“What can I do to increase my brain power?” someone asked me the other day.
What he meant, he clarified upon my asking, was how to be more creative and realize one’s full potential.
His question reminded me of Plato’s allegory of the cave. In Book VII of the Republic, Plato compares the world and its inhabitants to a cave and its prisoners. They can only see what’s ahead and can’t look around. In the words of Chris Wilson from The Books That Saved My Life in Prison:
Plato talks about a group of people chained in a cave, where all they can see are shadows on the wall. They believe those shadows are the whole world, and they argue over those shadows, and they make those shadows their lives.
Then, one day, a man escapes, and he goes to the surface, and he sees the real world: blue sky, green trees, warm sun. He’s so blinded by the beauty and possibilities that all he can do is cry.
It’s possible to master any skill with a great deal of effort but that does not necessarily lead to an expansion of one’s consciousness. Becoming good at what you do does not always equate with the realization of your full potential, for that requires a more holistic approach.
In other words, we can master the art of talking about shadows with other prisoners but to liberate ourselves, we must be prepared and courageous enough to step out of the cave. That is what I consider a genuine gain of brain power. And, there are three factors that play a crucial role in building this strength:
The greatest prison is our limiting self-belief. When we believe we can’t do something, we are already right. One common mistake is to believe that I can overcome my self-doubt just by affirmations or positive self-talk. That doesn’t really work beyond a certain point.
What really helps us get past our limiting self-beliefs is an acquisition of superior knowledge and mastery of the skill or subject matter at hand. If I am appearing for an exam, for instance, and I’m not prepared, I can talk about or listen to all the positive things in the world, it won’t calm my nerves or make me more intelligent.
True mental toughness, or the brain power that’s essential to breaking free of the shackles of the mind, comes from challenging my beliefs about what I think I can do and then decimating them by doing more or better than what I ever thought I could do. And, to accomplish such a feat I must be prepared to train my mind.
Meditation, yoga and numerous other spiritual practices are aimed at that. On their own, however, they are never sufficient. Look around you and you’ll discover a world where we have plenty of meditators, spiritual and religious people and yet they aren’t any calmer, better or more competent than the average Joe on the street.
Here’s the golden question you can ask yourself to accomplish just about anything in life. Whenever you feel you can’t do something, simply ask yourself:
How can I do it?
Relentlessly ask yourself, “how can I do it?” and let it brew till your mind agrees to spill the answer to you. Whatever it is that you are struggling with in your life, any mental, physical, emotional, social or spiritual barrier that you can’t seem to cross, keep asking yourself, “how can I do it?” and be amazed at how incredibly powerful your mind is in coming up with answers to difficult questions.
No matter how challenging a field you might be in, whether you wish to own that glorious mansion or attain self-realization, nearly everything is possible with self-discipline. I am yet to meet any successful person who isn’t self-disciplined. If you ever get a chance to work with someone who’s really at the top of their game, just observe them.
You will notice they are so self-disciplined that they don’t need anyone else to watch over them. They can oversee themselves and that’s just about the only yardstick of self-discipline, that is, can you supervise yourself and work as planned? It requires mindfulness and determination. It is easy and tempting to get distracted or procrastinate but it’s rarely worth the price, for every time we veer off course, we doubt ourselves even more. Self-Discipline is one of the ways to build your brain power.
What always worked for me, particularly during the days of my intense sadhana in the Himalayas, was a simple reminder. I used to say to myself, “The clock is ticking anyway. You’ll be performing some activity regardless, and since you are here to meditate, you may as well do exactly that.” Just remind yourself, why do anything else when you can do what you should be doing.
Self-discipline is the wisdom to know that if you won’t do it, it won’t get done. Whatever “it” maybe.
You might be wondering what righteousness or a virtuous life has to do with increasing your brain power? The truth is: almost everything.
Each one of us has only one brain (or less…) and it can only do so much. If it has to constantly cover lies or defend its position, if this powerful little organ has to battle inner demons, it is left with no time or energy to focus on the big picture. You lose your brain power. For your brain to be your ally or the agency of self-transformation, to have real brain power, it must be free from the petty shackles of undesirable thoughts and actions. And, living a virtuous life alone can give someone that freedom.
When we consistently do the right thing, our brain not only derives strength and power, but also energy from the universal consciousness. For, truth shortens, if not eliminates, the gap between the individual and cosmic consciousness. When we lead simple and transparent lives, we have much less to worry about; and that is always a good thing.
To cut a long story short, it would help to see the brain as a type of power, a force (and not just an organ). This power is harnessed and multiplied by shedding self-limiting beliefs, building self-discipline and leading a righteous life.
How to increase brainpower? Simple. Shed self-limiting beliefs, build self-discipline and lead a righteous life. But you already got that, if you did pay attention to the post above on ways to increase brainpower. Oh! Your next question is, how to pay attention? We have that covered too.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from suffering and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
Read the following FAQs to not only increase brainpower, but also open doors to limitless potential.
What do I need to pay attention to while teaching my child to master a skill?
The child in your home carries a seed of greatness. They represent an opportunity to explore the immense human potential. You can help them to make a difference to our world, to be the best in whatever they undertake. As a parent, you can make them aware of that possibility in a way they will understand, and help them walk the path they wish to tread. You can as a parent vastly increase the chances of ensuring your child reaches the heights of greatness without being pushy or preachy.
It begins with instilling a sense of excellence in all aspects of life, which if I may add, is a lifelong journey. And how to pay attention to your child’s capabilities so that you can train them accordingly? Find out here through a beautiful story of a couple who trained their three children to become chess geniuses.
How do I tap into my potential and pay attention to my capabilities?
Often when someone asks us who we are, our first response is to start narrating our CV, that I’m a graduate from such-and-such university or that I work for so-and-so or that I am the CEO etc. We rarely say what we stand for. Such a mindset distances us from the gifts and the talent we are born with. We lose track of why we are here or what we can do with our lives.
Even if we despise it, nature takes work from us according to our mindset, potential, and our stream of consciousness. We may as well then align ourselves for boundless creativity and joy.
Pay attention to what brings you joy and you will be one step closer to discovering your potential. Read here a beautiful passage from Let Your Life Speak. I read this book over five years ago, but for some reason the memory and the gist of his message has stayed with me.
How do I build discipline so that I can be successful in what I do?
If you set your mind to action, even the wildest dreams can come to fruition. Paradoxically, discipline sets you free. It gives you the freedom to do anything, to accomplish anything, to be anything you want.
To the one who is disciplined, knowledge, wisdom, success, solutions come automatically. Einstein once said, “It’s not that I am so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Discipline is about persistence with conviction. When you carry on with what you have to do, whether or not you like it, that is discipline. Read more here on how if you don’t pay attention to the mind’s misconduct, it starts behaving.