The War on
When it comes to things like meditation and performing at your best, there’s a lot of talk about “silencing the mind” and “turning off the mind.” Some statements even go so far as to suggest that the mind is “insane” and “evil,” and that, overall, thinking is “bad.”
Such statements do mean well: the point is to help people create internal peace. However, these statements are misguided.
I would know because I have made such statements myself. To an extent they are a step in the right direction, but they do not at all paint the whole picture: indeed, they are inaccurate and incomplete.
The truth is that you can never shut off your mind. The mind never stops. The mind is an integral aspect of the experience of existence. The mind is essential to dreaming just as well as to waking life. If your mind “turned off,” you wouldn’t be able to do anything, and you would be functionally dead (i.e. “brain dead,” a state in which essential bodily functions such as breathing and heartbeat continue, but the person is unresponsive and inactive, and presumably has no thoughts or sensory perceptions).
As such, the fact that your mind never stops is a good thing. The mind is a wonderful, incredibly powerful tool: it is a compelling aspect of existence as a human being. Look around you at all the things the mind can conceive, perceive, and create. The amount of information we can take in, process, and put out is staggering—and altogether it generates an elegant, beautiful experience of reality. The mind is the means by which we experience and enjoy life.
Yet, it’s typical to associate the mind “never stopping” with the mind racing. The premise of the mind racing has negative connotations: when someone says that his mind is racing he is likely having an unpleasant experience, by which he is focused on one fear-based thought after another—and each thought speeds by faster than the last, only to then give way to an even more fearful thought. This is the experience of anxiety, and it is unpleasant, indeed.
Turning off the mind is not the way out of anxiety, however. Turning off the mind is not a thing that can be done, except by inducing death. If you would prefer to go on living, which is likely the case, there are far more viable and intelligent solutions available to you than attempting to silence your mind.
A distortion often found in American society, in addition to the mind being generally anxiety-inducing, is that logic is used interchangeably with doubt. For instance, when someone says that an event defies logic, what they’re really saying is that the event defies the dominant belief system of the context which they find themselves in (i.e. their own consciousness, which is inevitably influenced by collective consciousness). For a specific example, if I tell you that I floated above my body and looked down at it, and you find such a thing hard to believe, you might tell me that the event “defies logic.” You would say that because the conventional belief in our world (i.e. collective consciousness) is that out of body experiences are probably impossible.
This use of the word “logic” is fallacious, because it assumes that logic is found only in a particular belief system. However, logic isn’t a belief or belief system, nor is it limited to a few particular beliefs.
If we are to make proper use of our minds, we must pay respect to logic and understand it for what it really is. Logic is nothing more than a method of processing information linearly. There isn’t a specific belief, belief system, or behavior that is particularly logical. Logic is not an entity or a thing: it is a process of the mind.
Logic is one of the faculties I used to drive to the library where I now sit. As I drove on one road, I considered my options and decided on the next road I was to take—that is, the logical next step. I made a linear journey from one road to the next, until I arrived at my destination. Ultimately the decisions I made as to which specific roads to take were made by my intuition, meaning that they were based on instantaneous feeling and totally arbitrary. It was logic, however, that mapped out and presented the various options to me. Logic is the lawyer who lays down the options in front of the judge; intuition is the swing of the judge’s gavel.
Logic can’t make decisions. In the end, all decisions are arbitrary. Even a computer, the most rational entity on Earth, makes its decisions based on the commands given to it by a human; and, because all human decisions are ultimately made by intuition, it would be dishonest to declare that computers are perfectly rational.
All logic does is process information linearly. It can point to the next step, and from there the one after it. To make a decision, however, you cannot help but engage other faculties. You cannot keep feelings out of your decisions. Just as your mind never stops, your feelings never stop, either. Both the mind and the feelings are integral, inescapable aspects of the human experience.
Command of the Mind
To make proper use of your mind, you must tell your mind what to do. Command your mind. In fact, you cannot help but command your mind. Your mind is your unwavering servant. Whatever it puts out is a consequence of what you put into it.
The motto of the mind is, Your will is my command. The mind is terribly submissive. For you, the master of the mind, this is a good thing—otherwise you would be essentially schizophrenic.
The mind is always processing what you instruct it to process. You may not realize it, but every moment, you are either subtly or deliberately instructing yourself to give your attention to something in particular. This thing is not actually a “thing” at all, but a thought.
While writing this article I might subtly command my mind to distract myself from writing. I then find myself looking around the room and making the actions of other people the focus of my attention, rather than my writing. I then instruct my mind to again focus on the task at hand, and my eyes shift back to the computer screen.
I also might instruct my mind to focus on quantitative measures of this writing such as the word-count and how long I’ve been writing for. What these minute commands come from, ultimately, is from a sponsoring thought which I have directed my attention towards. When I find my attention shifting to the word-count of this article, that’s the result of a sponsoring thought that quantitative measures are what make me worthy as a writer, or that quantitative measures make an article worthy as a piece of writing. If I had no thought that word-count was important at all, then the entity that is the word-count of this article would not pass through my attention at all. It would be non-existent to me.
I’m not owned by my thoughts, though. Thinking a particular thought doesn’t mean I am doomed to think that thought all the time, nor that the thought is or is bound to become a belief of mine. I am the master of my mind. Sometimes I deny that, but it is the truth. Just as I can think one thought, I can think another. Just as I can put my attention one place, so too can I put it elsewhere. Where I put my attention is inescapably determined by my beliefs about reality, though I always remain free to challenge and attempt to sidestep my beliefs.
