To say that you are not your mind is indeed a sweeping statement that defies almost everything we were taught as a child. I mean, everything you have lived through, your experiences, the voice in your head that only you can hear and these thoughts that no one else knows of… … How absurd is it to say that they are not our own? If you felt this way too, then you might be mind blown after reading this article.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly - you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your own mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over.”
- Eckhart Tolle
Let’s take a closer look and peel the layers of this radical sounding paragraph.
Our warped sense of self
To understand the meaning of this point, we must first do a simple exercise that is quite similar to meditating.
First, be seated in a comfortable position of your choice. Then, take a deep breath lasting for seven seconds and exhale also for seven seconds while adding in the feeling of letting go. Do this for a couple of times until you feel your heart rate stabilising, slowing down.
At this point, we try to enter the Dhyanam stage of meditation, where we reflect on an object and gain insights from “seeing”. To start this, temporarily put aside all your thoughts, images and ideas of who you are, including gender identification, social status and age. Take away all prejudices in your head, be it societal norms, beliefs, what really is good and bad, and knowledge about the world. Finally, momentarily forget about your achievements, your shame and the heroic and vice deeds you have done.
Who are you right now, without your past and what you ‘think’ is your present and future?
What can you say about the ‘you’ that remains? Are you aware? Conscious?
How do you feel? At peace? Empty? Content?
Is there anything else you can put aside that would amplify the current experience of ‘you’?
The epiphany differs for each of us, but one thing is clear: many of our self-images come from the compilation of what our mind makes us enhance unconsciously, sometimes even warping our simple, present ‘self’.
Changing thoughts but an unchanging awareness
For many of us, while learning to meditate, we also learn the art of taking a step back and looking at our own minds objectively, making us feel and see our thoughts as an omnipresent outsider with maybe even a tinge of curiosity.
Our thoughts are impersonal; They tend to welcome themselves into the conversation on their own, they have a mind of their own, entering and exiting the stage as and when they please.
You will notice that our thoughts are ‘automated’. They just appear on their own, conjured out of nowhere, then linger around in your mind for a short, quiet moment before disappearing out of sight. If they had to be described with imagery, they are like the clouds wandering around our consciousness, the sky.
Like a cloud, our thoughts also come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are happy, sometimes they are sad, sometimes they hover and shroud our blue consciousness for long periods of time, making us think of ominous things that are uncharacteristic to our actual consciousness. To put things into perspective, the ‘you’ today is quite different from the ‘you ten years ago and even more so from that of you 20 years back. That is because the clouds of thoughts you see these days are very different from the clouds you saw then.
However, take notice that the sky never changed. Throughout the changes you experience in life, your consciousness will never change. The way you become aware of these thoughts, the awareness of feelings and emotions you feel has not changed one bit. This consciousness stays eternal and immutable, untouched by time.
Our mind is a monkey that wanders around in its emotions and thoughts, losing its true purpose in life. That is why it is so important to realise that it is not what our mind thinks is happiness that should define us and control us. Instead, it is our conscious, our soul and our heart really know where it wants to be and who we really are.
You are not your mind. You are your own conscious that can control the mind to aid you in your journey to great things in life.