A Mind of One's Own
A Mind Landscape
So - What Is IT?
"OK and just what is that?" we may want to know. That's logical!
I make no claim to understand it. Much research has been done and is being done by highly qualified scientists who know much about the physical makeup of the brain as well as the psychological makeup of the mind and its manifestations, both "normal" and "pathological". Their research makes fascinating reading!
But brainiacs and professors are not the only folks who have some useful understanding of the human mind. It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to grasp some things and make hay of them!
Politicians know how to align constituents and seduce detractors! PR people know how to manipulate the mind of the public to get us to buy what they’re promoting and to ignore the possible bad side-effects the law requires them to enumerate. Salespeople have learned the methods to direct our minds to "choose" between one of two things, either of which leads to the sale and they know how to disarm objections, make the close and shut up, knowing that the first person to speak at that point - loses. Teachers know how to convince students to go for the grades. Kids know how to manipulate parents to get what they want and sometimes parents even know how to manipulate kids to get them to cooperate!
We all have our own ways to rationalize TO OURSELVES our peccadilloes and to either convince ourselves we are or are not "OK", depending on what we've bought into, in spite of evidence to the contrary!
None of this thinking has anything much to do with "objective facts" or reality (whatever that is, since most everything we can be aware of is a matter of our own subjective perception!)
But let’s explore the mind from a layperson’s perspective. After all, each of us has a personal laboratory for examining at least the one – our own! Yes, folks, the mind is ever-present, inescapable and each of us has one, along with all its facets. But sometimes we don’t know to choose to turn its focus in on itself and to insist that it be truly honest with itself.
Perhaps it's that the mind is just so ever-present that we hardly really notice its workings, at least so long as things are running along smoothly. But if or when we're faced with a big problem to solve, or if we're confronted with another mind with an emphatically different view of the same things, we may become acutely aware of it!
But the good news is that we CAN become better self-evaluators on an ongoing basis - and without becoming unbalanced or too self-introspective.
What-all Does IT Do?
So we are hit with a major awareness: The mind is many things, beginning with the actual physical brain, that "3-pound enigma" which has no sensory feeling capacity of its own such as the other organs of the body have within them for feeling pain or pleasure. Yet it's the organ which is capable of out-thinking the most sophisticated computer that's ever been devised, which quietly and automatically makes sure we breathe, that our heart beats, and that the other vital organs are doing their jobs. And it continuously helps us sort through the sensory feelings we experience throughout our bodies and to understand them and how to direct them well – and/or to quest for that understanding..
It sees to it that we can move around, that all other functions of the body necessary to life and continuation of our species are maintained without conscious thought, - even as iIt thinks, creates, motivates and seamlessly steers us through our lives here on earth.
We are living vulnerable organisms, subject to injury. The mind, however, is equipped to compensate when one limb or function is damaged, giving greater power to that which remains to fill in. Sometimes, as in the case of brilliant genius Stephen Hawking, the entire body is so misshapen and maimed - from birth - that one wonders how he even lived. Yet he did and has become one of the most revered thinkers of his generation.
An so, the mind allows us to reach for heights of enlightenment and joy, to surpass our predecessors and break new ground, to invent, build and create, solve problems, care for loved ones and even to make some sense out of chaos.
It includes an amazing sense of self and awareness of others. It's the home of compassion and generosity, perhaps of love itself, or, if not where they arise, at least it is the interpreter of these more esoteric impulses. It's the seat of memory and the ability to visualize consequences and predict outcomes fairly accurately. It's again the interpreter of Intuition, sensory and abstract perception, awareness and alertness, which are all facets of its workings and influence.
It is teamed with the amazing subconscious mind with its "wisdom of the body" (also called "gut feelings") and their interpreter when they need to be explained. When these functions work together harmoniously, the most amazing things are possible.
So "mind" is all that which comprises the most human factors and features which we simply call "intelligence", with its many kinds, facets, applications and aberrations. It includes creative intelligence along with analytical, each with their many offshoots.
Measurements of intelligence are primitive, at best, because there is such an array of kinds in any one person as well as across our species. Comparing one individual intelligence with another is rather arbitrary at best. So much depends on a person's background and opportunities, on personality factors and self-confidence.
Still we do measure the things the tests are designed to measure and they do provide some rough idea of what the person's intelligence can handle. Whether that shows that the person will apply it well, or whether there are strong abilities which are simply less measurable or whether there is an inventive or creative streak in the person which is so original that its energy lies outside of the ordinary is not measured. Being around someone with such a mind may or may not readily expose it, in fact. True creative genius surely is an island set apart. I think of Da Vinci - much too far ahead of his time to have been fathomed, much less fully appreciated during it.
I feel sure that everyone has a special unique "light". So let's peer into the human head a bit.
One can almost feel it when one’s own intelligence is at work. One is aware that It is the most effective intelligence one can apply. It feels STRETCHED and limber. It matters not what score one made on a test or whether the effort wins a prize or a hand of bridge. One is aware that it is progress or that it is the appropriate accomplishment. It feels fitting, measured upwards and well-worked-out. Even if external rewards are delayed, one KNOWS it was well-done and that results will materialize. There is a wonderful lack of ambivalence! There is, in fact, crystalline clarity. In the event that more facts or research are shown to be needed, or that more effort needs to be applied, then that too is clear and progressive. Time needn't be wasted on defensiveness.
