The other day, my daughter said to me: “Mom, do you ever stop thinking? Does your mind ever turn off?”
Trust me, this was not a compliment.
I laughed and explained that, yes, my mind does turn off when I meditate in the morning. But the rest of the day, I’ve gotta say … it's thinking a lot.
This week, I found myself thinking about the tragic earthquake in Mexico City. As I read story after story, they broke my heart and reminded me yet again how fragile our lives can be. I also found myself thinking about Hurricane Maria and its devastating path, as well as all those who are still picking up the pieces after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. I thought about the stories that reported that we are facing an antibiotic crisis. The stories about our health care debate, about North Korea and the threat of war. I also still can't get the stories out of my mind about the people who have died in Florida nursing homes after Hurricane Irma. In fact, I read a recent report that said less than 6 percent of all nonprofits in this country focus on the elderly. With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, I think we can and must do better.
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I love this quote from author Anne Lamott. It makes me laugh, because I often feel the same way: “My mind is my main problem almost all the time. I wish I could leave it in the fridge when I go out, but it likes to come with me.”
Do you ever feel like Anne Lamott? Do you find it hard to give your mind a break? Does it frustrate you? Do you know how to keep it moving in a way that is beneficial to you, and to those that you love? Do you empathize with those who suffer from mental health challenges? Do you feed your own mind what it needs to thrive? Do you understand it?
My son spoke to me this week about a video that was going around of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington just days before he took his own life. It’s a video of him laughing with his kids, and his wife shared it as a way to remind us that depression doesn't always look the way we think it does.
My son was moved by the video, as well as curious about what actually happens in the mind of someone suffering from that kind of depression. It prompted a conversation between us about what happens in the mind. The mind is indeed a fascinating, complex, and beautiful thing. Understanding the mind — our own and that of others — will lead us to all be better to those with mental health challenges. It will also lead us to be better and kinder to ourselves.
So, if you have an outstanding beef with someone—a person you once loved, or who was once your friend—try to resolve it now. Time is precious, and our world is fragile.
Understanding the mind — our own and that of others — will lead us to all be better to those with mental health challenges. It will also lead us to be better and kinder to ourselves.
Open minds and open hearts are what our world needs now. We need healthy, curious minds if we are to solve our most pressing problems: Alzheimer’s, climate change, health care, nuclear proliferation and more.
We need new ways of thinking. New ways of approaching challenges. Every day that the news gives us something to think about, the world also gives us something to do to help our fellow human beings.
May we all focus our minds and dedicate our ourselves to moving humanity forward, before the earth erupts yet again.
This essay first appeared in Maria Shriver’s newsletter The Sunday Paper. Sign up to receive her perspective in your inbox weekly.