What Is Mental Flexibility And How To Cultivate It Featured Image Mindful Mind

What Is Mental Flexibility And How To Cultivate It

 

The flexible are preserved unbroken. ~Tao Te Ching

Mental flexibility is the ability to stretch and adapt our perception beyond the limits of our conditioned and fixed mindset and make a mental shift towards experiencing everything taking place inside and around us with a childlike openness, creativity, and curiosity.

In his book Change your Thoughts Change your Life, Dr. Wayne Dyer, having lived by the ocean for many years, used to observe the tall palm trees which grew at the water’s edge. He interestingly observed that those trees were able to withstand the enormous pressure that hurricane-force winds brought as they blew at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, while thousands of other trees in the huge storms’ paths were ultimately uprooted and destroyed.

He realized that the secret of the palm trees to stand unhurt during a storm was their flexibility. They bent almost down to the ground, and it was that very ability that allowed them to remain unbroken and of course alive.

So, here I am, talking about trees for no apparent reason at all, up until now.

The primary cause of our mental inflexibility is that as human beings, we tend to label and categorize every single thing which enters our field of perception. We want to experience good circumstances and to avoid bad. We want to own the stuff we think we need, to have by our side the people who we like the most, to be healthy, to live forever, and to become the kings and queens of our Universe in order to be truly happy.

This way, we build a utopia in our mind and we attach our identity to it using a branding iron, slowly moving down a path of bitter disappointment the moment things don’t turn out exactly the way that we expected them to.

Life isn’t easy. It is extremely unpredictable and possibilities are that we will come face to face with a significant amount of storms.

However, the unpredictability of life isn’t what truly makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is our expectations of reality not being met. Being inflexible by clinging to our mind-made utopia, is going to render us broken, just like the inflexible trees in the fierce storm’s path.

How to be mentally flexible you ask? It is simple, but no easy task. It not just about being flexible, but also about unbecoming inflexible.

 

Follow the Natural Course of Things

 

The arrival of painful circumstances is inevitable, but so is their departure. This perspective renders us way more flexible, and thus less likely to break. Accepting that isn’t some kind of pessimism. It is merely an acknowledgment of the true nature of things.

Recalling some of the worst situations that I went through up until this point in my life, I realized that no single action aiming towards avoiding them or overcoming them faster ever really worked.

Letting them go for a while, internally accepting that this is the way that things work and holding firm on the belief that “this too shall pass”, is what gave me the ability to remain unbroken and to keep moving down my path while facing pain and despite any setbacks.

 

Stop Resisting

 

We don’t grow unhappy due to unhappiness; we grow unhappy due to resisting unhappiness.

As difficult situations unfold during our lives, we have the tendency to resist them. We want to feel like we have power over them; that we have them under control; that we own them. We think that by mentally resisting and pushing them away, we will succeed in not being affected by them.

We couldn’t be more wrong. You can’t even imagine how many times I have heard a combination of words similar to “I won’t let it affect me, no matter what”, or “I won’t allow myself to be sad”… Three days later *BOOM*, depression strikes, and we can’t even get out of bed without cursing our damn luck.

Resistance weakens our power, distorts our perception, and reduces our clarity by consuming mental resources which could otherwise be used to actually find the best and most effective solutions towards overcoming our storms.

What we resist, grows and persists. As it persists we tend to resist more. What we resist more is going to inevitably persist more until we become trapped in a vicious cycle, possibly until we ultimately break.

Be flexible by bending from a “why this happened to me” perspective, to a “what can I learn from it” attitude. Try to put yourself right in the eye of the storm and watch it unfold. Seize every little opportunity that is presented to you in order to learn, grow, and evolve.

 

Start Questioning Your Beliefs

 

Our belief system is what shapes our perception of reality and what creates everything that we are experiencing.

Unfortunately, beliefs grow deep roots since our early years, when we haven’t really developed the ability to distinguish between the ones which will serve us and we should hold onto, and the ones who are going to drag us down and should be abandoned.

