What if you woke up each morning with a mind completely refreshed?
What if your mind could rest on a rich subject for a long time, making connections, and spinning a tapestry of creativity?
What if your mind didn’t just struggle through the day but actually illuminated the day and everyone else’s day with brilliant loving light?
What if - 24/7 - your mind felt like a vibrant part of the World’s mind - with its people, animals, plants and landscapes?
These are not loopy pipedreams. This is actually what the mind can do. Read on.
We’re living in grim times.
I guess at different moments in history, humans have often said that. A peasant in the brutal Norman conquest would have said the same thing. So too a Native American facing the onslaught of C16th colonialists. But one thing is worryingly different now from a thousand or five hundred years ago.
Our minds are under attack.
The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our times. Its success is a prerequisite for the success of virtually all other struggles.
A multitude of causes are steadily eroding our ability to focus and think deeply for long stretches of time about complicated collaborative projects. You might have thought that was just your personal failing. You might have blamed yourself for not being able to stay focused on anything for very long. For not reading books any more. For struggling to absorb new ideas or complicated events. But this is, in fact, a worldwide phenomenon. Everyone is struggling to do these things…
Even research scientists whose job it is to study the neuroscience of attention admit that they are struggling to stay off their phones. Teachers at Harvard University admit that they can no longer expect undergraduates to read whole books. They have to set them YouTube videos to watch. (And that’s Harvard!)
But of all times in human history, this is NOT the time for a global mental collapse. We are facing the unfathomable danger of climate catastrophe, and yet it seems our minds are not up to the task right now. We glaze over, distract ourselves, send off short soundbites, polarise and collapse into survival mode. At exactly the moment that we most need to think, deep and long, about intensely complicated things - our minds can’t do it.
Our minds are the most vibrant and incredible entities in the Universe.
Coincidentally or not, the biggest challenge ever to face humanity is occurring at the same time that some human technologies are whipping up a perfect storm of distraction and mental erosion. Right at the moment when we MOST need to sit down in big groups and think deeply about very complicated things like the Anthropocene, our minds are being stretched into a thin tissue of jittery fear, anger and exhaustion.
And yet, our minds are infinitely pliable. When treated well they are the most vibrant and incredible entities in the Universe. So we need to step under a cold shower and wake up.
We can do something about it. We can reclaim our minds. Identify the forces that are clearly impacting them. Stop allowing those forces to distort and etiolate our wondrous consciousness and develop what I have been calling VICTORY MIND.
Our minds contain everything we will ever need to beat the forces that make us unhappy
Victory Mind is not a mind that just survives. It’s not a mind that bobs helplessly along a surface of shiny images sent from Silicon Valley to distract us. Nor is it a mind unable to sit still with itself for more than a moment. It's not a mind that is afraid of its own depths and terrified of the World.
It is a mind that recognises its own victorious nature. Like the Buddhas who were often called the Victorious Ones. Not because they conquered others but because they saw how their minds - no different in essence from the minds we possess - contain everything we will ever need to beat the forces that make us unhappy and endanger this beautiful planet.
So as a contribution to the “liberation of human attention”, I’m pointing Mindsprings towards this project - the Victory Mind project. And I hope that in a small but potent way, it can help us see clearly what is going on, reconnect to the resources that will help us and triumph over this perfect storm of distraction and mental erosion.
In his excellent book Stolen Focus, Johann Hari outlines a number of factors that are eroding our minds’ ability to focus:
1. big tech’s highly-engineered plundering of our attention for their profit
2. a collapse in our ability to sleep
3. overwork and a late-capitalist culture of ‘always on’
4. the way children are brought up and the prevalence of ADHD
5. poor nutrition and pollutants in the air
6. the overload of information flowing into our brains through screens and devices
7. the ubiquity of multitasking and attention-switching
8. the evaporation of play and imagination in children (and adults)
9. lack of exposure to nature, natural phenomena and sunlight
Obviously, Mindsprings can’t tackle all of these (though Hari’s book does point to a number of valuable resources) but there are five that I feel our brand of therapeutic meditation can help with:
I. Tackling Tech
II. Cultivating Good Sleep
III. Sustained Imaginative Focus (i.e. Reading)
IV. Immersion in Nature
V. Creative Mind Wandering
And over the next set of blogs, I’m going to flesh out the ways that we might do that and point us towards the Victory Mind project which will be eventually available for free download from the site.