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The Mind - Friend or Foe?

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The mind is not one thing but a complex interconnected web of parts able to monitor and assess itself. For the purposes of this article I refer to the mind as a general concept rather than any one particular aspect of mind.

In the article “A Case of Mistaken Identity” I began to discuss some of the ways we adopt false identities. These mistaken versions of us come from the mind and are born from emotional need. Understanding that we have these false identities is part of a necessary process where we learn about the role of the mind in our lives and, over time, develop an awareness of what it wants, how it seeks to control what we do and how we must learn that while it is important, it is our p.a. not our boss.

The mind is an incredible thing but once again, like our false identities, it is not us. You are not your mind or the little voice you hear in your head. Mind exists to ensure survival and to help in problem solving and decision making but we do not have to follow its guidance. Once we know what it wants and what motivates it, we can begin to learn when to follow its advice and when to ignore its pleading.

Intuition does not come from the mind but from a far greater connection to all that is, which I feel is more heart centred. What often does come from the mind is fear and our “I can’ts”.

Imagine you had an assistant to guide you through life from cradle to grave but you had no idea what this assistant’s motivations were i.e. what it wants and what it gets from you following its guidance. That it even had an ulterior motive may not even occur to you. Let’s say this assistant gives you very good advice especially when you were young and inexperienced and it helped to navigate you through vulnerable moments in your early life. As time went on you might begin to accept what your assistant says without question and follow the advice blindly.  

When fear arose in your life and your trusted assistant said “don’t do it” or “stay away, don’t make that journey”, the sensible thing to do was to listen and not go. When your learned guide said it was better to turn down that job opportunity because staying at home was safer than moving away to somewhere unknown, it seemed prudent to be safe. When it says it’s better to be angry or fearful than risk feeling vulnerable we listen and act on the advice. And so begins a life of being prisoner to this source of guidance and living in fear.

It is my opinion that it is important to develop the awareness that we have more than one “voice” that can communicate to us. The mind is but one part of us that, for most of us, has grown from its intended function as a useful servant to being given carte-blanche to run our lives without being questioned due to our fear, apathy and lack of awareness.

The heart has a strong voice and I feel that this is where we can find our connection to “all that is” or “The Matrix” or “The Field” as it is often called these days. It is this connection that intuition plugs into. Our western society is mind-oriented not heart-centred. I am not talking about the romantic or emotional heart but the intuitive knowing that we all have. However, due to fear and cultural conditioning, the mind is able to shout its lies and drown out the heart’s whispered truth. So, don’t be surprised if you feel unable to connect to your intuition at first, it is probably an undeveloped muscle that needs to be exercised. Also don’t be surprised if you feel scared to trust your intuition because the mind is used to being in charge and when challenged may well increase the level of fear at first, but with courage and determination it does lessen.

Many of us are aware of receiving intuitive guidance but don’t act upon it because the rational mind gives us contrary and seemingly rational advice and so continues to hoodwink us. This keeps us from letting life flow.

The call of the mind feels different from the pull of this intuitive knowing that I referred to earlier. Notice where the “pull” comes from. Where is the focal point of that advice in your body? Notice the difference between advice from the mind and the pull of the soul, gut, heart or whatever you call your intuitive centre. At the beginning I couldn’t sense anything but the mind because that was all I had ever consciously used as my source of life guidance and, while it kept me alive, I was living a life based on fear and avoidance. As it always does, living a fear-based life created a fearful and anxious existence.

Over time and with a lot of work I could sense another flow of thoughts to tune into. Like most people, fear within me meant that I didn’t always have the courage to follow what this guidance mechanism was giving me but that is part of the growing process we are all here to go through.

If there was one emotion that drives the mind it would be fear. Safety and survival are one of its prime motivators and it adopts a “better safe than sorry” approach to this matter. It is brilliant at real life and death matters and utterly worthy of us trusting it to sense real danger. However, unless we draw the line and direct our mind, it will generalise this need to be safe to the extent where it creates a life that is best described as a comfortable misery and full of limits. It will send us messages of danger when we are in no real peril at all. These false alerts are at the root of many of our anxieties.

