If a person gave away your body to some passer-by, you’d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anybody who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled-have you no shame in that?’ –Epictetus Enchiridion, 28
Instinctively, we protect our bodies. We don’t let other people touch us, push us around, control our movements. However, when it comes to our minds, we seem to be less disciplined. We have the propensity to hand over the control of our mind to social media, to TV, to what other people are doing (or say they are doing!) thinking, or verbalising. We sit down to work and without thinking or knowing we are distracted by the pings of our devices and messaging systems or displacing the work we should be doing with easier but less effective activities. We sit down with our families and instinctively we have our phones out checking who has missed us or what we might have missed. We might sit down for a mindful moment, but instead of looking inwardly, we are superficially judging people as they pass by. We don’t even know we are doing this; we don’t realise how much waste there is in it, how inefficient and distracted it makes us. What is worse- no one is making this happen, it is of our volition.
If we read on stoic philosophers such as Epictetus, they would refer to this condition as an abomination. They would purport those external conditions can affect our physical realm, but they would contend that the mind is ours. We must protect it, maintain it, as, in the final analysis, it’s our most precious possession. The challenge is why don’t we invest in techniques such as mindfulness, personal reflection, journaling, and self-awareness exercises, that would afford us the best chance of enhancing our sense of agency on this invaluable commodity: our one and only mind.