YOUR mind’s reaction to situations is like Spotify or your downloaded music, or for those of us old enough to remember, like a juke box. In those examples you simply press a certain button and a song will start. If you press for a particular Adele song you won’t get Eminem. The technology is not programmed to do that. The reaction to you pressing a certain tab is predictable.

When your mind is not responding to anything in particular it’s like Spotify or the juke box set to random play. Anything might pop up into your mind from the vast stores of thoughts, ideas, emotions, memories, moods, desires or dislikes that have collated day after day through your entire life to date. Logically, we know that there must be a mechanism inside the brain or body that triggers these seemingly random thoughts and feelings but as we don’t know the science of it yet we think of it as completely chosen by chance.

So this is who we are. This is how we are – programmed by past experiences and our genes to respond in particular ways to particular situations, and in between such events, to be the passive recipient of whatever things pop into our head.

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It’s not all bad. In fact, some of it is great. An old song pops into our head that we haven’t thought of for years, and we can sing along to it in our mind. We get a great idea for a celebration, or a gift, or even for a breakthrough in some important field like preventing or curing cancer. Everything good that humanity has created, from poetry to beautiful gardens, from water purification plants that save the lives of billions to the new bridge across the Forth, has to have emerged as an idea from someone’s mind before anything else could be done.

But some of it is bad, really bad. Just look at history. Just look at the troubles in so many different parts of the world today. They’re the result of reactions, responses, ideas, desires, fears, hatreds, all of which originated in the mind of one or more persons. And while none of us is a Hitler, none of us is an angel either. Our minds contain, deep in the huge storage of possible reactions, both the gracious and the destructive.

So we need to be able to deal with the unhealthy, the unhelpful, or the downright awful reactions our mind impels us to put into action. And to be able to deal with such reactions we need to notice them clearly as they arise. These creations of the mind arise lightning fast so unless we are equally quick to notice them they will sweep us away into their path before we know it. This then usually causes a whole chain of causes and effects, leaving us and others in a bad place before we know it.

Which is where the practice of mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is a natural tool or skill of the mind, but it tends to be quite weak in comparison with the dominant automatic response mechanism of the mind. The mind prefers to be automatic. It’s easier, habitual, effortless. So we need to deliberately cultivate our ability to be mindful.

You can do it right now while reading this article. Notice the sensation of your legs and back on the chair you’re sitting in, or your feet touching the ground if you’re standing. Try and allow your attention to become light and relaxed, the opposite of heavy, focused concentration. Notice any parts of your body that are hard pressed into the chair or floor. Just note how it feels to your body or mind, but don’t judge it, don’t react to it. Now notice any parts that, while in contact with the chair or the floor, are much less so than the first parts. Be aware of just how softly the body can be in touch with an object and still feel it clearly. Then gently and slowly let this awareness leave the chair or floor, and allow your clear focus to return solely to the newspaper.

That’s it. Simple, isn’t it? Yet this is what, over time, will help you become in control of those knee-jerk or unwanted reactions that your mind will produce. Try it. You’ll be amazed.