Planning, problem solving and imagination

Because being physically healthy has been my life-long interest (I grew up with a father who was a physical therapist), that’s the area I naturally gravitate toward in these “To Your Health” columns. During a recent search into self-motivation, self-discipline and focusing, I stumbled into some interesting information I’ll share in a minute.

First though, in addition to physical, our health also obviously involves mental, emotional and psychological balance. As a meditator and practitioner of deep, diaphragmatic breathing for many years, the benefits are clear to me personally. The in-vogue term — mindfulness — is, as far as I can tell, meditation appropriately renamed. Long seen by many as drifting aimlessly, contemplating vague wandering thoughts, meditation is, of course, exactly the opposite. It is the mental work of training our minds to focus and not wander.

Decades ago I was watching a show some of you will remember called Sports Spectacular. This particular episode was about two men on a two-day climb of a legendary vertical rock face. It was on Saturday that they slept in hammocks, anchored into the side of the rock with the final attempt to summit on Sunday. The brother of one of the climbers, an experienced climber himself, was the colorful commentator who said something ridiculous. When asked how one deals with fear while suspended hundreds of feet up and in very real danger of falling, he replied, “There’s no room for fear in our minds.” Right. Ridiculous and corny macho posturing.

A few years later I started rock climbing. The fact is that, when hanging on the side of a sheer rock face with only fingertips and the tiny tips of climbing shoes on slivers of rock for support, knowing that one of those precarious appendages has to leave its security in order to progress, the focus on which one to take away is so intense — there really isn’t any room for anything else. It IS mindfulness focus.

As a young man I became aware that being conservative, which is by definition resistant to change, was holding me back. I realized that to improve anything, change has to happen. To progress up that rock, for instance, something has to change. Something has to move. Cautiously maintaining the status quo won’t advance anything. Ever. True, and when not just on a rock, the mental, emotional, psychological capacity to see ahead, to at least glimpse the possibilities available is essential to finding the courage to try something new in the spirit of progress and improvement.

So now, after recognizing and celebrating the necessity of focusing, back to that interesting information I stumbled on. The advantages of the opposite: daydreaming. While not appropriate during say, rock climbing, recent brain scan studies have clearly shown the positive role it plays in planning, problem solving and extending the limitations of our imaginations. This is the state of mind which is freedom! Every invention, work of art and scientific discovery have been created by people who valued plenty of time for daydreaming! As a man who has always saved daily time to walk in the woods, on the beach and in the mountains, I don’t wear headphones, listen to music or motivational tapes or audio books. I just, well, daydream. Glad to know I may have been productive while doing it.

Just sharing…To Your Health.