what coulda/woulda/shoulda been done or worries about what will happen later in the day?

That’s right. Wipeout!

I love this observation that Alex Mill shares in his book, ‘Meditation and reinventing yourself’.

We can all relate to his example of the surfer wiping out, right?

Because it is dramatic and potentially life-threatening.

But what about wiping out in much more ordinary, everyday, non-life-threatening ways?

Wiping out is living in our heads and trying to wilfully think our way through life.

Living in our heads is when we worry about the future, chew over the past, fret when things do not seem be going our way, over-analyse and many other ways of over-employing our thinking.

Why do we do it?

It is the illusion of control, fueled by insecure thinking. We think that if we do not try to control our world then something bad is going to happen.

But do you see the paradox?

The attempt to control IS the bad thing happening!

Life does not lend itself enough to control to make it a viable way to live.

The secret to a healthy mind

On an almost daily basis I see articles in the media about how to have a healthy mind.

The one I read today was called, ‘Lockdown brain; how to talk yourself out of a negative thought’.

How can you experience a quieter mind by doing more thinking?

The more thought you use to try and get rid of thought the bigger the problem will seem. The advice dished out by many so-called ‘experts’ does not work.

So, what does?

Several years ago, I was working with my coach, Annika Hurwitt, and she said to me:

‘John, you get present really easily, but I also notice that you tend to drift off sometimes and I wonder to myself, “where is he going now?”‘

When she said that I remember both laughing and feeling a little embarrassed too, but it was also incredibly helpful.

I realised that noticing when you are not here brings you back into the here.

Michael Singer wrote in his wonderful book, ‘The Untethered Soul’:

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realising you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it. If you don’t understand this, you will try to figure out which of the many things the voice says is really you.”

For our intellectual mind this is way too simple – surely there must be a process or some steps to follow?


There are no techniques, no steps to follow and no talking yourself out of your thinking

Just notice.

This is enough.

As we notice and come back into the present, just as Alex points out:

‘Information about what to do comes via insights arising in the moment’.  

The intelligence is built into the system.

P.S. If this resonates with you then I would love to hear from you. 

The little understood power of the present moment

When we truly understand the power of the present moment, then it becomes the most important thing in our life.

I learned that to truly connect with others I had to be fully present with them.

I learned that happiness and contentment are not circumstance dependent; they are a function of how present we are in our lives.

I learned that to perform better in anything I do then the quality of my attention is the most important thing of all.

How much time do we spend in our heads?

I was listening to an interview with the renowned scientist Bruce Lipton when he said that research has shown that most of us spend only 5% (or less) of our time being present.

So, for a staggering 95%+ of the time people are thinking about the past or the future.

They are habitually chewing over lots of unnecessary thinking rather than being present with who they are with or what they are doing.

Of course, it is sometimes useful to remember the past or imagine the future, but Bruce was not talking about that.

He was talking about how disengaged most people are from being in life.

Holding a space for someone is when we are willing to drop all our thinking and be there for them completely.

This is a game-changer yet how many people practice it?

Most people ‘steal’ a conversation. They just can’t help jumping in with what they think.

Someone tells us they would love to retire to Spain and the next thing we do is get out our Spanish holiday snaps because we just know how interested they will be!

I have just returned from Phoenix where I met the legendary Steve Hardison.

Steve is coach to billionaires, pro-athletes, CEO’s. People pay him upwards of $200,000 per year to work with him.

They don’t pay him this because of what he knows. They pay him because of his extraordinary quality of presence.

I listened to him speak for a couple of hours and one of the things he said was:

“You get to choose – heaven or hell – every thought you have.”

Every single one of us experiences negative thinking and low moods, but as someone I know astutely said:

“The ultimate in narcissism is believing every thought because I thought it.”

When we identify with our thoughts, we create anxiety and our life becomes a living hell of separation from what we want.

But thoughts only have any power if we give it to them.

Fear and anxiety are thoughts of what might happen, not something that is happening in the present moment.

Eckhart Tolle in his book, ‘The power of now’ said:

“As long as you are identified with your mind, the ego runs your life.”

I have found that being present makes sense to almost everyone, but they then say:

“Ok, I get it but how do I do it? What’s the technique?”

But just as you cannot slow your bike by peddling faster you cannot experience a quiet mind by doing more thinking.

Your mind already knows how to return to presence and clarity without your conscious intervention – it is an allowing rather than a doing.

P.S. I have posted this short clip (about the present moment) before (1m45s) but it is genuinely funny. Click here.