Sharpen the Mind

“At every moment keep a sturdy mind on the task at hand… giving up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason, and all drama, vanity, and complaint… mastery over a few things makes it possible to live an abundant and devout life.” – Marcus Aurelius

There are a number of ways to help keep the mind agile and attentive. Such as reading, writing, physical exercise, appropriate nutrition, and sufficient rest. Finding what works best for us as an individual will largely depend on our capacity to learn and remain engaged in an activity, so tasks that improve upon our ability to concentrate and focus will likely be to our advantage. My goal here is to present a handful of techniques that help me to remain sharp.

Read broadly and actively think about the text. Don’t confuse the practice of reading broadly with surfing the net. It has more to do with carefully choosing content from various sources that will assist us in remaining well-rounded and grounded in view to our responsibilities and roles. Whereas thinking about what we read requires time to reflect and question the material, which includes using our imagination to see how ideas relate and to what end.

Engage puzzles that are challenging and fun. Sudoku and chess are my favourites by far! You know you’re in your flow when your perception of time changes; i.e., an hour goes by but it feels as though only minutes have lapsed. These games engage memory, logic and pattern recognition. At the very least they give the brain a good workout, and are also great pastimes for when you are waiting around for someone or something.

Rest and recreation. As much as we need to recharge our battery, there are many ways of going about it, besides just getting a good night’s sleep. Mental fatigue and bodily exhaustion can throw our lives out of sorts if we are not careful. In my experience, meditation and/or walks in nature allow for solace and clarity. Such effects make for good mental health; i.e., they help to remove psychological weeds that distort thinking.

Marvel in stretching, cardio and strength conditioning. There’s nothing quite like exercise to keep the blood flowing and oxygenating the brain. Everything we accomplish in life, the very foundation of our being here on earth, is rooted in the health of our physical body. It’s the flowerpot by which we give and receive grace. Choose to make exercise a top priority and learn to love the pain of conditioning in view to maximizing potential.

There are additional ways of keeping the mind lucid and bright. Not to mention mountains of scientific study to support and make further breakthroughs. However, you don’t need a PhD after your name to share your experience, strength and hope in the comment section below. Let us know what you believe to be some of the most effective ways of strengthening the mind.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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22 Responses to Sharpen the Mind

  1. Amit Kumar says:

    You explained nicely.
    I liked this(Our being here on earth)

  2. Mary Jo Malo says:

    These are all excellent strategies. Shallow internet wading, even when it involves more than a paragraph, usually does little more than reinforce our preference and bias. Your advice to critically think is typically ignored by consumers of social media type browsing. Reading novels, especially immersive through language and/or physical description, really works the brain. I’d rank personal effectiveness from lowest to highest: trivia, crossword puzzles, viewing and thoughtfully responding to other bloggers, engaging novels, then philosophy. The last one can painfully exhaust my mind like nothing else. Thank you for all these reminders; the flowerpot and grace thing is wonderful!

  3. Mary Jo Malo says:

    And how could we forget…creative endeavors, be they sustained or sporadic? These employ the mind-brain in mysterious ways, part inspiration, part subconscious, inter-subjective.

    • Endowed may not be the politically correct word nowadays but most of us seem to possess the capacity for creative imagination, and in some respects that is what keeps the heart of the human project alive, whether we value that or not requires more than the rolling of the tongue, but that long dialectical haul that has been largely kept a blazed through the philosophers we are forever in debt, for without Kant there is no Hegel, just as without Plato there is no Aristotle, yet these broad minded souls and many more like them have bridged the gap of ignorance through great acts of ingenuity and/or virtue, so to answer your question, yes to both, but with the exception of sporadic not being reduced to casual or random acts of effort, rather, sporadic being more of an intermittent reward of ongoing and sustained diligence.

  4. I love this. I am terrible with numbers so Sodoku is not on my list. I prefer crossword puzzles though, and Chess is definitely a favorite for me too. Matthew McConaughey wrote in his book Greenlights about taking time to meditate, turning off all outside influences, and letting your mind get away from it all for a bit. It’s something I should do more often. The weight of it all can be tiring. Marcus Aurelius wrote, “If you seek tranquility, do less.” Thanks for the reminder.

    • Kewl! Many seem to mistaken Sudoku for a number game, but one may use colours, symbols or animals and still attain the same result. It’s by and large an exercise in pattern recognition. In regards to meditation there’s nothing more ideal for martial arts. Not sure the point of meditation is to let your mind go free; in fact, that is probably the exact opposite of its eastern origins. In my view, meditation coupled with the art of war allows for balance and a means to consolidate ones inner power. In some respects they are the binding fusion of the yīnyáng principle.

      • I will have to give Sudoku another go. My wife likes them. I may have butchered McConaughey’s concept of it. Mea culpa. I meant it as more of a way to clear your mind and focus on the present: release worry and anxiety about the future and forget what’s happened in the past, etc. I haven’t thought of it as being a balance though. Good point.

      • Clarity, ease of focus, attentiveness, pattern recognition and the like has a way of enabling us to be more free and adaptable under diverse circumstances, thus BALANCE and/or equanimity becomes paramount for leaders in particular if they wish to remain effective in their role, at least this is what makes sense to me in this present moment, but mind you my judgement may be off. Either way you are fortunate to be with a wife who cares for her mental health, and to have the leisure to read Matthew, who stated in True Detective that ‘we became too self-aware’, which in my guestimation, is the opposite of mindfulness, or rather more of an IMBALANCE, and can be likened to excessive sharpening of the mind that can grate away from our capacity to be clear and present to what is actually happening in our environment, including potential and/or contingent factors that may or may not manifest. My apologies for the long winded response but the quality of your contribution naturally merited a little gas while being digested.

  5. That is a most epic and poetic response as I have ever had the pleasure of reading. You continue to challenge my thoughts and understanding to aspire to new heights.

  6. Sally says:

    Great article, Jason.

    I have also used some ‘Brain Training’ apps available online.

    I played games from Lumosity for awhile, and now I’m working on ‘Brain HQ’. 🤗

  7. Anna says:

    Exercise definitely helps to “clear” my mind. I like to read books that are mostly over my head but that I can still glean some understanding. I think reading your writing strengthens my mind.

    • Even though I’ve read thousands of books over the decades, I’m not overly strong in my reading comprehension; alas, I miss so much in my learning, but on the other hand, realizing that we overlook things is a strength. Humility mothers virtue in a way that the intellect can’t.

  8. Kally says:

    Very astute indeed.

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