Until our conscious mind, which acts as a filtering mechanism, becomes fully developed, we have already shaped a full sense of self (ego) and have become attached to a certain set of beliefs, adopted from our parents, culture, environment, and society.

Those beliefs will most probably never be truly realized, let alone questioned and they will keep working in the background creating the same kind of reality over and over again, leaving no space for change and improvement, aka making us inflexible.

In his book, Change your Thoughts Change your Life, Dr. Wayne Dyer, once more beautifully states that being open to all possibilities is the way of nature, and following the way of nature could truly render us trouble-free.

To be filled with happiness and peace, we have to become empty of attachments, because attachments fill us and nothing can enter an already filled self. Being empty in this sense means not being full of beliefs, possessions, or ego-driven ideas, but rather remaining open to all possibilities, aka being flexible, just like nature doesn’t restrict itself to a particular point of view or a singular way of doing things; it animates all.

 

Adapt to Change

 

Most people hate being forced to change. They want to live a stable, fixed life and have things unfold a specific, absolute way.

However, change is always waiting to sneak up on us just around the corner. Nothing is permanent, but impermanence and everything inside this three-dimensional Universe is affected by it.

Hence, impermanence is a law of nature and whether we like it or not, we are affected by it as well. Embracing impermanence is an important milestone on the road to cultivating a more flexible attitude.

One who lives in accordance with nature moves in harmony with the present moment, always knowing the truth of just what to do. ~Tao Te Ching

 

Stop Being a Control Freak

 

The most unhappy and inflexible kind of person is a control freak. A control freak experiences constant impulses to control situations, people’s behaviors, actions, and opinions according to their own needs and self-interest.

Of course, this incessant need for control is just an illusion and people who can’t realize it, are doomed to suffer throughout their lifetime.

The way to beat our controlling attitude and become way more mentally flexible is to realize and accept that certain situations and circumstances are utterly out of our control and the only thing that we have any kind of control over is our very own perception and reaction towards them.

For example, stressing over and using every curse word that has ever existed since man first stepped foot on this planet just because the weather suddenly got bad and you are forced to skip the camping trip you have been planning for the last one and a half days, is a sign that your inflexible and controlling mind has taken over.

Instead, since you don’t have the slightest amount of control over the weather, you could accept things as they already are and in a heartbeat come up with and arrange an equally fun, indoor activity with friends; something like cultivating your lockpicking skills, or whatever.

Just relax. Nothing is ever under control.

 

Cultivate Mindfulness

 

The Benefits of Practicing Meditation Featured Image - Mindful MindMindfulness is one of the best practices to increase our mental flexibility. It helps us dwell into a deep-rooted stillness, a stillness that clears the lens through which we perceive the world and renders us able to experience a more authentic and unbiased reality.

Our natural state of being is one of openness, curiosity, and non-judgment. We all lived in such states once, when we were toddlers. Our mind was like a blank canvas; we were unprejudiced and ready to be filled with all kinds of colors.

Although, somehow, this flexible state of being got clouded over the years by being poorly conditioned, adopting wrong beliefs, and lacking moment to moment awareness.

Through cultivating mindfulness we have the ability to bring forth our natural state of being once again, which in Zen is called “beginner’s mind”, and refers to having an attitude of flexibility, openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions towards every single experience.

 

Begin Practicing Yoga

Yoga Image Mindful Mind

Mind and body are interconnected and always working together. Our body’s state profoundly influences and, if in bad condition, impinges on the functioning of our mind and intellect. This works the other way around as well.

Extreme physical stiffness can be related to mental rigidity, or in other words, to our inability of being mentally flexible.

In his book Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy, Gregor Maehle states that with yoga, we learn to regulate and meditate on our breathing while moving our body according to it. This way, through meditation and physical stretching, our mind and body grow much more flexible at once; we get to fulfill two goals for the price of one.

