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Time to Update your Mental Software?

If taking care of our device software is essential for their wellbeing, what about our own 'software'?

We’ve all been there. You’re working on your laptop, engrossed in your work and in full flow, when a little window pops up on your screen prompting you to install an update. You’re on a roll, so you snooze it a few times and eventually you shut down, forgetting about it. The next time you switch on your device it’s on a go slow, leading to a some very colourful language indeed (although I hear that Mac users tend to have an easier ride as far as updates are concerned…). Your frustration may lead you to question the need for these inconvenient interruptions to life, but for years the IT experts having been telling us that they are essential to the wellbeing of our devices. It dawned on me recently that, if this is the case, maybe ‘checking for updates’ is also essential to the wellbeing of humans.

Why does software need updating?

I asked my ‘I.T Guy’, Alex Lissner of Mobile PC Medic, who first advised me to proactively check for software updates in the first place, and he shared his key reasons:

  • Security fixes
  • New or upgraded features
  • Better compatibility with other devices or apps
  • Improved software stability

In general, it seems, software updates are aimed at improving our experience, in other words, to help us get the most from our devices. What if there was a way to do this for human ‘devices’? What if you could update your mind’s ‘operating system’ so that every day you were the best version of yourself? 

  • Security fixes – protecting the integrity of your ‘data’, your own beliefs and opinions, from negative influences
  • New or upgraded features – identifying and ‘uninstalling’ negative beliefs that no longer serve you and ‘installing’ better ones that do
  • Better compatibility with other devices or apps – improve your relationships (including the one with yourself) by cultivating inner peace and applying any ‘fixes’ to ‘bugs’ – destructive patterns or behaviours
  • Improved software stability – improved focus, concentration and therefore performance.

My daily mental upgrade

Before I started meditating as part of my daily wellbeing practice, I often had days when I would wake up on a ‘go slow’ or struggling with my emotions. Without any other strategies, I would bottle up my emotions, only for them to explode at the most inconvenient moments. This would regularly turn my world upside down and, in a similar way to my malfunctioning laptop, prevent me from functioning at optimum capacity. Now, I find my day more of a smooth flow as I check in with myself first thing in the morning, and throughout the day if I notice myself feeling off balance. It’s as if meditating regularly has enabled me to keep downloading better versions of myself. Through kindful (mindfully compassionate) meditation, I have identified and dissolved limiting beliefs that have been holding me back and replacing them with empowering ones. Perhaps negative beliefs can be likened to bugs in our belief ‘system’ or viruses, harmful opinions that do not come from us. Harv Eker, in his MindValley masterclass, “Don’t believe a thought you think”, suggests that most of our thoughts (and therefore beliefs) are not our own. He states that we’ve subconsciously learnt them from other influences in our lives. This could be similar to our belief system scripts being ‘coded’ by ‘other users’ who do not have to operate our software (our mental, emotional and spiritual ‘devices’) or our hardware (our physical ‘device’) – so how can they truly know what’s best for us? When I meditate, I notice how I’m feeling, with compassion instead of judgement. A ‘not good enough’ mindset was the one that stopped me from completing my degree for over 20 years, until last year. Through kindful meditation, I was able to become aware of this, and re-programme my mind with a more truthful and empowering mindset – that I am in fact, intelligent and most certainly good enough (and my 2:1 result supports all pre-existing evidence that I was, at the time, unable to access due to the limiting mindset).

Why are updates such a pain?

It’s an inconvenience, it interrupts our flow and we have to slow down, which, in this fast-paced world of time being perceived as directly correlated to money, can cause pressure and stress. Sometimes, it can leave our devices in seemingly worse condition than before – remember Windows 10? Let’s not dwell. To help me understand the I.T side of things in terms that I could relate more to human wellbeing, I spoke to men’s health and wellbeing broadcaster Phil Dave, who specialises in technology. He explained that while the updates that switched people over to Windows 10 left many people stressed and frustrated, it is now the most stable operating system to date. “Although updates slow a machine down, ” he explained, “When an update is released, it’s to give you the latest and greatest technology.” Meditation does indeed take time out of my day, but slowing myself down temporarily enables me to be more conscious of my wellbeing, and taking better care of it cultivates happiness. I find I’m a much more peaceful and resilient person, which makes challenging periods such as my current period of unemployment, easier to deal with. It seems logical that if we spend time taking care of the wellbeing of our devices, we should spend at least equal the amount of time on our own wellbeing.