This occurs because the mind is desperate to avoid repeating the pain of the past. Where there is a risk of repeating unresolved past humiliations, rejections, abandonments or hurt we are deemed to be in “danger” and we are given the signals of anxiety or panic in order to make us avoid or run away.

One of the reasons I love having EFT in my life and my practice is that it resolves these past events and stops many of these false triggers. But, no matter how much we seek to heal the past, the role of the mind is to protect and so we will need to be wary of the mind’s chatter, accepting that we will have to see through its lies.

As we grow spiritually, we will often face situations where our intuitive pull will be saying “yes” and the mind will be saying “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” The mind will come up with all manner of reasons to back up its negative attitude and they will seem sensible and rational but this dark shadow of fear that many of us sit in must be confronted at some point or we will never meaningfully grow. For those that say “I’m not in any shadow of fear” I would say this: left unchallenged, the mind will create a life that stays within comfort zones, that keeps what we fear away from us wherever possible. It seeks to create safety and order to avoid the fear and potential vulnerability it sees in the chaos of life. In doing so it must set limits on us. Limits on what we think we can and can’t do, limits on what we need to believe to keep our personal illusion of reality going. These include limits on our aspirations and what we deserve, the list is endless and all justified as rational and reasonable by the little voice in our mind. If we are not aware of our fears it could be because our life has been organised to avoid facing them.

Even if our major emotional issues are resolved, our mind will still adopt this better safe and sorry approach and counsel us to be cautious. Remember, what it wants is safety and to avoid difficulty or pain, much of which is imaginary based on past events that are no longer relevant. We don’t have to follow what it says. It is OK for us to go against its advice but you may feel a tension inside you especially when you first ignore the little voice in your head. This tension will build and if you can sit with it and allow it to be and move through it you will have moved forward.

The tension that comes up when we are faced with the object of our bigotry or prejudice is also all too apparent. The immediate knee-jerk reaction to be angry or judgemental is our way of projecting our tension to disperse it from inside us. But if we don’t let these reactions occur and instead sit with the uncomfortable feeling, we can learn a lot about ourselves and where this reaction comes from and decide if this is mind-based fear or a true heart-based response calling us to take action. In other words, we can discern what does legitimately require action on our part or what is actually our baggage trying to act out.

It may seem that we have no choice but to follow what the mind says but this is not true and this situation has only occurred because we are not living life consciously and doing many things automatically. At some point, we know we are ready to move through the fear and we find the resolve to stand up and say to our mind “NO, you can do all you want but I’m not going to listen no matter how much fear you bring up because it isn’t real” This is a step that may take a lot of time, patience as well as requiring a compassionate attitude towards yourself when you are unable to meet the challenge.

I hope it goes without saying that I am not advising you to ignore the mind when it is saying “Jump out of the way of the oncoming bus!” You will know what is a real situation that warrants action and what is fear based on a negative projection of how future events could unfold.

The mind wants to manage life, to control life and if left to do so it will wring the daylights out of the spontaneous wonder that is life. It will help us to jump from stepping stone to stepping stone in an effort to get over the river of life instead of letting us get into our boat and embrace the flow, the rapids, waterfalls and magnificent wonders to be seen along the way. All our best experiences in life will probably be spontaneous and unplanned such as falling in love.

Notice how your mind is always living in the past or projecting into the future whether it’s minutes, days or weeks ahead. It is rarely in the moment. Indeed, when we are absorbed in the moment, that mind tends to be much more still and out of the way. Being focussed and absorbed in what is happening right now is a quiet and relaxing place to be, largely because of the lack of tension caused by mind chatter. Meditation can really help develop mind discipline and reduce mental chatter.

Like being an adult with over-protective parents, we can love the mind for wanting to protect us and trust it implicitly to spot real danger but we do need to consciously take control and see through its needless caution and insist on following our intuition. It may make us uncomfortable at first but it is worth it in the end. It is time to take the car keys out of its hand and say “thank you, I’ll drive today”.


© Phil Grant unless otherwise attributed