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The Tinkered Mind
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January 1st, 2021
You are only who you repeatedly remember yourself to be; or, who you choose to be otherwise.
We remember the past in a warped way. There are strange and very unsettling opportunities when the brow furrows at ironclad evidence that the past unrolled in a very different way than we seem to remember. We bend and dress the past, and from that dolled-up amalgam, we have a story about who we think ourselves to be. This can be a severely painful story, or it can be a glossy version sugared over. The later is bound to benefit from humility, but the former gains to benefit from a rebellion: against the past, against one’s own conception of self.
This is a very difficult feat to pull off, and unlike the flashy examples of movies and video games, it does not happen all at once. Overnight changes occur only when great force is available, like with a military coup. And even that sort of force takes quite a great deal of time and effort to amass. No, rebellion on a personal level is pure subterfuge best carried out with a methodical strategy. One of the worst aspects of the mind, is also one of the easiest to take advantage of: It’s a terrible master but an excellent servant. If that servant can be put to work on a slow rebellion, the master can be gently overwhelmed by a changing mental circumstance, given enough time and consistent effort.
Take for example this very short list of excellent activities to help change one’s life: love thyself, meditate, exercise.
Now in that order, it’s a very difficult list to pull off. It would certainly be nice to feel more compassionate for one’s self, but how is that trick pulled off? If the list is reversed and priority repined in that order, it creates a long term subterfuge with greater self-compassion as the inevitable goal. Viewed on timelines, self-compassion is the longest to work towards. Exercise, on the other hand is something we can experience subjective benefits from almost immediately. Meditation on the other hand takes a bit more time: a minimum of three to four months. The larger point is that one can enable and lead to the other. A good workout session can supercharge one’s mentality - but only for a short time, but long enough to take advantage of the change, and perhaps get that meditation session in before the boons of acetylene and all other endorphins wear off. If that dual-enabling pattern is followed for enough days in a row, eventually, the benefits of meditation begin to come online, and these persist with far more reliability and endurance than the short positive kick delivered from exercise. Then, with enough peace in the mind, and time to explore that peace, self-compassion arises as a natural result.
Each part of the process piggy backs upon the prior in order to feed the overall system in a way that eventually has the most impact possible. Exercise can function as the thin edge of the wedge for this sort of process, but it need not be the only entrance to the avenue.
Regardless of what hopscotch levers are pulled to make long term change happen, the result occurs slowly because the passing of time slowly allows us to remembered a new person, one that we have chosen to try and become. The past can be an excruciating weight to bear, but we always have the tool of the present on hand, a tool which can be used to slowly steamroll the power of the past, now a palimpsest, written anew with the memory of a different person.