‘Thy mind a Kingdom Is’—-Granard. This quote was on Mr. Alexander’s business/appointment cards in 1900, a paraphrase of, ‘My mind to me a kingdom is…,’ part of a longer poem included in William Byrd’s 1588 collection, Psalmes, Sonets and Songs. It has traditionally been attributed to Edward Dyer (1540-1607).
From 1588 to 1900 to 2016, the power of the mind has been a topic for our consideration. Mr. Alexander made a life’s work of teaching others to train what he called the Self, the Body/Mind. Most recently, Ruth Whippman took up the subject in her book, America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks. She claims ‘the single philosophical consensus of our time is that the key to contentment lies in living fully mentally in the present.’ In a scathing review of the ways in which ‘mindfulness’ has been monetized in our culture, from employee workshops to spiritual seeker retreats, she questions the benefits of training the mind for living in the present moment.
She’s a good writer and funny. It’s a worthwhile read. She decries what she terms ‘self-help-based cultural thought policing,’ and ‘moralizing smugness’ towards the more distractible members of our western society. Well, yes. The notion that we can improve our lives via our thoughts is just another way to sustain the illusion of control. (But I digress, with a smidge of smug.)
Let’s return instead to the 1500’s and leave behind this current age of opinions and pronouncements, visiting instead a poetic discourse on mind. If, at these 200 words (the blog’s usual word cap), you have reached your on-line reading limit, I wish you a good week, and yes, many mindful moments.
For the rest of us, we time travel to the Elizabethan age, and the first and last stanza’s of Dyer’s poem—–
My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find
That it excels all other bliss
Which God or nature hath assign’d.
Though much I want that most would have,
Yet still my mind forbids to crave…
My wealth is health and perfect ease,
And conscience clear my chief defence;
I never seek by bribes to please,
Nor by desert to give offence.
thus do I live, thus will I die,
Would all did so as well as I!
(The full six stanzas can be found at: http://www.poemhunter.com.)