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Excerpted from Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey. Copyright 1998 by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"You can think of innate mental health as a one-hundred watt lightbulb, burning constantly and consistently."

  Richard Carlson, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life, Part 3

Mental health is an innate capacity that is complete in itself. It is the human potential for healthy psychological functioning--self-esteem, creativity, insight, wisdom, unconditional love, healthy relationships, motivation, humor, problem solving, optimism, and many more virtues. It lies dormant in each human being in its complete form, waiting to be unleashed.

You can think of innate mental health as a one-hundred-watt lightbulb, burning constantly and consistently. The light that we see in our lives is limited by the aperture of our thinking in the moment. We may live in total darkness most of the time and have only a momentary glimpse of this light. We call this flash of light an insight, a peak experience, or a moment of happiness. As we gain more understanding of how our mind and life work, this aperture stays open farther and farther, exposing more of the light of our innate mental health. Though our mental health will fluctuate with our moods and our thoughts, the source of the light we see remains constant. As we mature, we realize more of this innate mental health in our lives. The power of this innate mental health is the unlimited human potential to live a happy and productive life.

Living in the Moment, Entry Point into Healthy Functioning

The entry point into healthy psychological functioning is living in the moment. But what does being in the moment really mean? We all have experienced living in the moment many times--during a crisis, being struck by the beauty of a sunset or some other natural phenomenon, falling in love, taking a shower, listening to music, hearing an inspiring speaker. During these moments, time seems to stand still and the buzz of our personal thinking briefly subsides. We see life firsthand, for we have slowed down to the speed of life. These rare moments have the ability to reduce our stress, give us hope, and fill us with joy and inspiration.

The key to making these apparently serendipitous moments the norm for our daily lives is to understand that our experience of life is directly linked to the way we are thinking. Your thought process can be either healthy or unhealthy, a topic we will discuss in great detail a little later. Knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy thinking is one of the most important insights you can gain about your mental health.

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