Friday 3 April 2009

The Mind

Part two. The second word that is confusing if you work both in the psychotherapy world and the spiritual world is the word "mind". In the therapy world, it primarily means the brain; even though for the last couple of decades now we have realised through neuroscience that the brain and the mind are not exactly the same. For example there is neural tissue and synapses in the gut to such an extent that some people think of it as a second brain. There are, I believe more neuro-receptors for serotonin in the belly than in the brain. This is why we have "gut instincts". Anyway the mind usually means things to do with thinking, memory and mental processes like projection, transferences, defences. The mind is often contrasted with the body even though now, everyone pays at least lip-service to the idea that they are not just connected but inseparably united.

In the spiritual world the word "mind" is used to include much more than the brain and thoughts. We can easily find texts saying for example; that the ego and the mind are the same thing; that the body is created by the flow of mind; that mind is a blockage. It is a very expanded use of the word mind. It also reminds me of the seventies slogan, "Get out of your mind and come to you senses". Mind is confused with all that is undesirable and is contrasted with a real, authentic natural life of the body, senses and emotions. I was always struck by the contradiction that people who claimed to be wholistic wanted to cut off part of the person!

The problem of couse is that mind is confused with the use of thinking as a defence. It is often, in the west, used this way. How often do you have an original thought? Probably not many each day if you are honest. Thinking is often, repetative, ruminative, a rehersal of what we will say or what we should have said, a way or raking over past hurts or planning future triumphs. On the other hand we get mindless violence and I suggest that those in the crowd at Hilter's Nuremberg rallies could have usefully reflected on what they were part of rather than mindlessly getting swept up in the rhetoric and the emotion. I wish people would think more when they look at TV adverts.

In the splendid sweep of Kashmir Shavism there are 36 tattvas or levels of creation. Manas, Buddhi and Ahamakara are three which translate as mind, intellect and ego respectively. So there are right uses of the mind; curiosity is one. Discrimination is another, the ability to tell the difference between what is true and helpful and what is not; gold from iron. So aside from slogans about loosing our mind we have to discriminate. There is the conditioned mind, similar to the ego which loves distinctions, differences, debate. It can't survive the fierceness of the present moment and is best at separating us from the now and from others - when at a deeper level we need to be present and connect with them. At its best, the mind is designed to serve not to lead. It is not who we are but is definitely a necessary tool to have in the world. It is part of us. But only a part; and in Kashmir Shavism is one or two of the 36 tattvas of Creation. Looked at another way, the highest, chakra (energy centre), in the body is Ajna, the third eye, at the centre of the forehead (the Crown Chakra is above the head). Its balance, balances all the chakras in the body. It is the centre for intellect, discrimination and, with the heart, creates compassion. Esoterically, the centre of the head, the cave of Brahman is where the Kundalini Shakti unites with Shiva. Come to your higher mind!

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