A Most Powerful Life-Experience.

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 11 January 2015.
By John Abbate

Illustration for James Thurber’s short story A Box to Hide In, gouache on paper by Anita Tung

Illustration for James Thurber’s short story A Box to Hide In, gouache on paper by Anita Tung

What we call the mind is an activity, made up of a totality of the innumerable constituent activities of which it is composed, brought to awareness by the brain. The brain is the chief organ of the mind, but not its only one. In a sense, every cell and molecule in the body is a part of the mind, and every organ contributes to it. The living body and its mind are one—the mind is a property of the body.

Sherwin Nuland, 1997

Put on the lighter clothes of a buoyant spirit.

 —Psalm 30 [alternate wording by Francis Macnab]

When our mind speaks to us, it teaches us about ourselves. It often follows a dark script, with pages drawn from the many boxes of negative memories and emotions that we carry. In this address, Dr Macnab calls himself a “sorter of boxes.” We all have our boxes. In one box there is sadness, in another, disappointment. There are boxes for the people in our lives, people from the past and people who cannot be trusted. There are boxes for our jealousies and contempt; for all the traumas of the past and stresses of life.

You have a decision to make. Before you, Dr Macnab has placed an array of new and different boxes called “new possibilities,” “a fresh imagination,” “good intentions,” and “inspirations.” There is also a big box called “the lighter clothes of a buoyant spirit.” Which ones will you keep? Will you let go of all your negative boxes and move forward with something new?

Here is one box with a label: “Long life, happy box.” Dig your hands in; you’ll find various prescriptions. One says, “Detour—Avoid dangerous places and diseases. Avoid hurtful, toxic people. Avoid your negative moods and emotions. Avoid making the same mistakes again and again. Avoid heavy overcoats when the sun is shining. Avoid nasty words, intentions, and inclinations.”

Here is another box of prescriptions: “Filter out the bad memories and negative thoughts. Filter in good memories, positive emotions, positive moods, positive mind-states, and positive movements of the body.”  These are the things that help people live longer, happier lives.

There are persuasive studies that support the value of these positive “mind boxes.” The studies go further still: having a meaning to life is recognised as vital for long-term health and happiness. Thus, another box contains further prescriptions: “Seek meaningful relationships; seek a meaningful religion. Listen to life-enhancing messages in your mind. Participate in mind-enhancing music. Commit and contribute to good causes; enjoy your good causes.”

“But above all,” said Dr Macnab, “put on the lighter clothes of a buoyant spirit.

It’s never too late.

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