For many people starting inner work there is an idea or belief that in order to achieve peace and happiness we need to take control of our thoughts and our emotions. That it is only by having power over them that we can decide (with our mind) when to feel certain things and which thoughts to think. This is echoed in self help books, groups, and courses where terms such as ‘spiritual warrior’ are used. There is an underlying desire there to fight against the ego, to fight against and reject what we don’t want in ourselves.
In this episode of the Awareness and Consciousness podcast, Gary van Warmerdam and I discuss a different alternative to doing battle with the mind. A way in which you can stop fighting and start accepting. I believe the most helpful approach is not changing your mind, but changing your relationship to the mind. After all, it’s still our ego who is thinking about our mind, it’s still our ego who is judging our mind and it’s still our ego who is saying that it no longer wants to experience pain generated by thoughts. It’s ironic to the highest degree and it’s no wonder we get tangled up in the vicious cycle of ‘fixing my mind’. The mind doesn’t need to be fixed, our relationship with it does.
Connecting with consciousness will change that relationship to your mind and release you from the control it appears to have over you.
Something that I guide people who want to change the relationship to their mind into, is to start exercising their attention. Before we start practicing directing it consciously, it’s being pulled along by our thoughts, impulses and shiny objects dangled in from of our eyes, like email notifications and facial expressions. This is much like going to the gym. You will start observing it being pulled along and you will bring it back to your breathing, your presence or a specific focus point.
Once it’s easier for you to notice when it’s being pulled along, and to direct it at your own will, the fun begins. Now you can start shifting the quality of your attention, from only being aware of objects and thoughts to becoming aware of more subtle layers like awareness. You can start directing your attention inward and use it as a flashlight to explore parts of your being you hadn’t noticed before. This is when you with practice can move into the experience of yourself as consciousness.
It’s worth stating again here that all you are seeking is already within you. Consciousness is already what you are. It’s just covered up. We have been conditioned to not see those parts of ourselves and to deny their existence. It’s worth mentioning this again because you don’t need to be on a journey. There is no timeline, there is no point A to point B. There is nowhere you need to get to but it makes sense to the mind to speak about it like a journey. If it’s helpful to the mind and will get it onboard with your practice, by all means use the idea of a journey as a tool.
So learning the skills to direct your attention inwards and experience yourself as consciousness may feel like a journey. It may feel like you’re making some kind of progress and in some way you are. But the finish line, the prize, the thing you (or your mind) may be seeking is already yours. You are alive, you have awareness and you get to experience existence and all it’s wonderful offerings. The mind has just developed a pickiness about life. In order to protect you it has decided that ‘pain is bad’, ‘pleasure is good’. In truth there is nothing intrinsically ‘bad’ about pain but our resistance to it makes it unbearable.
When we start to change our relationship with our mind and stop identifying with it we start losing our resistances. We still have thoughts and emotions but our thoughts don’t have to be a source of pain or confusion. Just clouds in the sky.
I hope you enjoy the podcast!consciousness