 

Reconnect with Nature

 

Nature is our natural habitat; it is where we were born, raised, and evolved.

Our current mentality is a reflection of our current habitat. The rigidness of our mind is a direct manifestation of the rigidness of the city, where buildings and streets are extremely organized in straight, monotonous lines.

How could we possibly think out of the box when the apartments into which we are living feel like boxes themselves?

Nature doesn’t build in straight lines. It is creative and doesn’t have limits. It is open to all possibilities.

Pursue going into the wild once in a while and as John Muir beautifully supports, “you will receive far more than you seek”.

 

Let Go of Past Emotions

 

An emotion is a conserved feeling that arises because the original feeling has left a subconscious imprint in the mind. To be emotional means to react to a present situation according to a past conditioning. ~Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy

When we are clinging to past painful emotions, we tend to project them to our future in order to avoid facing the same kind of pain.

While it is very useful to learn from our mistakes, we can’t possibly believe that we can predict the outcome of every single situation that has yet to come.

For example, our attitude towards failure is what is going to make us successful or unsuccessful.

In our world, failure is perceived as something bad, unwanted, and fearful. When we have failed a number of times, we become hurt. When we come face to face with similar situations we emote hurt even before actually getting hurt. Then we grow fearful of failing once more and we tend to start giving up before we even try. This way we wind up extremely inflexible, turning down opportunities which could literally turn our lives around.

In this specific example, to become more flexible we need to alter our perception of failure and realize that it can become one of our greatest teachers. In fact, the only difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that the successful ones have failed way more times than the unsuccessful ones.

It is not just okay to fail, it is an integral part of success.

 

Start Experimenting

 

The true method of attaining knowledge is through experimenting ~William Blake

Another great way to increase your mental flexibility is to start experimenting with various aspects of your life. Observe instances where you find yourself being significantly inflexible and begin there.

To give you an example, I always believed that eating sushi was gross. I despised the idea of putting raw fish in my mouth. However, when I first tried sushi, I really loved it. Since then, I have tried almost every kind of foreign cuisine available in my country and each one of them has offered me a unique experience.

Of course, I have had dishes which I wouldn’t eat again even if offered money, but nevertheless, I got to try them first.

Never dismiss something before you have tried it. This is one of the most important suggestions towards promoting mental flexibility.

 

Crack Some Books

 

 

Craving for knowledge mindful mindIf you want to become flexible you need to expand. In order to expand, you must learn. In order to learn, you have to experience.

Books don’t just make you smarter. Through books, you get to witness reality from another person’s perspective and learn from their experiences, instead of merely learning from your own.

They give you the opportunity to boost your mental flexibility, imagination, and creativity, by accumulating various experiences from multiple lives during the one you only have.

 

 

Pause And Think Before You React

 

As human beings, now more than ever, we are living our lives in an autopilot mode. We tend to go through life mechanically, without much awareness.

This is actually an energy preservation mechanism of our own mind. If this mechanism didn’t exist, we would have to focus every time we wanted to move our feet, hands, jaws, and even our eyelids, in order to activate every muscle needed to perform those movements. Focus requires mental effort and effort requires energy.

However, we have been subconsciously abusing this ability of ours in almost every other aspect of our life. Our reactions have become automatic, fixed, and rigid and when we continuously react inflexibly, we will be continuously experiencing an inflexible reality.

To this inflexibility, we first need to pause and observe the reaction before it outwardly manifests. This is the hardest part of this practice.

After pausing, we gain the power to have control over the manifestation of our reaction. We can let it go, we can slightly alter it, we can suppress it, or we can even act the exact opposite way.

By stretching our awareness in such ways, our thinking habits themselves become way more flexible.

This is where our power of free will lies.

 

Some Last Words

 

Mental flexibility is not merely a skill, it is a set of skills.

It is the ability to quickly and without hesitation state “screw the plan” when coming face to face with setbacks and difficulties, properly change or modify it according to current insights and knowledge, and effortlessly adapt to it in order to fulfill your goals and aspirations.

