Well, Milton makes the mind sound like an interesting but scary place. We might as well dive right in hoping we can find our way out again. Don’t worry most people don’t so we’ll have lots of company.
How does the mind work? How did we write the content of Simple Reality with so little actual knowledge or writing ability? Seth understands the creative process and the mind’s relationship with it. It all begins with the energy of imagination conceiving a goal deemed worthwhile by the True self or the false self. “Its beliefs about the nature of reality are then given to inner portions of the self [false self]. These rely mainly upon the conscious mind’s interpretation of temporal reality. The conscious mind sets the goals and the inner self [True self] brings them about, using all its facilities and inexhaustible energy.” Or, in other words, we had lots of help!
“Your inner self adopts the physically conscious, physically focused mind as a method of allowing it to manipulate in the world that you know. The conscious mind is particularly equipped to direct outward activity, to handle waking experience and oversee physical work.”
Seth’s mantra is “we create our own reality” which begins with what we believe and this can often be difficult to accept; too much responsibility for the average Joe who is not overly fond of change. “… the conscious mind is equipped to receive information from the inner self as well as the exterior universe … If you see a world that is good … take it for granted that your beliefs are beneficial. But if you find poor health, a lack of meaningful work, a lack of abundance, a world of sorrow and evil, then assume that your beliefs are faulty …” Change my cherished beliefs perhaps? I’d rather suffer.
Why do most of us have such a tough time changing our beliefs, attitudes and values let alone grasping Oneness or comprehending Simple Reality? Steven Harrison in his book, Doing Nothing, starts us on our search for an answer. “Thought is reality. Without thought, there is no reality. This thought-reality is not actual and has no inherent thingness or substance. What is undivided [Oneness] only appears to be divided by thought. Thought separates into this or that. Thought cannot contain unity, because there is always what is outside thought because unity contains everything. Thought implies a thinker. A thinker has thoughts. Thoughts may be observed. The thinker cannot be observed, other than as thought. Thought constricts or limits. Consciousness is limitless. Thought requires consciousness. Consciousness does not require thought.” Yes, you’re right, this is going to be a wild ride! (Don’t worry, we are on the right roller coaster.)
If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? Einstein
Just a little comic relief. That Einstein, what a character!
The classic scriptures of the Hindus reveal they were probably the first to think deeply about the mind, about what an empty desk might mean. “The mind seems to be intelligent and conscious. Yoga philosophy teaches that it is not. It has only a borrowed intelligence. The Atman [the supreme and universal soul] is intelligence itself, is pure consciousness.”
Nor can we, as many of our distraught ancestors have tried, lay the whole suffering business in the lap of God. “God cannot be known by the finite mind. He is beyond the mind and far beyond the intellect. This apparent universe is a creation of the mind. The mind has conjured it up; it is its author, and the mind cannot go beyond its own domain (Brahmananda).”
The Hindu mystics have known for thousands of years that the mind and the present moment (Self-awareness) are mutually exclusive. “The mind is only thoughts. It is a form of energy. It manifests itself as the world. When the mind sinks into the Self then the Self is realized; when the mind issues forth the world appears and the Self is not realized.” This was Ramana Maharshi quoted in Clive Johnson’s wonderful book on Vedanta—Hindu mysticism.
You are what you think. All that you are arises from your thoughts. With your thoughts you make your world. Buddha
As Christianity was an outgrowth of Judaism, Buddhism built upon the foundation of Hindu mysticism. When our mind finds its identity in the world of form, the world of duality, a severe problem is created which was recognized by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. “The traditional Tibetan phrase defining mind means precisely that: ‘That which can think of the other, the projection is mind’ … The original process at the root of the problem is the competitiveness of seeing oneself only as a reflection of the other … Mind makes the fact of perceiving something else stand for the existence of oneself [the false self].” This is the mind identifying with form. Mind also further complicates the illusion of our identity in P-B by identifying with our emotions.
“Mind cannot exist without emotion,” continues Trungpa Rinpoche, “Daydreaming and discursive thoughts are not enough. Those alone would be too boring. The dualistic trick would wear too thin. So we tend to create waves of emotion which go up and down; passion, aggression, ignorance, pride—all kinds of emotions.” We create these emotions and then react to them again and again to keep the story of P-B going so that we can avoid looking at the truth of our suffering. These emotional reactions are both a distraction and an anesthetic.
Simple Reality is fundamentally a pragmatic strategy for behavior modification. The Point of Power Practice will gradually free a committed aspirant from his own mental delusions.
We are what we think, having become what we thought. Dhammapada
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche makes the crucial point that we are always meditating or using our mind, either with an awareness of what we are doing or in most cases, without that awareness. “I think it’s odd for people to say, ‘I meditate,’ or ‘I don’t meditate.’ It’s like saying either you work with your mind or you don’t. The reality is that whether or not we are working with our mind in formal meditation, one way or another we are always working with our mind. Most of the time we’re using it to meditate on ‘me.’ We’re using it to become familiar with our immediate reactions to the world around us. Somebody has something we want, so we meditate on jealousy. We don’t get something we want, or we do get something we don’t want, so we meditate on anger. Our root meditation is, ‘What about me? Will I get what I want today?’ Our mind is continuously chasing itself around, trying to secure happiness in all the wrong ways. Its speed and reactivity keep us under siege. There’s so little space that by the end of the day we feel physically exhausted. We are drained by our continual meditation on the mental fabrication known as ‘me.’”
