“For one who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends, but for one who has failed to do so, the mind will be the greatest enemy.”
(from The journey of self Discovery, by Swami Prabhupada)
Every conscious Being having walked this planet has come to the conclusion that ALL lies in the eyes of the observer: that we have choices at every moment of every day.
This is where I would like to point out again our programming/learned conditioning. At birth, we start with a clean slate, give or take a few genetic potentialities, on top of which we etch our neural wiring based on the barrage of thoughts and experiences that present themselves. There are millions of neural pathways forming continuously in our brain, and most intensely so at times of heightened emotional states. Our thoughts and perceptions, especially those in time of stress, form our programming.
Imagine the scene of a large building on fire. There are four reporters, one on each side of the building, reporting exactly what it is each perceives: the same fire, flames, and destruction. Each and every one of these reporters will have a story that is uniquely different. Each reporter will experience and express themselves through their own individualized perception of the event.
All of which begs the questions, “What is perception?” How can it be so unique from individual to individual?
We can look at perception as a large web, or filter that traps each thought and experience. Picture even a number of filters that select out sensory data and then funnel it to different parts of the brain based on rules of pertinence and self-defense that each Being has devised according to his or her life learned experiences. As we live our lives, our perception filters’ neural wiring is being constantly knit and reknit to form our programming.
Our minds are our greatest tools. However no tool can do its job if it is not made well or is not being used correctly. On the contrary, it can cause more damage than good.
We can use our mind to its full potential when we understand that nothing is necessarily what it seems to be. Even if the intellect, the logical core, or our reasoning is telling us “this is right,” and “this is the only way that makes sense,” we can not be sure that some other Being will not have a completely different logic and understanding/truth. The first step to befriending the mind is to question everything. Because questioning everything causes us to reprocess the sensory information we’ve received and reassess our associated thoughts. Questioning heightens presence in our perceptions so they are not processed in the standard “way” according to the automated rules we’ve devised over many years, many of which fail to be relevant to who we’ve become.
Befriending the mind means knowing the programming: that literally every thought is limited, no matter its source or intellectual foundation, without discernment and reassessment.
Here the willingness to see all sides of the building comes in as a tool and being open to everyone’s perspective without making them wrong.
Here is an example of knitting a new perspective; “I am angry because of what you said to me but I am willing not to be! I am willing to see this situation differently.”
Or better; “Why am I feeling angry because of what you said? Let me choose not to take what you said personally. Perhaps you do not know how to express yourself and are feeling threatened! If you are feeling threatened you are in your own programming. And if I am feeling angry I am also in my programming. Now let me choose to have compassion for your experience of feeling so badly and let me make you feel comfortable so we can continue a respectful conversation. Instead of my programming (anger) reacting to your programming (feeling threatened) lets become alert to the fact that this dysfunction is what is really happening and lets look for a new choice. I will choose response rather than reaction. I do not wish to make you wrong or judge your experience. How about if we agree to disagree? Let me take in a few deep breaths…feel the emotions without any thoughts, explanations or reasoning as to why I am feeling this way. Let me continue to feel all emotions and see what they feel like, so they are being acknowledged. Let me be patient with the feeling process until the emotions have neutralized. And wonder over wonder now that the emotions have neutralized and that I am able to think clearly and compassionately, with real understanding that the voice that was fueling my anger is not who I am — that that voice is simply a wiring in my brain that formed a long time ago and has since commanded my behavior.” (Of course, the example of “anger” can be exchanged with any one of one’s familiar reactions.)
With such reconsideration, it is much easier to find solutions and to present ourselves with novel thoughts. It is much more likely that with respectful, considered communication we’ll come to a compromise or an agreement of some sort.
Since the state of the mind and body are hopelessly linked, we should find more reason to move out of anger, hatred, envy, stress, frustration, etc. as soon as possible! Why? Because it is making us sick! Negative emotions, thoughts, actions, and words affect us negatively, physically and spiritually.
Our true essence is well being and peace. Your programming will be a guide not your master once you recognize this!