In a nutshell, the more mentally flexible one is, the easier they go through life; almost always sure and confident of just how to act accordingly.

The mental flexibility of the wise man permits him to keep an open mind and enables him to readjust himself whenever it becomes necessary for a change. ~Malcolm X

 

Please share this post with your friends and family and help Mindful Mind grow and evolve as it does the same for you.

 

Xaric!

 

 

32 Comments

  1. Jackie
    May 10, 2017

    I guess the whole spiritual path boils down to letting go or surrender. I’ve lived long enough to realize that when I resist anything, it just hangs around longer. When I can accept it and ‘let go’ things begin to shift. I love the concept of remaining fluid and swaying like a tall palm tree!! Thanks for this post. It was quite insightful!

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      Thank you for your kind words Jackie.

      Ego wants and resists. Spirit just observes. The trick to become more spiritual is to stop wanting to become spiritual. 🙂

      Xaric.

      Reply
  2. Carol
    May 10, 2017

    As humans, it is so true that we always want to experience the good circumstances and not the bad. Seems as if it is just a natural instinct, and because of this way of thinking, we sometimes find it hard to be mentally flexible.

    If we can get the strength to let the bad circumstances go and focus on “this too shall pass,” then we are actually thinking that there will be some light one day.

    Having the right mind-set and being mentally flexible is key. Applying what we learn from the bad situations can help us to grow and strengthen us through difficult times.

    Apart from cracking some books and practicing yoga, are there some games that could help us develop mental flexibility?

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      Hello Carol, I really love your question and I want to thank you for giving me food for thought and a chance to do some research on this.

      I believe that board games, especially question-answer games, might be what you ask for. Chess and backgammon are awesome thought provoking games.

      However, as an ex-gamer I can assure you that video games could flex a mind a lot, with moderation of course.

      While books are a great way to expand your horizons and entertain yourself, some video games, such as strategy or role-playing, might be even better.

      Books trigger your imagination, but they offer you something stable and fixed. Video games push you to make quick decisions and judgments according to various situations in order to “win” and you have to actually willingly employ your imagination to achieve that.

      Moreover, video games are proven to reduce physical and psychological pain as much as medication, if not more, due to the intense amount of focus during gaming.

      Xaric.

      Reply
  3. Lesley
    May 10, 2017

    This is really something worth thinking about. Some of us are so busy in our daily lives that we don’t take the time pause and think about what is going on in our lives.
    I really like to the idea of cultivating mindfulness. I think I need to give this a try. Do you have any guides that can help somebody that has not done this before?

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      A pause can be so powerful, yet no one can really actually make it happen.

      Mindfulness is what has changed my entire life, and I am still a beginner. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of change that I would have gone through some more years from now.

      Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the most influential mindfulness teachers at that moment. Through his practices, he has made it possible for an average human being to learn how to employ the power of mindfulness in their daily life.

      His book Full Catastrophe Living is a good way to start. Inside it you will find everything that you need to know, including the motivation, to help you get started.

      You could also take a look at my article How to Practice Mindfulness, for Beginners.

      If you have more questions, you could contact me at harry@mindful-mind.net

      Xaric!

      Reply
  4. Israel
    May 11, 2017

    Hey Xaric!

    I couldn’t agree more with you.

    A happy life starts inside ourselves, accepting who we are and the things that happen around us, not judging them.

    I’ve always been one of those who resist and try to change things and myself, but that’s surely not the way.

    Darwin put it very clear: those who adapt, survive. We need to stop resisting and embrace change as it comes.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It’s something worth giving some thought.

    Cheers and enjoy your life! 😉

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      We all resist. Even those who know they resist, can’t help it. Sometimes, I catch myself striving to resist my resistance and that makes me resist even more.

      I don’t know if that makes any sense 😛

      Be well my friend.

      Xaric.

      Reply
  5. Dave
    May 11, 2017

    You just hot the nail on the head here.

