Cultivation of Mind

Se shen is the cultivated mind, yang shen is the conservation of mind and tao shen the regulation of mind are methods of keeping physically and mentally healthy by regulating the spirit, consciousness and thinking.

A sound mind can be kept, disease prevented and life prolonged by cultivating the mind. To be specific, this entails preserving a tranquil mind, taking care of emotional activities and cultivating mindwill in conformity to the four seasons.

Preserving a tranquil mind means to keep peace, quiet and implement that rationally. This is the principle of maintaining a sound mind and includes the following aspects.

First, being free from hedonism and yearning, when improper thoughts and desires come to the mind unchecked the mental qi becomes disturbed. Keeping a peaceful and carefree mind and ridding oneself of improper desires as a way to prolong life. The lessening of desires will erase an unnecessary load on the mind and help maintain generosity and unselfishness and keep a peaceful and sound mind which keeps one physically and mentally healthy. Being free from hedonism and yearning is the guiding principle of health conservation; the so called maintaining in the state of quietness is the most important tasks in keeping fit. To be free from hedonism and yearning one must convince oneself with reasoning, i.e., to understand well what the addiction to desires may inflict on the human body. If one keeps a clear and quiet mind, abstains from improper desires and understands that fame and position will harm virtue and not seek them instead of forcefully suppressing ones longings. If one tries too hard to suppress the desire for fame, wealth and position, those desires will not cease and one will fail in creating a state of quietness and peace of mind.

It is therefore imperative to cultivate noble ethics and foster lofty values, fully understanding the harms of seeking fame, wealth and position may bring about in order to have a change in ones worldview and see the substance of human affairs of life. If one adheres firmly to the rules of the development of things the improper desires will diminish by themselves resulting in a fresh and happy mind and peace and quiet will be will be obtained without striving for it. Besides being free from hedonism and yearning, the extermination of the six evils and adopt a correct attitude towards personal gains and losses. The six evils refers to fame, wealth, sexuality and ‘song’, gold, silver and other treasures, delicious food, flattery and arrogance and jealousy. Unless the six evils are exterminated, various anxieties will entangle the mind and keep the mind from peace and quiet. Seeking fame and wealth, indulging in sexuality and song, wishing for gold and other treasures will keep the mind always highly nervous and agitated leading to premature senility which shortens life and may result in incurable illness and premature death.

Second, it is recommended to ‘look but see not, listen but hear not’. To keep a sound mind, care must be taken to avoid harmful stimuli from the outside world that may have negative effect on the mind. Eyes and ears are the principle organs to receive outside stimulus and their functions are controlled and regulated by the mind. Man lives in society and what one hears and sees will inevitably reflect in the brain and exert influence on the mind. If the eyes and ears are kept away from worldly things the mind will be sound and quiet and the heart will not be impaired by over strain. Otherwise the mind will be troubled and the emotions will never be in tranquility. ‘Eyes greedy for sex can be likened to an axe cutting at life, ears intent on obscene music is like a drum beating to attack the heart’. It is advocated that restraining the eyes and censuring the ears, ‘seeing nothing and hearing nothing’ to keep the mind in a peaceful and quiet state. Though seemingly passive and impractical at first, keeping the mind in peace and quiet to a moderate degree lessens the harmful irritations of the outside world on the mind and is beneficial to mental as well as physical health. The great physician Sun Simiao wrote “the key to conservation for old aged lies in refraining from improper hearing, rash speech, irrational motion and preposterous thoughts”.

Third, concentration of the mind. To keep a sound mind it is not enough to maintain mental tranquility, it is also necessary to employ rationality, namely, to fix attention and concentrate the mind on one thing. When employing the mind, avoid putting it to more than one thing, otherwise attention will be diverted resulting in impairment and over strain. This of course refers to multitasking. Only through concentration of mind can we avoid mental stress in spite of employment because the attention is fixed and the mental activities are concentrated. Therefore keeping a clear and quiet mind requires not using it excessively, over thinking, not to involving it with selfish ideas and personal considerations. Using the mind so as to act without rashness can achieve a goal of keeping a sound mind. Moreover, as one lives in society, the mind will receive all kinds of stimuli, a state of absolute quietness is hard to accomplish. Accordingly, while keeping a clear and quiet mind, it is necessary to cultivate vitality in motion in conformity with the principle of tranquility being the foundation if motion and motion being the employed to stay tranquil. Concentration of attention in study and work can help keep a sound mind, dismissing desires for fame and wealth Sustenance of spirit after work or study in a skill, art, poetry, flowers, grass, and full of interest with fixed attention wards off disturbances and relieves mental unease. This is called the method of creating a state of tranquility in motion.

Cultivating ones mental faculties’ means; maintaining a positive state of mind, controlling the emotions to be in conformity with the changes of external stimuli in order to regulate mental activities. This is accomplished in the following ways.

Maintaining a gentle and pleasant temperament, maintaining high spirits and adopting an optimistic attitude toward life are accomplishments indispensable in life and an important factor in conserving health, preventing disease and prolonging life. Given a choice, cultivating temperament would be better than preserving health. One should foster noble ethics, ideals and values while refraining from anxiety, fury, sorrow, shock, and unnecessary talk and impatience in the satisfaction of desires. One should never nurse hatred. Even if something makes you angry, think which is more important, the issue or your health, in an instant the anger will be dispelled. Again, Master Sun stated, “life comes to man but once and the past will never come again, why not control the seven emotions and cultivate the temperament to protect you against disease?” Those who constantly keep the  mind at ease, the genuine qi in smooth flow and the blood in free circulation can prevent themselves from disease and live their full span of life The aged, in particular, should do something to get rid of the sense of old age and keep optimistic. A popular proverb states ‘laughter makes you ten years younger and distress causes your head to become grey’. ‘Anger speeds aging while laughter makes you young.  Li Ying, in the Song Dynasty was appointed head of the Supreme Court at the age of seventy but looked like a man in his forties or early fifties. When asked about his inspiration for health conservation he replied, “The only thing is that I never fret over anything. Even if I may go hungry tomorrow, I do not worry about it today. Whatever happens to me, I dismiss it and never take it to heart, and thus I always feel at ease”. It has been shown that most of the aged who enjoy longevity are broad minded and magnanimous, always cheerful, kind hearted and rarely depressed.

Yours in good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM