In 1987 Paramount announced that they were launching a reboot (a relatively new concept at the time) of their classic and iconic space opera, Star Trek. Like everyone else, I was dubious. After all, central to the enduring success of Star Trek was the relationship between Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy. How good could a Trek show be without the trio who were the stars powering three TV seasons and six motion pictures?
Fortunately, my curiosity pushed past my doubts and I gave Captain Jean-Luc Picard a chance. Now, some 35 years later, I have spent a great deal more time aboard the Enterprise D than I ever spent on the original. I still love Kirk, Spock and McCoy, but Next Gen’s magnificent seven (Picard, Riker, Data, Troi Worf, Geordie, Crusher) took the Star Trek universe to a whole new level.
As much as the characters drove the show, STTNG has another advantage. The incredible advances made in technology between the 1960s and the late 1980s gave the producers of Next Gen the ability to truly take viewers where they had never gone before (thanks in no small part to George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic). One of the most significant and impressive upgrades to the Enterprise D was a section of rooms called holodecks. You simply told the computer where you wanted to go and it magically created your dream destination inside what amounted to an immersive virtual reality world.
The holodeck, as it happens, is basically a physical manifestation of the mind. The mind allows us to close our eyes and go pretty much anywhere we want to go; we can go back in time, forward in time, travel through space, have superpowers…the only limit is literally our own imaginations. It’s an incredible took to have at our disposal, but it can also be a pain in the, well, head.
Sometimes it can be very difficult to turn off the mind, especially if you have an important meeting, perhaps a job interview, a big trip coming up or a change in your routine on the horizon. Your mind might randomly choose 1:30 in the morning to start trying to prepare for for such an event, and it can be challenging to convince it that a good night’s sleep is really the best way to be ready.
How do you turn it off?
Think about your mind as being similar to the holodeck. It’s a tool you use, but it isn’t you. You tell it what you need it to do and then put it to work doing that thing. When it’s finished, turn off the holodeck and walk back into the real world.
Another way to think about it is like the way you use your car. It’s a mode of transportation; you get into it, you go where you need to go, you get out of it when you arrive. At no time do you become the car. The car is not you. The car is a tool that you use to get where you need to go, just as the mind is a tool that you use to think, problem solve and make decisions. At some point you have to turn it off and get out.
It’s not always easy, and no matter how good you get at turning off the mind, sooner or later you’ll have a night where it just won’t shut up. Still, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at identifying with your self and not just your mind.
Some basic meditation exercises can help you start this process, and Netflix has a wonderful series from Headspace which you can try as a beginning meditation practice. If you prefer to read, I highly recommend the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. If you need something a little more narrative and less intellectual, there’s also The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. I have read and practiced all of the above and many others over the last two decades or so in my pursuit of mindfulness.
Sometimes I just turn on STTNG, too! There’s something soothing about being immersed in that utopian vision of humanity’s future.
Have other activities or books that work for you? Post them in the comments section below!