For years and years, I identified myself with my mind. I thought I was the mind. What a surprise when I discovered I was not! It changed everything. It was a big relief for me because as a teenager, despite being one of the smartest kids at school, I believed myself crazy. There was incessant chatter in my head, most of it unnecessary thoughts of fear and worry, and I didn`t know if it was the same for other people. That chatter was driving me insane, I wanted to go and see a psychiatrist sometimes. But it seemed that everybody found me ‘normal’, and I was doing pretty well at what I was undertaking. So I started assuming that it was just the way to be, and that I would be an overactive thinker for the rest of my life, no respite. As the French philosopher Descartes was saying: ‘I think, therefore I am’. I had no idea how wrong we both were! What a relief it was for me the first time I experienced a few minutes with absolutely no thought. Complete silence. It was so peaceful! And yet I was still alive. I still existed. I could feel myself be in the absence of the mind. That`s when it hit me: I AM even when I don`t think, therefore I am not my mind! To rephrase Descartes I could say: ‘When I do not think, there I am’. Furthermore, I was feeling more myself in this moment than when I was thinking! That changed my life. That`s when I started meditating even more so as to find that space again, that peace, and so as to start controlling my mind. That is when I really started living.
THE MIND AS A COMPUTER
So what is the mind? The mind is like a computer, storing and processing data on its hard drive. Then analysing, comparing, and offering solutions to situations. For example, when I see a flame, straight away the mind may think: flame- fire- heat- careful- burnt hand at seven years of age- painful- could burn now- third degree burn- ambulance- hospital- staying away from flame! All this in a split second. Amazing! My experience and knowledge about fire will prevent me getting burnt each time I see a flame, and at the same time it offers me possible scenarios if I choose to get in contact with it. The mind sees what is in the present. Then, it compares it with what it knows happened in the past, or with what it learned in books, with people, school or society. Then it gives us all this data in thought forms, impressions or feelings. And finally it diverges on possible future scenarios according to all this information. That is why when we are listening to the mind, we find ourselves in the past or a probable future. It is really an amazing tool which is here to help us survive in a physical body in this third dimensional world. The problem is that we forget that it is just that, a tool, a computer. Over the years we put effort into making it strong, sharp and intelligent. Unfortunately, we overuse it and we forget to turn it off. Now the most common problem in the world is an overactive mind and people`s identification with it. It`s like having a TV inside our heads which is turned on all day long, and we can`t stop ourselves from watching it. After a while we even forget that we are actually separate from it. This is the biggest illusion, the identification with the mind. Most diseases of the modern world are related to this confusion: depression, compulsive disorders, anxiety, stress, etc. And taking medication or going to see a psychiatrist or psychologist won`t do any good, because you cannot fix the mind. The mind is the problem. The only medication that will heal these issues is Meditation, because it is the only way to get rid of the problem.
UNDERSTAND YOUR MIND
The first step to understand the mind is to watch it. Pay attention to it. Notice how it works. Follow the strand of your thoughts. Try to remember what triggered your thought patterns. Why are you thinking what you are thinking now? What was your first thought, your first sentence, your first word, etc? Look at your thoughts. Watch them from a distance. Be the observer. Don`t try to understand them, just be aware of them. Look and listen to them as if you were watching a movie, the fictional movie of your imagination. Try to notice the patterns. Try to notice the repetitions. Try to notice how that mind of yours is functioning.
THE MIND AND ASSOCIATIONS
The mind works with associations. You see something that makes you think about another thing which reminds you of something else which…it is a jumping monkey. For example, you see a blue flower. You may think: this is a blue flower- it`s beautiful – I love blue- it looks like the one my mum used to have in her garden- it`s been a long time since I called her- wonder if she found the key she was looking for- that reminds me that I need to pick up my car keys at Kate`s later- then I will need to get something for dinner- a roast would be great- but it takes too long to cook- let`s have mashed potatoes instead- yes that`s good, I’ll have more time to watch my TV show…You are still looking at the flower, but you are gone with the mind. The flower is real, it is what IS NOW, but the mind is not. You left reality to follow an illusion. And this happens all the time, indeed it never stops.
THE MIND AND LABELING
The mind works at labelling. The mind loves to notice and label things which you are seeing with your physical eyes: a blue/ beautiful/ small/ big/ funny/ etc flower, a car, a tree, a bus, oh it`s raining, etc. It likes putting adjective to the material world it sees depending on your experience, subjectivity or perception. It also comments on what/ how your body is feeling in the moment: it`s hot/ cold/ humid/ etc. It transfers physical data to your conscious self so you can act accordingly, like putting a sweater on if you`re cold. It will always describe and label what your senses perceive of the outside world. It is a computer, it processes information.
THE MIND AND READING
The mind loves reading things. Whatever your eyes get in contact with, your mind will try to read if you don`t consciously stop it. For example the billboards in the streets, even if you take the same road every day, if you look at the board you will have the slogan being said inside your head straight away (great for advertising!). That is also why every morning, while you are eating your cereals, you are reading what`s in the pack if it is right in front you, even if you have been eating the same cereals for years and they haven`t changed the ingredients. The mind will always be looking for something to read, while you`re eating, while you`re walking, while you`re on public transport, etc. It will always try to remove you from the experience you are having right now. It will prevent you from focusing on your present reality, and reading is one of its escape tricks.
THE MIND AND TIME
The mind loves to go over the past and sometimes change it. It loves to remember the past, good times or not, like watching a movie over and over again. Then it loves to think about what would have happened if someone might have done this instead of that, if someone might have said that instead of this, or what someone should have done or not done, should have said or not said…The mind also loves to plan the future. It is always concerned about what we should do, don`t do, what could go wrong and why. It loves its ‘what to do’ list: what we ‘have to’ do tomorrow or next week, which day, what time, etc. It likes organizing, planning, making lists and when something is finally done from the list, something else suddenly appears…always busy!
It is a computer, gathering, analysing data and offering solutions. It never stops. It is restless. We made it that way. It will only exist in time, in the past or in the future, and it will always try to escape the present, because in the NOW the mind is not.
This is an excerpt from 7 Illusions