    As I read through your post, I felt like you were describing my life, the part where you want everything, beauty, peace and eternity to remain wit you.

    I have been doing a bit of meditation but don’t know if it is really helping. I see you recommend doing yoga. What is the difference between yoga and meditation? And which is the best?

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      Yoga is meditation. During yoga, you meditate on the position of the body in space, the movements of the body, as well as the breath itself which actually moves the body. It is somewhat harder and easier at the same time than traditional sitting meditation.

      I can’t really tell which is the best because every experience is subjective.

      However, I believe that is easier for someone to maintain a yoga practice for a longer amount of time because nowadays we haven’t been used to sitting doing nothing for long periods of time.

      In addition, yoga helps us to cultivate a healthier body as well.

      Personally, I don’t practice yoga as much as sitting meditation. I believe that in this rushed life, having the ability to sit for 30 minutes and do absolutely nothing but observe, could be considered a gift.

      Xaric

      Reply
  6. Louise
    May 11, 2017

    What an inspiring post. I particularly love the quote “We don’t grow unhappy due to unhappiness; we grow unhappy due to resisting unhappiness.”. That really rings true – it’s good to let yourself be unhappy and have a good cry about it all rather than bottling it all up.

    I try and practice yoga 5 or 6 days a week and I find it really helps to focus my mind and set me up for the day. Everyone has their own way of finding a calm place and I love your suggestions. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      Thank you Louise for your kind words…

      Keep practicing 🙂

      Xaric.

      Reply
  7. Eril
    May 11, 2017

    There is much wisdom in what you say. I agree, we have to let go of control and just go with the flow. In the western world we have been conditioned to develop our left brain logical thinking and our ego. We need to learn to trust our right brain thinking or intuition and to follow our hearts.

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      Hey Eril, I totally agree with you.

      Going with the flow is so much easier and liberating than trying to control every single aspect of our lives.

      Action is more accurate and pure when we have already surrendered.

      Xaric

      Reply
  8. Bala Ganesh
    May 11, 2017

    Hello Xaric, I found your article very helpful and could definitely relate to all the stuff you were writing. Your article really helped to pick me up when I was a point in my life when I was feeling relatively down. Thanks a lot and keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 11, 2017

      Much gratitude for your inspirational words Ganesh. I am glad that it helped you in any kind of way.

      Xaric.

      Reply
  9. Pam
    May 11, 2017

    I use to be so inflexible that the slightest movement broke me and it took forever to heal. Years and years sometimes. I am much more open and flexible now and it has opened doors over and over again. We are not led by ourselves but a much stronger energy and we resist that and trouble abounds. Great article and insight Xaric!

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 13, 2017

      “All actions are done in all cases by the gunas (qualities) of prakrti (nature). He whose mind is deluded through egoism thinks I am the doer.” ~Bhagavad Gita

      We are actually not the doers. We are the doings.

      Xaric.

      Reply
  10. shrey
    May 14, 2017

    These are some really good points which we all know but often need to be reminded about. We are constantly working so hard on making things work out in our favor that we forget that sometimes it just takes time and we need life to take its course.

    People have become so controlling these days that they want to even control situations and other life events which are really not possible. The only thing that we can do is stay aware of things happening around us and be accepting.

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 15, 2017

      That is true,

      Thank you for taking the time to read through my article.

      I am glad that you enjoyed it.

      Xaric!

      Reply
  11. Michel
    May 15, 2017

    I found the paragraph on ‘Stop Resisting’ really interesting to read.

    We are always told to stay positive and have positive thoughts, so naturally, we try to resist unhappiness and disruption to our lives.

    It was interesting to read what we resist grows and persists. This while true is also hard to grasp, especially if one is trying to keep positive and resist negative influences.

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 15, 2017

      Unfortunately, we all resist. It is part of who we have become.

