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Psychology Today

Making square pegs for round holes

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The pioneers of modern psychology arrived at their understanding of the human mind by studying sick people and human relationships within the spheres of basic survival and the power struggles that exist within conflicted societies.

Mind as we know it has no substance and the brain if you like is a repository of ideas and information. But there is some understanding that the psychology, or the mind of every individual is influenced by education, life experience and place in society.

Concepts like logic, rationalism and irrationalism have all evolved and yet there is still no clear understanding within modern science or modern medicine as to how the human mind works and the extent of its capacity.

But there are things about minds that most people come to know like, if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out which is entirely logical. We come to learn that the male brain tends to be more logical and the female brain more illogical. This gulf between masculinity and femininity is a constant source of friction bridged by the fact that men and women actually need each other.

So ever since people began wondering about the nature of mind in western countries, there has been very little advancement in understanding the nature of mind and how it functions. Those who have made the most successful inroads are those who have broadened the scope of their enquiry to include the spiritual nature of existence.

Our spiritual nature can only be explored through the process of introspection known as meditation. This is a process of looking inwards and recognising that we are connected to all life. When one acquires a deeper spiritual perspective, the mind becomes a tool instead of a place of residence.

For most people the mind is home, the foundation of their lives and very few can actually stop thinking. This constant thinking not only creates an identity, but it judges, affects our health, separates and categorises the world according to beliefs.

Beliefs are ideas without any foundation. Beliefs are distinct from real knowledge because beliefs cannot be proven true or false while knowledge is tangible and provable.

Who runs your life? You or your mind?

A holistic view of the mind

What we call the mind is in effect a calculator, a thinking device essential for our survival. When it is working well, it helps us to find our way in the world and helps us to live our lives. But people tend to get caught up in their own thoughts and those thoughts become the basis of existence.

If we look at the modern cars that are coming out now, when the car stops at a traffic light, the engine completely turns off but restarts the instant the accelerator pedal is touched. This is how our mind should be, it should become fully active as required but it should also stop completely when not needed.

Thinking anatomically; next to our body we have our thinking or conscious mind and beyond that we have our unconscious mind. So if we take the analogy of a computer, our physical body is equivalent to the physical aspect of the computer hardware. Our thinking or conscious mind is equivalent to a piece of wordprocessing or calculating software that is performing a function, and the unconscious mind is the operating system in a similar way as Microsoft windows or Macintosh operating systems.

Like a computer, all the data and information the mind has to work with is all the data that it has accumulated. In one's own mind if there is no reference to a word like "karma" then it can never be a subject of thought. So mind can only think in relation to all the data that has ever been collected in one's mind.

In terms of operating one's mind and thinking about something, if the data is corrupted, one's thinking will also be corrupted. Let us return to the word "karma". This word karma means "as you sow, so shall you reap" or "every action creates another action or reaction". The first interpretation is a biblical quotation and the second is what could be referred to as a Hindu quotation, both are based on an objective understanding and reality of life. Another interpretation is that karma means simply that if you do something bad, something bad will happen to you in return and if you do something good, then good things will happen to you in turn. This understanding is based on belief and serves as moral guidance for those who need it.

Beyond the mind

People long ago recognised that like the body, the mind is still physical but just less dense than the body. Those who meditated analysed the structure and function of the mind, but they also discovered deeper layers of consciousness. Exercises evolved enabling people to transcend their everyday consciousness and begin to observe how their minds actually work.

So when we look at the nature of who we are as human beings, the physical body is the most dense followed by our thinking mind and our unconscious mind. Beyond mind there are many levels of consciousness that when experience give rise to an inner peace, a happiness and joy which is independent of any external activity.

For most people, the thinking mind is dependent on cause and effect, and because we want to experience good effects, in other words things that make us happy we do things towards that end. This is where a sense of morality or a knowledge of karma is important because if we try to achieve happiness in the world by doing nasty things, the results generally turn out badly. But if we try to be nice people and be kind to others, then happiness may result although it is not guaranteed.

Everyone wants to be happy and people search for it within the limitations of mind and body. But whatever happiness is achieved in this physical realm is only ever temporary and in some cases leads to greater unhappiness. An example of this is chocolate. Chocolate tastes nice and eating a piece creates a momentary sense of satisfaction or pleasantness. The mind has participated and recorded that act and the next time that you want to experience that same pleasure, the mind prompts you to eat more chocolate. Today it may be one piece of chocolate but this time next year it may be a bar every day and you are concerned about the weight you're putting on.

sadhguru_74In some ways the mind is like an eager child wants to be helpful but in helping to solve one problem it is creating many more. So life continues and no matter how many temporary pleasures one indulges in, the moments of happiness are fleeting. In desperation people turn to all sorts of inspirational and lifestyle programs. Some of these help to halt degradation but the most inspiring and healing programs are those that help to go beyond the mind.

To go beyond the mind is to turn inwards, but the mind has only ever been trained to look outwards and it will put up a struggle. Almost everyone who attempts to meditate is familiar with the term "monkey mind" because it needs constant attention.

With time and the gentle application of self-discipline, the mind will eventually settle. The journey beyond the mind facilitates happiness, joy, bliss and even ecstasy. But one of the greatest benefits is that it grounds the mind in relation not only to your life but the very planet and complexity of the life we live.

Meditation is a process of unveiling the truth of life that cannot be adequately expressed in words, but it also helps to bring the mind to where that it works for you and does your bidding instead of running your life every which way.

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