23/06/2015 12:20 BST | Updated 22/06/2016 06:59 BST

Holding on

What do you mean I'm holding on? I'm trying to forget it but the wretched thing just won't go away!

That's exactly the point. Your head wants to get rid of it but your mind is holding on - without you realising or knowing why. Eventually your holding on will form a habit and that is how you will tend to react to situations.

Scientists have found that emotional memory lasts longer. If you don't want to remember the past, then you need to develop an emotional non-attachment. As soon as you start liking or disliking something, you have already brought them into your mind. Add more thoughts to them and you will be reacting to your own thoughts, not the actual situation, making yourself suffer for no good reason.

We know we shouldn't get angry but as soon as someone cuts in front of us while driving, the devil in us blurts out the curse words. Only after we spot that the driver is a very old man, crouched over the steering wheel, does reason return. Anger subsides, we feel bad for our hasty behaviour. The mind lets go of anger through understanding.

If, however, a driver not only cuts you up but shows you the finger too, this will leave you puzzled but mad. You ponder more on it and anger continues to mount. You speed up, catch him up and give him a piece of your mind. His bad behaviour broke through into your mind and, for a moment, you become just like him! The more you dwell on your anger, the more it sticks because both your brain and your mind work together in registering it in the memory bank.

Many things can irritate us, from the way people dress, speak, write, post on their social media or behave, but sometimes we are too busy to pay attention. Or we don't really care about such things. Or we just accept that that's the way they are and think no more of it. It's only when those things stir up the policing in us that the problems start: 'that's not right', 'that's not fair', 'that's just unacceptable' we think - and our mind is taking an interest in them. Trains of thought follow. Action, positive or negative, commences.

A proliferating mind lacks strength. It picks up things from outside, hoards them and pollutes itself. Just like a flower that has fallen into the pond, becomes soaked with water and drowns under its own weight, the mind that absorbs too much emotion gets weighed down and eventually sinks into its own moods, stress, gloom and hopelessness.

Nature teaches us many things about holding on. A tree being cut or pruned at the top, year after year, may branch out sideways in an umbrella shape, providing shade and shelter. Their positive memory means that they can continue to thrive and survive one way or another. They may grow thicker leaves in the strong sun, or smoother leaves to drain off the rain where rain is plentiful. They adapt. But if they become shocked for too long from the cutting or pruning; their growth may be stunted or they give up and wither.

Similarly, the mind that holds on to the past is unable to move on. Despite our educational certificates, many of us do not adapt as well as plants because of our strong attachment to the immediate or long-gone past. We get stuck in the doldrums. Emotional pain cannot be let go through thinking it or intellectualising it. It can only be achieved through true understanding of the cause.

Being mindful can safeguard your mind and prevent regrettable things from happening. For example, those seemingly hurtful words are just sounds that come into contact with our ears and then are gone. Those unpleasant gestures are just sights coming into contact with our eyes. If we, unmindfully, push a replay button, we will hear or see them again and again in our mind and re-experience the pain for free - and become miserable.

With mindfulness, such experiences are labelled as they truly are: merely hearing, seeing, feeling, aching, thinking etc. They are transient. They do not belong to us. They come, they go, they bounce off us. With practice, the time you spend mulling over anger or pain will be shortened - from three days to two, from two to one. From a day to a couple of hours - or to just a few minutes! The mind comes to realise that these experiences are just passing sensations and it can gradually let go - through understanding.