Tag Archives: How the mind works

The origin of fear

 Where does the fear in us come from? Does it come from knowing or from ignorance?

Sounds like a very philosophical question and most of the philosophers would pick ignorance.

Let me narrate my experience. I usually take a walk in the evening in park near to my residence. I typically go late in the evening to avoid the evening crowd there, so that I can walk briskly without bumping to people. It was around 8.30PM yesterday that I was in the park. The park was mostly empty and I was walking briskly. Suddenly, I thought something touched my leg and in a reflex, I leaped forward. When I turned back, to my horror, there was a huge cobra trying to cross the jogging track. I very narrowly escaped being bitten. Needless to say, I didn’t continue any further.

I made it a point to go early today and the park was somewhat crowded. I was very cautious keeping a close watch on either side and paying attention to the slightest movement. After while, I realized that it was only me who was being so cautious. All the others were walking freely and carelessly. Of course they didn’t know there was a Cobra around. But when I thought about the risk, they and I had almost the same risk of being in danger. And then how come that only I had the fear?

Where does the fear in us come from? Does it come from knowing or from ignorance? I sat on the park bench thinking about this and watching some kids play. Then I started thinking about whether children have fear. I think they do. But then it struck me that there is a big difference between the fear that children have and the adults have. We are mostly afraid of something that might happen and children are afraid of something that’s happening. Try to make a child understand what ‘risk’ is, you will understand this.

But then does the fear come because the knowing is limited or is it a different type of Knowing that the philosopher is talking about? Perhaps.

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Mind and Impressions

Most of us have the delusion that our thinking is conscious and intentional. But this might be far from truth. I think we have no clue what the mind does with the magnitude of information and sense perceptions that we receive every day. Even things that you don’t notice, are picked up by the subconscious mind and processed. Here is an interesting experience that shows how subtle this is.

About three days back I was in conversation with a colleague on Salary benchmarking. During the discussion he told me that at “Oceanus Builders” (this is a construction company in India), this is what they pay for a 15 year experienced engineer. We continued the conversation and I forgot all about it.

Yesterday night we were in a restaurant for a team outing and one I had a person called Navjit sitting next to me. We were there for about talking and eating.

During my sleep yesterday night I had a dream. In one part of the dream, I was walking with Navjit and he pointed to me an area (there was something like a communication tower there) and told me that ‘Oceanus Builders’ were planning to construct a building there, but it did not go forward because of a technical flaw. I asked him if it is something like a design error and by then the frame of the dream changed.

I remember the dream clearly because at some point, we climbed on a rooftop and I fell from there and I woke with a start. What is also interesting is that this person Navjit is recently purchased an apartment and of late I saw him (and heard him) discussing issues related to it with people over phone.

So in my dream, I actually connected three things and tried to put them in to a meaningful incident. What is surprising is also that in this case, I woke up and caught the dream. So we could be seeing hundreds of such dreams in our sleep and do not remember them at all.

Is it that the mind is trying to do some organizing during sleep of all the information that comes in, to make some sense or is it that some neurons just misfired?

Logic

It is commonly believed these days that ‘logic’ is what prevents one from thinking creatively. Strangely, if you were to ask a spiritual master what is the obstacle on the way to freedom or realization, you might get the same answer. We have a villain and since ‘logic’ is an abstract concept, it is easy to blame it. I too have made fun of the ‘logical mind’ in several posts in this blog.

But one level deeper, do we really understand what exactly is this demon called ‘logic’? How does it influence our thinking? How to get over it? Or are we too busy inventing techniques to overcome ‘logic’? (It is like the concept of ‘sin’ in some religions. Once you can make people buy in to this belief, it’s easy to create a whole industry out of it)

Here is an insight that came along on this.

 The mind made up of thoughts. In the absence of thoughts, there is ‘space’ which the mind is uncomfortable with. Therefore the mind needs something to be going on continuously. In order to achieve this, mind has devised a mechanism which consists of two distinct things:

  1. There is a process that keeps dumping thoughts continuously in to the mind (to the next empty space to be really precise)
  2. There is an ‘algorithm’ that chooses what will go in to that space from a choice of millions of possibilities These two together keeps the mind engaged and active.

The second one follows and supports the first. And the second one is what is called the logic.

Contrary to what many say, the ‘logic’ might actually be good. The issue comes from the fact that at some point both the above acts become unconscious. This is where the problem lies. Even before you see something fully, you have already named it, categorized it and may be made an opinion on it, because in the little space that follows the act of seeing, the mind fills the details from your past experience.

When we talk of a creative thought, we are actually talking of that one which is unconditioned by your experience, memory, perceptions etc. It’s almost like the thought is not yours. And just because of the fact that it comes not from the conditioned mind, it can be anything – a new insight, a new poem, a new solution, a new dimension, a new potential or may be God himself.

In order to go beyond logic or transcend thought, there are two ways. One is to look in to the second act – to see how the logic can be refined to produce the best output. This is what most of the creative and innovation techniques try to do. There try to define frameworks and techniques which can orient the mind in a particular direction. This definitely might produce thinking that’s superior to normal, but then you aren’t really talking of that idea that’s born beyond the mind.

The other approach is to tackle the process of filling the mind with thoughts. This is what many spiritual traditions attempt to. This is done by the simple technique of being comfortable with space or nothingness. And the moment you are comfortable with the space, the need for the logic is gone. Space where there is neither thinking nor the need for thinking exists.

 Then in this space might arise that new insight or the thought that is not stained by the logic..