But what does “Mind” mean?
I’m not sure.
The “mind” is an ambiguous concept. Neuroscientists, physicists, and others debate its base meaning. People refer to “exercising the mind” but also to “states of mind.” You’ve probably heard people say they want to “get their mind right” or that others have “lost their mind.”
I won’t try to define “Mind” in the neurological or philosophical sense — I’ll leave that to people far smarter than I. Instead, I’ll define “Mind” as a routinized practice.
More specifically, a mental practice is:
Anything, done regularly, with the intention of increasing one’s knowledge of self or world, or informing one’s thoughts or perceptions.
With that definition in mind, two practices come to mind.
The most obvious way to exercise the mind is through learning. But here too we run into a definitional problem: What the heck is learning?
And, even harder, what isn’t learning? Aren’t we always learning? What can’t we learn from?
Because of this, a mental practice should be bounded. We must be learning some thing for some purpose. Otherwise, we end up learning a little about a lot, rather than a lot about a few key areas of interest or benefit.
There’s another way to exercise the mind: journaling — the daily-ish semi-freeform writing one’s thoughts. (Which I write about here.)
In many ways, learning and journaling are two sides of the same coin.
Both involve exploration and experience.
With both, we’re trying to ascertain truths, and trying to find them from different directions.
In the case of learning, you’re exploring and experiencing worlds and ideas you’d otherwise not be exposed to.
With journaling, you are exploring your own experiences.
Learning and journaling are particularly synergistic.
By better understanding the world (learning), we’re better understanding ourselves. And by better understanding ourselves (journaling), we better understand the world.
I have no idea what “Mind” means, but I know two, synergistic ways to exercise it.
That’s enough for me.