Beliefs are simply dominant thoughts about reality—thoughts that you think over and over again. Take the view, for a moment, that reality is nothing more than the product of all of your dominant thoughts. If you have a strong thought that an oak tree exists in a particular spot in your backyard, you will observe the oak tree being there. Your observation of the tree will then encourage your thinking the thought about the oak tree’s existence once again. This cycle of thought and observation continues until one of your dominant beliefs about reality is that an oak tree exists in that particular spot in your backyard. The stronger this belief is, the more difficult it will be to change the belief, and the more futile challenging it will be. If you believe that the only way the oak tree will move from that spot is the result of powerful wind, lightning, or human intervention (fire, sawing, or axing the tree), then you will observe the tree staying put until one of those things occurs to it. At the end of the day, your beliefs about the tree are still just beliefs, and you remain free to challenge and change those beliefs by your own decision.
The cycle by which thoughts and observations feed into one another is indeed a logical one. If in my thoughts I am certain that the table in front of me will remain solid if I touch it, then it logically follows that that is what I will experience. In turn, if I touch the table and experience it being solid, then it logically follows that my thought about the table being solid will strengthen. This logical cycle will continue over time until I am of the general, dominant belief that tables are solid, provided that I experience no exceptions to this belief (in my 20 years of life, I have experienced no such exception).
Once you understand that what you put your attention on results from how you perceive the world, and how you perceive the world is based on particular thoughts you hold in your mind, you can use the fact that the mind never stops to your advantage. You can be grateful for, rather than dreadful of, your mind’s tirelessness. You can utilize your mind like the servant it is, rather than imagining it to be some kind of merciless, uncontrollable tyrant.
Have great respect for the power of beliefs, and put in the time to examine your beliefs, challenge them, and then to be open to and try on new ones.
For your personal belief system to be functional, it must be internally congruent. This means that logical connections can be made between each of your beliefs. This does not mean that your beliefs must be boring, conventional, or closed off to anomalies or phenomena that are considered to be unlikely. A belief system can both make room for psychic phenomena, for instance, and be logical.
On that note, a belief system can both be closed to psychic phenomena and be based upon emotions and feelings—very much so, in fact.
You would do well to admit that no matter what you believe, emotions and feelings have been and always will be involved in the mind’s processing of information, and therefore also in the process of selecting your thoughts and forming your beliefs. You are not a purely rational being: never has such a human existed, and never will he. Even our machines are created by the whim of our feelings.
To endure a belief system that is internally incongruent, you must either be ignorant of the fact, outright acknowledge yourself as a hypocrite, or be afraid to change. It is virtually guaranteed that you either are afflicted by one of these incongruences in your belief system right now, or you are in the process of changing your belief system (or perhaps both, in regards to different beliefs of yours).
That is no crime, however: these incongruences are simply steps on the path of growth. The truth is that no belief system is perfectly, statically, and forever congruent, comprehensive, and complete. Change is inevitable, and might as well be embraced. You can expect your beliefs to change over time—even if oh-so-very gradually. No two experiences are perfectly identical: therefore, the mind must adapt its beliefs. Simultaneously, the mind is always forming new connections between thoughts: therefore, reality must adapt its experiences.
Try though we may, our beliefs do not remain the same over time. Even someone who claims to be a devout Christian for life is not the same devout Christian they were years ago.
If you find yourself with incongruent beliefs, take joy in the fact: this is not the first time this has happened to you, nor will it be the last.
I know I have been simultaneously a hypocrite and in denial when I speak of desiring to be close to the Earth, yet retreat to the warmth of layers of clothing and keep many of my activities indoors. There’s no need to put myself on trial and convict myself of crime, though. I can open myself to possibilities of how I may go about moving towards congruence. By so doing, I subtly command and thus enable my mind to experiment with different connections between thoughts, with the goal of finding connections that ultimately resolve the incongruence. Once that is done, the relevant collection of connections will become a pattern within my mind, and this pattern will become dominant beliefs of mine—that is, habitual places in my thinking. In addition to opening my mind to new connections, I simultaneously open myself to new experiences which contain new information that can serve as steps along the path of achieving congruence.
The Expansion of Consciousness
What has been outlined here, is the beauty of the experience of conscious growth. To decide to become more conscious is to challenge your dominant beliefs and to then enable both your mind to change its thoughts and your reality to change the experiences it serves up to you. Each time you undergo this process, you become that much more aware that you were always in charge of all of it—you just haven’t stepped into full responsibility for it.
As you steadily integrate this awareness into your normal state of being you become more conscious, and thus enable yourself to see more holes in your belief system and to then open yourself to changing those beliefs. Or, rather than be motivated by the sight of holes, you may instead open yourself to new experiences and beliefs simply out of desire. Whatever the case, you enter the same process of changing your beliefs about, and therefore your experience of, reality, and just as that process ends it begins once again. It can do no other, for the mind never stops, and life is a grand cycle which contains within it an infinite number of smaller cycles, which in themselves are microcosms of life.
Of course, you’ll only experience that if you believe it. I dare you to challenge yourself to believe otherwise.
P.S. The skinny of this article is that the mind can be directed to pay heed to your feelings, putting your intuition in charge instead of your analytical mind. The mind is always in use, and it can be used in the service of apparently non-intellectual processes, too.
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