I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between myself and my mind. Notice the irony in that very statement for how can we consider our own minds when we are using the mind as a tool to consider the mind? In fact, the mind is considering itself. How can it be objective about itself? The answer is it cannot. The mind’s perceptions can be at best subjective and at worse unreliable. Some may label the mind a creator and a destroyer due to the impact of its perceptions and the power of its thoughts. The mind is a wonderful tool that has brought great scientific and medical advances. Yet, the majority of human beings worship their minds. I hesitate to include myself in this rather blunt statement, but it’s true.
What is also true is that I made a distinction between myself and my mind. The age-old distinction that writer and teacher Eckhart Tolle made and discussed in his book ‘The Power of Now’ when, during the depths of emotional pain, he realised he could not live with himself any longer. In that statement he realised there was a separate self which could not live with the depression he was experiencing in his mind. He defined the depressed self as the mind-based ego and the other self as the consciousness which is the space in which the mind experiences itself.
Most spiritual texts speak of this separation at their very core. It may be defined differently, but all they are basically saying is ‘you are not your mind.’ It is the most simple yet the most difficult teaching to grasp and apply to our lives. It is simple for what we are searching for is who we are and has never left us but difficult because most of us are deeply identified with our minds. Many people have deep attachments to their thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and subsequent emotions. While becoming detached from the mind may produce freedom and peace, most of us are not ready or prepared to pay the price of letting go. And there is the added problem of amnesia.
I have been on what I term a ‘spiritual path’ for some years. I am certainly no one special. I have noticed times of spiritual amnesia, where I am once again deeply identified with my mind. This is despite the spiritual experiences I’ve had over the years, the books I’ve read, and the knowledge I have encompassed along the way. Typically it takes some weeks, perhaps less, but eventually I realise somewhere deep down that I have lost myself in my mind once again. I haven’t forgotten my spirituality or faith, that would be too simple. Instead my mind convinces me that it is the only tool I have to find the truth. I become desperate. I tie myself in emotional knots as my mind takes charge and sends prayers and seeks explanations for painful events that have happened. Of course, I never find the answers nor the peace I am seeking for the mind cannot offer those things. It is trying the best it can, but it is limited and does not have all the answers.
This happens on such a subtle level due to both the attachment to our identities and society’s conditioning. I have great pride in my intellect for I have achieved a great deal on an academic level. As I said in a previous post, searching for the truth is something I enjoy doing, despite the pain it has brought me in recent years. There is nothing wrong with that, either. Consciousness without the mind is an empty vessel. As I said earlier, the mind has given us great technology, wonderful scientific discoveries, life-saving treatments. It is a creator but, like Frankenstein’s monster, left to its own devices it can also destroy. Conscious awareness gives the mind life, love, purpose and direction which, combined, serves its highest intentions which are always love. But consciousness, or The Divine or soul, gave the mind free will. The mind can choose its own path and without awareness, which is love, it does just that, often turning against itself and others.
What is the answer? Expanding our consciousness. I feel that peace lies beyond the mind, beyond thought and in the realisation that I am more than it. The mind cannot realise deeper truth that it doesn’t have the means to access. It is a tool we have to function here on Earth and while it can go a long way towards building a picture of life, it cannot satisfy every human yearning and when asked to do so it can end up destroying itself in its own existential hell. The mind is a tool that can be enjoyed for intellectual pursuits, but it doesn’t need to be taken so seriously.
Going beyond the mind for spiritual truth lies in meditation, being grounded in the body, not identifying too heavily with the mind, going with each moment we are given just as if, as Shakespeare so wonderfully put it, ‘the world is a stage and we are the players.’ So difficult to do, immensely difficult, due to the challenges of the mind, the attachments we build, the conditioning we all have, but if it were easy I doubt very much we would all be here trying to be it.