“I am depressed”
“This is not right”
“I don’t like him”
“I am not comfortable doing this”
”I will teach him a lesson”
“Who is he to tell me what I should do?”
“This is stupid; this isn’t what I had wanted”
“I can’t do this, I am not capable”
“Why is he trying to find fault with me always?”
“People are going to be ‘Wowed’ by what I am making”
“This is it. I need to take charge of this”…
Sounds familiar? These are some of the expressions we use all the time in our lives. And we think this is our identity or character. How true is that?
One of the fundamental reasons for all the problems in life is said to be this false sense of identification. This is what all major philosophies have been telling us for ages. False identifications! What exactly is that? Let me put in some thoughts. This is going to be a bit long, so I will try to split them in to several posts; topic wise.
Though by habit, we refer to “me” in every above situation, in reality there are very distinct faculties within us which are operating behind the scene– The Mind, Ego, Memory, Body, Emotion and Self. At different points of time, based on the situation, we identify ourselves with any of them. For e.g when you say we are depressed, in reality it is our mind that’s depressed. When we say we are tired, it’s our body that’s tired. When we want to ‘teach some one a lesson’ it is actually our ego that wants to do it.
While each of these faculties is necessary and good in their own respect, the problem arises when they take control without us realizing. In this constant struggle for dominance, the great master “The self”, which is above and beyond all others is ignored. All the religions advocate that the moment you identify yourself with the self, all the problems vanish and that is what is liberation or enlightenment. But the concept of identifying with the self looks too conceptual and ideal. So, the first step let’s try to understand these faculties a bit more in detail; may be when we do that the self will just emerge effortlessly.
Here are some thoughts on The Mind.
Mind is the most complex and the dangerous one to tackle. Most of us, most of the time identify ourselves with the mind. Mind is just a collection of thoughts (remember the analogy of Trees and forest). That in a way means we identify with the thoughts.
The nature of the mind is movement. Mind keeps going to the past and the future. Mind is time. Mind exists only in time. Mind lives constantly in anticipation of a ‘happiness’ that is in the future or feeding on a ‘memory’ that occurred in the past. These are the two things that mind needs for its survival- pleasure and pain, in the future or in the past.
Mind likes to be in charge. The other faculties like Ego, memory, emotions and body are allies of the mind. Mind uses them as needed to maintain its control over your identity.
Mind is not sure of its identity. It needs approval from others. You seek acceptance, approval, appreciation constantly when you are identified with the mind.
It’s the mind that’s judging and categorizing. It’s what adds the ‘flavor’ to events, situations, responses, people etc. Mind prevents you from seeing things as they are.
Mind is not concerned about what’s good and bad, it goes more by what’s comfortable. Mind always resists a change away from a comfortable state.
Mind loves concepts. It is happy analyzing and reasoning things (predominantly to suit its needs). For e.g If you are really looking for joy, mind will interpret it as happiness and then tell you how the objects, achievements, victories will give you that joy.
The two strong weapons mind has at its disposal are fear and doubt. And to make sure that it is in control, it constantly strengthens these two weapons and any effort you take to overcome fear and doubt will be spoiled by the mind.
Another trap that the mind (along with the memory) creates is patterns. These patterns are executed by the mind without the slightest trace of awareness. The more patterns we build, the more the control of the mind. And any effort to remove a pattern is sure to make the mind uncomfortable.
Why is it necessary to understand and control the mind? Because most of the philosophies advocate that the ultimate freedom lies in a state of void that emerges when the thoughts stop.
Here are the first two simple steps to understand the mind and gain some control over it.
- Understand the nature and function of the mind. When we are able to say- ‘Oh. It’s not me, it’s my mind’ (and probably smile at the mind), something great has happened. This will need some practice, and of course; the mind doesn’t like being watched. So it will try everything possible to shake your attention off.
- The second is to cultivate Mindfulness. In this age old practice (originally advocated by Buddha) breath is used as an instrument to bring the mind in to present moment. Though there are numerous techniques available to bring about a stage of mindfulness, breath awareness still remains the best. Just simply become aware of the breathing for few moments (as often as you can) and you can see the mind settling (You could also do a body awareness if that’s what you like)
The idea is never to confront the mind and bring it under control; mind would resist that and do anything to win you over.
Thoughts on Ego in the next post…