4. One mind only
4. One mind only
Mind is more than we can imagine. It is all we are.
One summer evening in New York 1966, Linda Keith sits in a club watching a guitar player. She is thrilled and wants her friend Chas Chandler to come and hear one young black guy play.
He comes but sees nothing special. She does not give up. In another club, the guy plays a cover version of "Hey Joe". That did it.
Three months later they are in London recording the legendary album "Are you experienced" - by the way, without a question mark. Fifty years later Jimi Hendrix is regarded in most polls as the best guitar player in the world. The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame goes even further describing him as 'the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music'.
Hendrix played the same Fender Stratocaster as many others but the way he played was beyond everyone's imagination. He re-invented electric guitar in the same way that Segovia reinvented classical guitar.
When Jimi Hendrix came to England in September he knew he could play guitar. He also 'knew' that he could not sing or compose music. His manager encouraged him to sing and compose. Despite not wanting to, he had no choice! The rest of the story is music history.
We all have someone who sees something in us that we do not see in ourselves. They are people who may have changed our life with one sentence, word or gesture.
We do not know what we are able to do before we try to do it.
Mind is a mystery
Nobody knows what the mind is or where to find it. Yet, we can see what it does.
Our society is a product of our mind. Not only countries, companies, and governments but also human relationships, ideologies and the sense of joy and freedom are born in our mind.
Our society is a product of our mind.
Mind is our link to the world. It has three main functions. It collects information from the world through nine senses, uses that to create our reality, and connects us to the world. Or separates us from it.
In all these three functions our mind succeeds only partially. Or we could just as well say that it fails in all three.
The information our mind collects is partial and often distorted. The mind is also very selective. It chooses to act upon what it thinks is good and right but its choices are often not good or right. We know that we choose the wrong food, product, road, words, and people.
All is not right in the mind. Thoughts and feelings terrorize it and can make our life small and numbing.
But there are more serious consequences. We have become a threat to ourselves. Our way of living produces more problems than we are able to solve.
Our mind is producing one unintentional crisis after another. Hardly anyone wants the world to be as cruel and unjust as it is now. We cannot talk nor think together to end this madness.
Yet, the potential of our mind is monumental. For good and for bad, it is the force and source of our ups and downs, joys, fears, and tears. It makes, takes and fakes. It tells us what we want and will do and what we will not do. It decides what we believe, experience, know, hate and love.
The problem is in the mind but only in its one function: thinking. Before going into that, let's have a look at what we are talking about when we talk about the mind.
Show me the mind!
Some years ago, a group of nine Finnish professors from different fields tried to define what the mind is. After discussing it thoroughly they could agree that the mind is 'a cluster of functions' including thinking, observations, decisions, choosing, using our capabilities, experiencing, having emotions and feelings.
In their book they stated that without the brain there would be no mind, but the mind is not only in the brain. In fact, the mind has no location. It is a system that is all around and cannot and should not be located in one place or another.
We need and use our mind in our daily life. We don't have to put it in exact words but it is important to understand more precisely what it is and what it is not.
Daniel Siegel is one of the leading mind scientists. In his recent book, simply called Mind, he defines mind as an 'embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information'.
There are six key words in his definition: mind is a flowing process, not a static thing. Energy and information move in the mind and affect the body, "embodied". The mind is the regulator of this flow, which is both personal and collective. It lives in relationship, not in a vacuum. Nobody has found the mind, nobody can show it to us, take a picture of it or measure it. It is not a material thing but a very systemic function.
Eight kinds of experiences
Awareness is one of the key features of the mind. In their book Ihmisen mieli (The Human Mind) a group of Finnish professors give seven different meanings to this concept:
1. Consciousness means the opposite of unconsciousness. When we are unconscious or unaware, we don't react to impulses.
2. Attention. We become aware by focusing our attention on something.
3. Experience. Awareness is also a synonym for experience and meaning: how we sense or feel what we see, hear or go through.
4. Reflexive awareness refers to the chain of actions that follows from, for instance, a broken tooth or somebody insulting us.
5. Self-awareness is a special case of being aware. It helps us to understand who the person in the mirror is, or that the thoughts I am thinking are mine.
6. Will. Awareness also means action that we do deliberately. There is a motive or purpose to most of our actions. This does not mean that I have to think all the time. For instance, driving a car is partly automatic.
7. Knowing. We know for instance the dangers of smoking or other bad habits, but it does not mean that we give them up.
In each of these seven meanings, there is usually an observer who is aware. To Bohm, the most important kind of awareness is direct perception, seeing without the seer.
Is it possible and how? Can we see the world correctly? What would be the preconditions for that?
