Ask Parvati 28: Enlightenment and Emotions – Part 3: What Is The Mind?
PART 3: WHAT IS THE MIND?
(Continued from Enlightenment Now)
“When the walls of a reservoir are destroyed, the waters rush out in all directions. Similarly, when the limitations of restlessness and delusion are removed by meditation, the consciousness of man spreads out to infinity and merges in the omnipresence of Spirit.” – Paramahamsa Yogananda
The mind only knows division. It knows the past as a body of memories. It feels it knows the future as a body of projections. Even though we feel we have lived the past so it is therefore for us “fact”, it is still only a collection of perceptual experiences that make up our reality. It is no more fixed, in essence, than our future, which is a series of perceptual projections based on anticipation and expectation.
When we explore the mind, we see that in fact, it does not exist by any other means than by the energy we give it. We believe our thoughts. We make them fixed. We feel that person hurt us because we experienced that in our past. That is the truth with which we identify. We feel that terrible thing will happen, because that is what we fear. Most of what we think and feel we “know” is a configuration of the mind, mental constructs to help make us feel in control, powerful, important.
But all thoughts are passing. There is no thought that is fixed, permanent or eternal. Thoughts exist within the realm of the temporal. They come. They go. New ones come again. It is the nature of the mind to think, and thinking it does. It goes on and on – thinking – until we bump up against grace and notice that perhaps what we think may not be so fixed and solid after all.
When we look at our lives, we see that what we think in fact is not all that reliable. We think for sure we will get that promotion, or that we won’t get it. We get ourselves all worked up about it, either with excitement or with foreboding. Then the opposite occurs and we are relieved, happy or sad. When the thing we like happens, we are happy. When it does not, we are sad. We are like weathervanes turning in the winds of our passing, ever changing thoughts.
So then what is beyond the mind? Is there something that is not subject to moods, to the ebb and flow, to every whim and change? Does the eternal exist?
Most of us have had, at some point or another, an arresting experience where what we thought was real, turns out to be false. We are shocked, shaken, and a whole new reality opens up to us. In that opening, something magical occurs. Perhaps we notice it. Perhaps we are too afraid of it, so we shake it off and close down again.
If we remain open, we begin to see that between our thoughts is a space, just like the pause that exists between each inhalation and exhalation. In that pause, lies possibility. Yogis have taught this wisdom for millennia through meditation and breathing practices, in which the aspirant learns to observe the space between.
Amma guides us through our attachment to our ego by saying: “By extinguishing the smaller flame of ego, you will lose your identity as a small, limited individual. Nevertheless, this is absolutely nothing compared to what you gain from that apparent loss – the sun of pure knowledge, the inextinguishable light. Also, when you lose your identity as a small, limited self, you become one with the bigger than the biggest, the universe, the unconditional consciousness.”
In the space between, we open up to the field of pure consciousness that has been there all along. It seems that is why our way of understanding change is not the same as how an enlightened being understands change. We see the change we need to make through the lens of our limited, ego self. We either see our self as good, or bad, because that is all the ego can do: divide.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: “What is day for me is night for all beings, and what is night for me is day for all beings.” This reference reminds us that what we perceive with our minds is not the way for the enlightened master.
The change we are inspired to embody in the process of enlightenment is one that dissolves the grip of the mind and opens us to the field of possibility that lies as a substratum beyond it. This, in essence, is at the root of meditation practice and ultimately, enlightenment: becoming one with the space through which pure consciousness arises. Eckhart Tolle goes on to say:
“As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else. All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.”
As we begin to loosen the grip of our mind and ego, we create space in which we can explore possibility. Part of what arises in the space is the flow of our emotions. So how do we learn to master that flow along our path to enlightenment?
(Continued tomorrow with Body, Mind, Emotion And Compassion)