Houston Smith saw the paradox in Buddha’s teaching that the individual by focusing the one’s attention, i.e., the mind, on the breath, that thinking can be transcended. “With the final ‘extirpation of delusion, craving, and hostility’ the mind realizes that neither it nor reality is as it thought, for in the fierce combustion of immediate awareness thought itself has been annihilated. In its true state the mind rests.”
As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is. Jesus
On to the West and Jesus speaking in A Course in Miracles. “The mind can be right or wrong, depending on the voice to which it listens. Right-mindedness listens to the Holy Spirit, forgives the world, and through Christ’s vision sees the real world in its place … Wrong-mindedness listens to the ego and makes illusions; perceiving sin and justifying anger, and seeing guilt, disease and death as real.” The mind is like a sharp tool which must be understood and skillfully used or it can do a lot of damage.
What do psychologists like C. G. Jung have to say about the mind? “The mind, like the body, has predetermined individual aptitudes or patterns of behavior, and man will to a certain extent function psychologically according to his original patterns. Archetypes represent these inherited patterns of psychic behavior, and their significance is summarized.” Jung will always insist that we remain aware of the influence of the archetypes and the collective unconscious. The challenge we face is that these influences are unconscious. A mindful meditation practice will help bring these influences into conscious awareness and then we can work with them.
Arthur Young wants to insure that we don’t forget mythology as a source of wisdom regarding the nature of the human mind. Metaphors throughout mythology remind us that identifying with the illusions of mind, body and emotions is the source of all human suffering. “The ‘trap of mind’ is exemplified by the myth of Perseus slaying the Medusa. Medusa is depicted with a head from which snakes grow like hair (the powers of mind). Her effect on people is to turn them to stone (the mind “objectifies,” i.e., makes inert). To deal with this difficulty and avoid being himself turned to stone, Perseus looks at her in a mirror, itself a symbol of mind (“Mind is the slayer of the real; only the mind can slay the slayer,” as the teachings of Zen put it).” Again, in the practice of Insight meditation we learn to experience the illusion of the slayer from the viewpoint of the objective “observer,” the True self.
Philosophers, of course, have their “take” on the mind. In his book The Philosophical Scientists, David Foster wants to insure that we don’t forget that Simple Reality is only experienced in the present moment. “The overall number of minds is just one. I venture to call it indestructible since it has a peculiar time-table, namely mind is always now.”
You are the knowing, not the condition that is known. Eckhart Tolle
We conclude this blog with some representative mystics beginning with the insights of Eckhart Tolle. “The mind in itself is not dysfunctional. It is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek yourself in it and mistake it for who you are. It then becomes the egoic mind and takes over your whole life.”
To be contained in Simple Reality is to transcend the illusions of time and space. “To be identified with your mind is be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.”
“The mind resists, fights for control, uses, manipulates, attacks, tries to grasp and possess, and so on. This is why the traditional God is a patriarchal, controlling authority figure, an often angry man who you should live in fear of, as the Old Testament suggests. This is a projection of the human mind.”
Remember, our goal with the Point of Power Practice is to reduce the ratio of reactions to responses. A reaction feeds the false self and a response gives energy to the True self. “Identification with the mind gives it more energy; observation of the mind withdraws energy from it. Identification with the mind creates more time; observation of the mind opens up the dimension of the timeless. The energy that is withdrawn from the mind turns into presence [awareness].”
Christian mystic Meister Eckhart’s opinions on the nature of reality were not welcomed by the Church but today we can appreciate his courage and wisdom. “One should love God mindlessly, without mind or mental activities or images or representations. Bare your soul of all mind and stay there without mind.”
A wild ride calls for a wild mystic as we climb the last tension-producing roller coaster hill with a “crank, crank, crank, up, up, up for #@&*% feet (you don’t want to know). David Hawkins is in the lead car and raises his hands and screams with glee. “With persistence, the vanities disappear as truths and are now seen as the basis for errors. In one final, glorious crash, one realizes that the mind doesn’t really ‘know’ anything. If anything, it knows only ‘about,’ and it cannot really know because to really know means to be that which is known, e.g., to know all about China doesn’t make one Chinese.”
Hawkins goes on to strike a blow against living in the past. “The value of memory also becomes diminished by the realization that not only does the mind misperceive in the present, but it routinely does so in the past, and what one is remembering is really the record of past illusions. All past actions were based on the illusion of what one thought one was at the time. There is profound wisdom in the rueful saying, ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.’”
With his last punch, Hawkins KO’s the intellect and the mind disappears. “Opinions are dangerous to their owners because they are emotionally charged triggers for dissent, strife, argument, and positionality. One cannot hold to an opinion and at the same time transcended the opposites. The undoing of opinion is facilitated by humility; when the mind penetrates through its own self-infatuation, it discerns that it is not actually capable of knowing anything in the true sense of what knowing actually means. The mind has only information and imaginations about anything; it cannot actually ‘know’ because to know is to be that which is known. All else is only speculation and supposition. When the mind is transcended, there is nothing to know because, in reality, the Self is All That Is. There is nothing left out to ask about. That which is complete lacks nothing, and that completion is self-evident in its Allness.”
So there you have it. The non-existent mind which will give us a lot of trouble until we put it in a more profound context. Make your next roller coaster ride the “Simple Reality Squeeler;” all the fun with none of the anxiety. Your mind will love it.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in the Simple Reality Trilogy
by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I? Story – The First Great Question
Who Am I? Identity – The Second Great Question
Why Am I Here? Behavior – The Third Great Question