Firstly, we must understand our thinking because thoughts prevent direct perception.
Thinking makes our mind go out of tune.
Thinking makes our mind go 'out of tune'. Then we are not connected to facts but to our own images.
We cannot and we should not stop thinking but we can be aware of its movement. To ask 'how to be aware' is the wrong question because it makes us search for a method. The right question is: what makes us unaware?
The answer comes when we watch the nature of our mental movement. It is not moving in space or time but it is all happening right here, right now. This kind of awareness is very different from the kind we know. It is what makes us whole and one. There is no subject that is aware.
The 'me' is a mistake
In his seminars, Bohm did not very often use the word 'mind' but in his discussions with Krishnamurti, it was one of the key issues. They made their view very clear: thinking can never solve the mystery of the mind. A part cannot understand the whole.
To understand the mind we need new tools such as attention, awareness, insight, and intelligence. With them comes dialogue, love, and compassion. Then we may get a glimpse of the world beyond the mind.
Paavo Pylkkänen shows in his book Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order that "in traditional cognitive science, there has been a tendency to look at the human body as a machine that receives information through its sensory inputs, processes this information with the help of algorithms stored in the brain, and uses this information to behave in the physical world."
The mental order is implicate.
In the traditional view, the brain and the body are seen as separate, even if there is two-way traffic between mind and body. In the new view, there is nothing purely physical or purely mental.
To Bohm, the fundamental order of the mind is implicate, hidden. We can see what it does but cannot see what it is. If we limit the mind to what we know, we will understand only a small part of it.
Bohm realized how blind we are to the process of the mind. We make quick interpretations without seeing that we do so. We also tend to draw lines where they should not be and see limits that are not true.
The bigger our problems become, the more helpless we feel in the face of them.
Our task as human beings is to free our mind from the tyranny of thought. Krishnamurti saw as clearly as we see our fingers, that divisions in the world are projections of our minds.
We can change the game, but we have to see it first.
The world will not be whole before we bring order into our confused minds. We must 'wash' our minds of dead images and cold concepts and sense the mystery of life in our bones, brains, hips and hearts. The black holes of our mind draw us away from the light and joys of life into utter darkness.
We know a lot about our mind, but wise we are not. Knowledge has not removed - and can never totally remove - ignorance and sheer stupidity from the world. Watching the world we do not witness a paradise. Horrible news is thrown at our faces all the time.
We human beings on this lovely planet are just a tiny piece in an enormity. Yet, we are internally connected with the whole world, emotionally and factually. Earth is our home, the only one we have.
To our early ancestors, the world was their mother. It took care of them. Then our egos took over and developed an idea of the individual, separate self who fulfils himself. And here we are, asking about our purpose and the meaning of life, struggling to be somebody in our own eyes and other people's minds.
We can liberate ourselves from this prison. The cell door is open but we don't walk out.
There are two mental obstacles in the way of liberation. The first is the role of thinking. It wants to be the star! The second is the concept of time. Together they form the essence of our ego-system that creates the block.
Living on three levels
David Bohm says we live on three levels.
The first level is individual and includes everything we understand as personal: our body, looks, mind, skills, friends, and belongings.
The second level is collective and includes everything we share with other people: culture, society, art, music, language, symbols, and basic concepts.
The third level Bohm calls cosmic. It includes nature, space, and everything beyond them, the whole universe.
Mind live in three levels: individual, collective and cosmic.
The concept of mind covers all three, but many people live mostly on a personal level, in their heads. They know the collective but have lost their contact with the cosmic dimension.
When we talk about the mind, we usually mean the individual level: 'my mind'. But my mind is not really mine. Its content is my personal mixture of things that I have collected from other people.
It is mine in the sense that my content differs from your content, but they are basically not different in their structure. They look different if we emphasize our differences: sex, looks, skills and interests.
That view is superficial, fragmentary and mechanistic and leads to conflicts and confusion.
Our mind is closely connected to the world. They are not two different nor separate things. We get information from the outside world through our senses. Our brain and body react to our senses. We are only partially, not totally, aware of the information and our reactions.
Most of our bodily reactions are unconscious in the sense that we don't have to think about them. They just happen. Indeed, most of our mental reactions also just happen.
The atomistic model does not work
Here the ego steps in. It appears in the form of thinking. Ego gives meaning to some particular parts and certain reactions but has no capacity nor interest in seeing the whole.
Ego is very selective and narrow in its focus. Unfortunately, it is not aware of this.
Most human problems originate from the conflict between the individual ego and the collective 'wego' (we+ego). The fight is the 'me' against the rest of the world.
