Training the Mind

The most powerful single agent of change for my personal growth has been mindfulness.

Jack Kornfield, an American Buddhist psychologist, likened the mind to a puppy. Puppies jump at every little stimulus so that walking down the street is like a carnival.

Mindfulness is the practice of gently and firmly bringing the puppy back. It is about training the mind so that it is not in control.

I used to be a professional ruminator. When I went down to sleep, it was off to the races. I was at the mercy of my mind and felt like I had absolutely no control.

The Miracle of Mindfulness

Mindfulness has enabled me to fall asleep at night and even take naps. It has enabled me to stay present and to be present with my patients.

When I become aware of projecting into the future, I bring myself back to now. It is unbelievable how something so simple can be so transformative.

I teach mindfulness both implicitly and explicitly to my patients. Implicitly, by focusing on the here and now. What just happened? What are you feeling right now? Explicitly, by teaching them meditations and visualizations and breathing exercises. I also introduce them to books such as The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza.

One of the most profound things that I have learned over time is that there is not an inverse relationship between my happiness and my physical state.

Even though my body is much more limited,I am happier today than I was 15 years ago. It is a spiritual exercise. I am not just my body and I am not just my mind.

The Moral of the Story

The moral of the story here is that there are things we can control and things we cannot. We can influence a lot more than we know by:

  • Training our minds
  • Cultivating awareness
  • Challenging old ways of being
  • Taking an active approach to creating new ones

If you haven’t already read the book, it’s a great place to start: Living With Chronic Illness Handbook.

David B. Younger, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist specializing in working with people with chronic health conditions with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

Originally published at