      I am beginning to realize that the “think positive” attitude is a lie. If someone needs to think positively, that means that he thinks negatively in the first place. The one who thinks positively, does not need to think about thinking positively, it is his natural state.

      And that state can only be achieved through acceptance and surrender; moment by moment.

      Xaric.

      Reply
  12. Nemira
    May 16, 2017

    Hi, you have an insightful website because you offer many options how to stretch mind and discover new capabilities.
    My Godfather told that books are mines of gold. We can listen or read provided experience from people who reached their goals, discovered secrets.
    There are sandy great books that I do not know when I can read all bunch of them.
    I adore Earl Nightingale. I do not see him in your list but it does not matter.There are so much to discover.
    Earl Nightingale told that themind once stretched never will go to the previous state.
    All the best spreading knowledge about techniques, ways and sources for the mind cultivation.
    Nemira.

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 18, 2017

      Hi Nemira,

      I have heard about Earl and I have actually used his quote a bunch of times throughout my articles and life.

      However, I haven’t yet read anything by him.

      Could you please recommend me one of his books to start with?

      Much gratitude,

      Xaric!

      Reply
  13. Heather
    May 17, 2017

    I really enjoyed your article, and i read the book “Change your thoughts, change your life”, Dr. Dyer is a very articulate author. I think you offered some great advice, and I completely agree that we don’t grow unhappy due to unhappiness. Thank you for opening people’s minds.
    Take Care,
    Heather

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 18, 2017

      Thank you for your support Heather.

      Please, be well!

      Xaric.

      Reply
  14. Blackiecharm
    May 18, 2017

    Hi Xaric
    Great articles, so much good information. I’ve meditated for a very long time. The benefits are as you say. My wife practices yoga and it has changed her life.

    We have followed Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra for many years. They are our heroes.

    My favourite post was on the laws of attraction. We believe that if you tell the universe what you want, it will provide it. The power of coincidence relates to the laws of attraction. We have experienced that.

    Good work

    Luthor

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 18, 2017

      Hey Luthor,

      Everyone experiences the law of attraction, but those who are aware of it, can take it under their control.

      It is always great to connect with like-minded people.

      Keep meditating ૐ

      Xaric!

      Reply
  15. Colm
    May 19, 2017

    This was an inspiring article and I’m glad I found it as I have been getting more curious about meditation, mindfulness, etc. I seem to hear more and more on research about the benefits of things like that. It all makes sense to me and you have presented a good number of ways that will help to cultivate mental flexibility.

    However, I’m totally new to the ideas and after perusing some of the suggested practices several times, I’m not sure what way to go. For example, is it a good idea to sign up to a meditation course, research books on mindfulness, join a yoga class, all the above, etc. I guess what I mean is, what would you recommend as a good way to start to dip your toes in the water in practices of this kind?

    Any recommendations are appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 21, 2017

      Unfortunately, there is no correct answer to your question. Every practice is great for a variety of reasons, but I believe that when taken seriously and with passion, they all lead to the same result; the rise of the spirit within.

      Books are great, but it is very rare to experience mindful states of being just by reading about it. It is like trying to understand the taste of sugar by reading about it.

      My recommendation is to start experimenting. I can see that you are willing to do so. There is no other way to find your way. Only you could understand what works the best for you. 🙂

      I hope this helps.

      Xaric!

      Reply
  16. Mario Cruz
    May 21, 2017

    Hi there let me start by saying that information in this site gave me some type of tranquility and peace and just going through a hard situation where this unhappiness feeling is making my life worst even though I have a better job and a great schedule Im not feeling complete, now I see that I dont need to suppress that negative feeling and embrace it and let the good positive feeling adopt it so when I complete my positive goals that negative feeling can go away. Great site man keep helping people genuine. Have a great day

    Reply
    1. Xaric
      May 24, 2017

      I am glad that it offered you an amount of peace, and as I can see you got the whole point.

      If you want any additional help, don’t hesitate to contact me at harry@mindful-mind.net

      Xaric!

      Reply

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