The root of our problems is not in how the world works but in how our mind responds to the world. The conflicts seem to come from outside of us but actually we create them in our mind. We are blind to this.
We don't seem to see our role in our global troubles correctly. We are inclined to interpret facts in an incoherent way.
The mistake in our worldview is that we believe the world is an atomistic and mechanical interplay between objects and subjects.
Mind is a system of relationships.
We apply this same mechanistic model to the mind. This does not work because the mind is not a thing in space nor a process in time but a system based on relationships.
In order to understand the mind, we have to change the way we look at it. We must take a systemic view and realize that our mind is only a practical concept. Mind is only a small word for a big system. We see some of its outcomes, but not the core process.
If we saw the mind as a living, flowing system, it would turn our worldview upside down. It would dismantle our rigid mental structures. We would see how vain our ego-building is. Why do we do it, for what reason?
We are different, not separate
Seeing and experiencing the world as subjects and objects is necessary in practical matters but fatal in mental issues.
Of course, you and I are different. We are also different than we were ten years ago. Our ego lives in space and time. Our memory and imagination prove that there is an entity moving from the past to the future.
This experience is not correct. It is a myth that we stubbornly cherish. Subjects and objects form a system in which there is actually no separation or sharp division.
Our body is built from genes we inherited from our parents, but also from air, food, and water. We call that 'environment' but it is an integral part of us. Without it, there would not be you and me.
Imagine eating an apple. Think how it goes into your stomach. When it stops being an apple and becomes part of you? That is a process.
Our minds are even more closely connected to the world than our bodies. Most of our impulses come from the world and we react to them. Take any thought you have. Try to think how it came into your mind.
Our minds are different but not separate.
Our bodies are physically apart yet deeply connected. So are our minds, very deeply connected. They form a network of different thoughts.
We are different but not separate. When we talk, there are no exact points where you end and I start.
Emphasizing differences leads to separation
There is some continuity and some slowly changing elements in our personality, but they all are the result of our interaction with the world. Our thinking makes the fixed part of our identity important. Many of us think that it is all-important.
To understand the connection, think of something very dear to you. What would happen to you if you lost it totally? You would not be the same person anymore.
The content of our consciousness is both personal and collective. There are thoughts, images, attitudes, virtues, values, opinions, pictures, memories, experiences, and a variety of feelings in our mind.
If we emphasize our personal differences, we end up being a separate individual and act accordingly. But if we see the connecting link between us, we act in a totally different way.
It is a shock to realize how self-centred our mental models are. We all want to be happy, but it is difficult to close our mind from the suffering and injustice of the world.
Whether we admit it or not, our mind is one. It is thinking that creates and maintains all the barriers and differences. It is thinking that keeps us trapped inside our little separate self.
The most important function of the mind is to connect us to the world. The mind can unite people - and, in fact, it does so whether we acknowledge it or not.
Thinking separates us from the world. We not only know but also feel that we are individuals. To get over this, we must take a systemic view.
We will surely get lost if we continue to put as much weight on the individual content as we do now. Most of the individual content comes from the collective. We absorb thoughts from other people and call them our own. Failing to see this link we think we are individual.
This sense of separation is due to two things: the content of thoughts and our inner program which makes our brains hold on to opinions even after they are proven to be wrong.
We are not aware of this tacit program. It makes working together difficult or impossible.
We come to the essence of the problem. The program of our mind keeps us in its grip and causes us to make limited decisions. Direct perception stops this program and our mind starts to operate in a different way.
No need for control
Repeating certain routines makes our life easier, but mental routines may make our daily life boring and sometimes even dangerous. It is good that we don't have to think when we brush our teeth but it is dangerous to stick to false ideas about the world.
That is what we do. We make bold interpretations and find no reason to question them. We think we are right even when we are totally wrong and irrational.
We are especially blind when something worries, bothers or irritates us, but also when we are very happy. We easily avoid seeing faults in the person we love deeply.
A healthy mind is in balance.
Selective awareness makes our perceptions personal. We are not in control of our thoughts and not aware of the mechanisms that drive us. We are impulsive and even compulsive.
A healthy mind responds in a sound and balanced way. It sees and acts without delay. It is fully present in the moment.
When the mind is whole and one and moves with the facts there is no need for control. We are alert, ready to react to anything!
Our biggest challenges are collective. The world crisis is not personal.
The mind could help us to solve the problem, but only if we use the mind properly. Thinking is too limited to enter into the deeper layers of existence. It is a practical tool in daily living but it can never unite us or reveal the whole.
So, our real challenge - and our chance for change - is to rethink thinking. When Bohm investigated thinking, he found something extremely interesting.