05/23/2012 07:28 am ET Updated Jul 23, 2012

Let's Look at What We Call the 'Mind'

The mind can be a great tool, which can also be misused, or overused and abused. The term "mind" is used in different ways. When I speak about "mind" here, I am using the more pejorative view of it that is often implied when we are talking about disciplining ourselves not to give into its unconscious, ego-driven, mechanistic functioning -- and I am speaking about it as differentiated from the "brain." I am not speaking about "higher mind," manomaya purusha, or that which breathes awareness from beyond preconceptions.

I am speaking about that which, in association with our sense of "me" and ego, functions through memory and imagination to protect whatever we have come to believe about who we feel we are or must be in order to survive or feel okay about ourselves. I am talking about the tension of thoughts that build on themselves habitually, seem not to know how or when to quit, and have little to do with presence, and I am talking about the thoughts that are believed as reality.

Back in the day when we had large animals around that could attack us, our "fight or flight" mechanism was appropriate. Yet, even when those kinds of real threats to our physical survival are no longer looming, we have become ever more sophisticated with our defenses and strategies towards self-protection. If we inquire deeply enough into who this "self" or "me" is, we might find that what we are feeling the need to protect is a fiction of our own making. Our reactions and the time we often obsess beefing up this idea of "me" and strategizing our defenses and insurance policies against imagined threats obscure a much more divine and creative intelligence that come through stillness and awareness that is prior to our conditions. Without this "me" that is defined by qualities and the comparative mind, we find that what looks out from experience is a presence with life as it is.

The unknown can be perceived as the largest threat because people often define themselves in relation to what they believe about the world around them. People will attach themselves to beliefs, manufacture supposed knowns (that may even come in the guise of "threats" and problems), or confabulate answers in order to placate their insecurities with the unknown and their own free-fall in not having a known to show them where they begin or end. This is when "mind" goes into over-drive, holding to attachments and grasping for what it feels will bring peace, yet actually obfuscating their ability to be present to and with the world around them and the free awareness and peace that is their own true nature. Yet, when we inquire into this idea of "mind" we see it is inherently empty -- and that we are talking about something that is unreal as if it is real.

In that light, I've noticed that to look for the mind to let go can often be an exercise that reinforces that which we are trying to change. What is it that would need something to let go or change, to contract against what is, but the very same mechanism and tension of the mind itself. I find that rather than try to stop mind, which perpetuates and reinforces this mechanism (with the mechanism itself), rest in the awareness or the space that the mind and its thoughts arise within. When you are no longer identified with and through "mind." when you can see your thoughts and beliefs for what they are (and not reality), there is no need to divide against them and mind. Thoughts can flow through and your own true nature can breathe its divine creative intelligence, undivided, and unobstructed.

© Ellen Davis, all rights reserved

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