“As soon as you have a formula, you have reality filtered through the mind of someone else.” ~ Anthony de Mello, “The Way to Love”
Our minds are conditioned by our culture, media, and upbringings.
We can become so inundated by these formulaic ways of thinking that it can be difficult to sense where our inner selves start and the external world ends.
These mental formulas can keep us from our internal voices and hinder how we see the world around us. We get stuck thinking too much and stop really seeing.
To all of us, I offer the wisdom of the Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello, “Dare to look at everything around you without fear and without formula, and it won’t be long before you see.”
What we will see is things how they really are, in proportion, in communion. But how do we move out of our heads and into seeing?
How do we look at everything without fear and formula?
Each of us must answer this for ourselves, but here are three things I do to help me to clean off the windshield in my mind:
I get it; everyone knows this. However, it is a technique that helps ease fear and sadness, which then empowers us to see things more clearly. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University evaluated dozens of studies and concluded, “…mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain (Harvard Health Publishing).”
It’s never been easier to learn how to meditate since there’s a library of good material on the subject. There are even apps for our phones for meditation. I’ve been meditating for years, and I know it helps with my anxiety because I feel more uptight when I’ve skipped my routine for a week or two.
2. Make something
Use your hands, your voice, or your whole body. Express.
Arts, crafts, music, and dance are just a few forms creation can take. Creativity is good for us—it is healing.
For those facing illness, the institute “Americans for the Arts” offers this explanation: “No matter what the art form, research confirms that the arts enhance coping, thereby reducing patients’ need for hospital care, pain medication, and unnecessary extra costs. In addition, the arts reduce patients’ level of depression and situational anxiety.”
If creativity can help when we are experiencing considerable health issues, imagine what it can do when we are healthier?
3. Get outdoors.
When I can’t keep my thoughts from racing, I go for a hike. It always clears my mind. If a hike isn’t possible, I go for a long walk on a nature trail or work in my little garden.
According to WebMD, “Exercise is good for anxiety too. But it’s even better if you do it outside, compared to inside a gym. Sunlight helps keep your serotonin levels up. This helps raise your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive, and focused.” Being in nature heals our souls, and it also calms our minds, enabling us to see things more clearly.
We are inundated with news, opinions, and even alternate realities in our culture every day.
The overuse of social media, and perhaps any media, is undoubtedly a contributing factor to our inundation. We can get stuck in our heads and unaware of our beings.
We don’t have to give in to other people’s formulas. We can master our minds by using these and other techniques to bring us back to the present moment, where we will be able to see again.
And what exactly will we see?
“You will have to walk out there, all alone, and discover for yourself,” said de Mello. If that isn’t freedom, then tell me what is.