” A ship’s journey depends on the skill of its captain, and a skilful captain maintains the health of the ship so that it can weather any storm. “

Why do Buddhists meditate?

To gain another perspective, I had the privilege of spending time with Venerable Dr Miaolung Shih, an ordained Nun of the Fo Guang Shan community in London. Having completed a BA in Computer Science in 1986, she then undertook another degree and PhD in Adult E-Learning but has been a Humanist Buddhist for 23 years, so I was interested in her take on how meditation can serve us in this day and age. She believes that one reason some people can easily fall into depression nowadays is because life moves at such a fast pace that we cannot adapt quickly enough or respond to the bombardment of information coming to us through our devices, for example, social media apps, the news etc. We can feel that we are constantly ‘behind’ and this can leave us feeling confused and anxious, leading to depression, if left unchecked. Furthermore, among all this information coming to us, are what she describes as signals – thoughts, beliefs and opinions from other people, and if we are not careful, if we do not take the time to sift through it to decide what is right for us and what we need to discard, we can end up taking on ‘updates’ that are not right for us. Buddhists use meditation as a tool that serves several purposes. It is a way to look inside yourself and determine what your own ‘signals’ are saying to you – what is right for you in this life, in other words, how to be true to yourself. The deeper purpose is to learn how to be a good human being, and I will be exploring this with Venerable Dr Shih in a separate article.

The cost of ignoring updates

There have been several disasters, including the global WannaCry ransomware cyberattack that crippled the NHS, losing it £92m and was due to the security patch that had been issued by Microsoft’s Windows update not being installed on NHS computers.

With this in mind, what would happen if you, as a human being, never updated your mental software and continued to run on the same ‘operating system’? If you’re generally happy and healthy, I’d say good for you, you must have pretty ship shape mental software. However, if you find life a struggle, or suffer from stress or poor mental health, perhaps there’s a case for running some diagnostics. Of course, there are many ways to improve your mental wellbeing – for example, clinical practitioners, personal development or life coaching and a wealth of books are merely the tip of the iceberg. For me, meditation was a great place to start, as I became more self-aware and as a result, more self-accepting and self-loving and I know that this will lead to me becoming more successful as I am no longer standing in my own way!

And for the sceptics out there…

Sceptics may believe that in order to receive enough ROI, you need to invest hours of your time meditating every day. If you are seeking the path to ultimate enlightenment in this lifetime, you may well need to follow a different path to the ‘9 to 5’, however, I began my journey by taking only a few minutes a day practicing some simple techniques, which I shall share in the future. Indeed, the Venerable Dr. Shih informed me that she herself meditates for 20 minutes a day, but up to an hour when she has time. Another reason people may avoid this practice is the fear of what they may unearth. In conversation with Alex Lissner, he mentioned that many people avoid installing updates because of the changes it makes to their devices; they may have experienced an undesirable change in functionality or loss of service, post-update. Similarly, when you start to look inside yourself, it can be the beginning of some very deep work – it certainly was for me – so I advise you to take it slowly and lightly, and if things get ‘tricky’, seek help from a trusted professional or friend. As with Windows 10, I now feel the most stable and best version of myself – there have been many unsettling updates I’ve gone through, but I made the conscious choice to ‘install’ them, because I knew that my old ‘operating system’ was not serving me. With my new B.A (Hons) Open degree as just one testament to this work, I enter 2020 with confidence and optimism for what this year’s updates will bring me!

If you’re looking for a happier life in 2020, I invite you to give meditation a go – here are my top meditation tips for beginners. This year I will be completing my Mindfulness Teacher Training with the esteemed Shamash Alidina, author of Mindfulness for Dummies and the Mindful Way Through Stress. To complete the training, I will be creating a mindfulness-based project, so if you feel your team would benefit from mindful meditation, please get in touch.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

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