As i am getting older I have realised the importance of maintaining and if possible improving my flexibility.
So I started with Kung Fu then after 10 years of study moved to Yoga.
And it works!
I no longer feel as rigid in my muscles and after a session feel refreshed and energised.
I wonder if we should be devoting a similar effort to stretching our minds?
Which begs the question:
How to stretch your mind?
The starting point (like physical stretching) is that it does take a bit of effort.
You cannot stretch your mind by standing still.
You cannot keep doing the same things as you have always done.
It requires moving out of your comfort zone ever so slightly.
Travel to another country is a good example.
It can be fun, exciting and uncomfortable at times.
But this is the point.
You are having a different experience which can help you see situations differently.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson so beautifully noted; “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”
Engaging with people who have different life experiences and perspectives is also another great way to stretch your mind.
It’s why I like chatting to the person sitting next to me in a plane for example.
It’s completely random and you never know you might gain a valuable insight and the trip goes quicker (of course sometimes people do not want to talk so be respectful).
Take up a new hobby or course is another powerful way to stretch your mind.
I remember how nervous i was at my first Kung Fu class. I was the the oldest by 20 years but the Sifu made me feel welcome and was very encouraging. He modified many of the forms in line with my physical capabilities which also helped.
I found however that what i thought was impossible (e.g. standing knuckle drops) was actually possible.
My mind had been stretched.
Another strategy is to follow people who have stretched their mind.
What can you learn, copy or adapt from what they do or think?
Try something new.
For example, start a blog.
Write about something that gives you joy.
It may resonate with others or even if it does not you have moved out of your comfort zone.
Learn a new skill.
Try painting or acting or public speaking or learn to switch your thinking (I can recommend this).
Take a risk.
Apply or volunteer for a new role or position.
The opposite of stretching your mind is rigidity.
You steadfastly believe the same things as you have always done.
As a result you are trapped in a single way of looking at the world.
And as the world is changing faster than ever you can be left behind.
You can feel stuck.
Your mind can be stretched.
It is more plastic and pliable than you imagine.
Stretching your mind will mean that you can stretch your friends, interests, experiences and engagement in the world.