“A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
A friend of mine is a landscape painter going through a frustrating creative trough. She is dissatisfied with the work she is currently producing and yearns to return to a previous satisfying avenue of discovery she feels she is now disconnected from.
I suggested she stop saying “I want to go back to the way I used to paint”. Rather than thinking of the creative flow she craves as being behind her, instead to envision it in her future where it is waiting for her.
I was encouraging her to allow herself to experience change in her current circumstances by simply changing where she was looking, shifting her field of view from what she has known to what she doesn’t know yet.
There’s a lot of looking backwards going on these days, a natural yearning in the face of rapid change and accelerating uncertainty. Hanging on to what we used to know as certain is alluring for the feeling of stability it provides. The comfort of that stability makes us feel safe. In my view what makes us feel not safe, though, is a simple misunderstanding about the world in which we are actually living.
I think the point Holmes is making above does not tell the whole story
There are two kinds of mind, not one. One is the Universal Mind within which we exist, and the other is each of our individual minds from which we make sense of our existence in the Universal Mind. Having no control over the Universal Mind may make us feel out of control and unsafe, but that concern fades when we remember we exercise complete control over how we use our own individual minds.
The Universal Mind is infinite and unlimited. It can’t be made any bigger or smaller. Unlike what Holmes says, you can’t contract or expand the unlimited Universal Mind as that would require putting a boundary around it, giving it a limit.
What does have a boundary around it, though, is the capacity of our individual minds. The amount any individual mind can perceive and process is fixed. But the content being perceived and processed within its field of experience is ever-changing, if we allow it. Because we have complete freedom about what we choose to have it look at, and what we choose to expect.
So am I am wanting to re-translate Holmes’ above quotation to read instead as “A mind that allows new experience can never see the world in the same way.”
In addition to endless change, also always continuing to be constant is the endless present moment, the only place from which we create and meet our expectations about the future. But that future is limited if it’s being squeezed out by hanging on to visions of how things used to be, yearning for the impossible dream of going back to.
A self-agile mind and body means embracing there is no going back, being carried only forward, by being ever more present in the endless now, in the gift of the present.
Right-Brain Thinking Personal Development Coach
Former News Broadcaster, Architect, and B2B Sales and Marketing Executive Jonn Kares has been supporting business leaders and change agents for decades as they develop their Self-Agility and Self-Leadership skill by helping them unleash their latent Right-Brain Thinking to become a better coach of themselves. To find out more, you can schedule a no cost, no-obligation 2-hour Discovery Session