On the other hand, attempting to mimic others’ mind-working is futile. It feels confined and uneasy. Often people seem to think the mere expression of intelligence are what intelligence is. The vocabulary used or the subjects chosen to be explored which intelligence employs as vehicles for exercising its interest and energy are not what it IS. A person is not made "smart" by using a lot of big words, even if their meanings have been carefully memorized and applied reasonably. The words that are used by someone whose thought seeks expression are simply chosen to get it said the most succinctly and effectively, rather than to make the biggest impression. It is not the words but the thought behind them that demonstrates the intelligence.
I remember hearing the description "educated fools" to describe those who only mimic what they think is intelligent and often enough they do have the diplomas and certificates of education. But if their minds are not activated to think clearly and originally, it's quite a hollow score.
Actually the simplest original thought is far superior to the most elaborate merely mimicked one. Many people with scant education do have brilliant minds with potential for greatness, even though society limites opportunities in such cases.
But when a good idea can be expressed in simple words, it should be. It's not improved by over-statement or elaborate words per se. But when an idea is so specific that just the right word is needed to fully and clearly communicate it, one will go to great lengths to find that word, even if it means consulting both thesaurus and unabridged Webster to find it! Bottom line is - one must trust one's own intelligence and resources in order to be clear and make sense. That's the only real reason to communicate beyond social "small talk", gossip, terms of endearment, or amusement. Most things, if worth saying, are worth saying well.
However, in the physical sense, all this intelligence originates within and is controlled by a bunch of busy spongy cells and electrical signals in a relatively small area of the body called a skull. Sometimes it may be called a "numb skull" when it seems to be asleep on the job! Fortunately though, as long as we live, it never is completely asleep though it benefits from regular rest periods, at which times it often accomplishes some of its best work. How many times do we "sleep on" a problem, only to awaken with the solution, as if by magic? Nope, not magic. It's part of the mind's and subconscious' jobs and when they harmonize, - they almost seem to be magic!.
When we’re awake we tend to direct our minds here and there to consider conscious matters. But when we are at rest, signals from less conscious mind/s matters gain the attention of both the conscious and subconscious minds.
Knowing One's Own Mind - Foibles and All
Mind is one fascinating area which probably has been explored as much and has possibly raised as many questions as answers as are found in the exploration areas of ocean depths and outer space combined. Yet it's as close as our own heads, where it's provided the video of the eyes, the audio of the ears and ready access to a bunch of other antenna for testing and evaluating conditions existing beyond its own house - the body to which it's attached.
We do not always trust it and yet we accept its impressions too unquestioningly in many ways. By and large, the mind is possibly the most subjective organ a human being possesses. And with its various sensory organs, It receives all incoming information and forms its ideas and opinions based upon this subjectively-filtered information which has been received 100% through its own sensory organs. Not only is this filtering system subjective as of that moment, but it has been continuously molded by the person’s past experiences, interaction with other subjective individuals, its own assumptions, and by the shape and form of the person's heritage, education, role in the family, and all the many other factors and individual influences which happen along the way. To think for a moment that any human being possesses "objectivity" beyond the sketchiest and most limited amount and extent is the very height of subjective foolishness! So, that understood, what are we to do about clarifying our thinking at least enough to communicate among ourselves, each with his/her own perspective and conclusion about some or all of it?
The first obstacle is a tendency for the mind to be complacent about these realities, though when it is distressed, there is a tendency for it to look for comfort rather than clarification. There is very little automatic objective authority search equipment within the mind which will point out its own frailties, contradictions and absurdities. Those are skills which can and must be cultivated. Understanding this is important. That would be the first hurdle.
Training one’s mind to better recognize what is "so" and what it's simply accepted as so or what is preferred to believe is so would be a giant step in one's development. Deliberately shining the light of facts and reality is something the mind can learn to do, at least up to a level, along with developing a better inner ear for listening to the still-small-voice from our guts which tends to be more accurate and honest and quicker to clear out the debris than our conscious mind.
The evidence of external things can give clues, as well. Knowing oneself and how one thinks, whether or not one withholds judgment till more is known, refrains from "knee-jerk' reactions, carefully sifts for both good evidence and reasonable doubt in what "seems' to be so is a major step. When every thing and every one seem to be at odds with one's perception, it may be a clue that a really bright spotlight needs to be shone on one's own actions and attitudes to see if perhaps something is out of step with either objective basics or social harmony. We are not independent of our "others". We must allow for their needs, too. We certainly have no need for or real use for animosity for its own sake!
In other words, we need to train the mind to be honest with itself though iIt is not an automatic function of the mind! Of course, we need to be sure that we are comparing what we think with clear facts, not simply with another layer of distortions! That is a tendency of the mind, to latch on to its own creations and to promote them. There are reasons for this, but if they are allowed to take over the thinking, one exists in a sort of extremely subjective "Alice Through The Looking Glass" of one's own making, which must be re-established and re-boosted indefinitely to maintain a semblance of balance so long as one's delusions are held.
Focused and Global Thinking
Another feature of the higher mind is its phenomenal ability to focus, to concentrate, and to probe a specific fact or a set of facts without considering the many other things whirling about. What this means is that it can shine its entire attention on that focal point, but it must ignore all other facts or influences while focusing, which actually is its primary conscious function.
Of course, it is necessary to "block out" much that is going on or one would go nuts. In our planetary atmosphere - and beyond it - there are sounds and objects over which we have no control which also would be major distractions of our attention from the things that are ours to control and needing our responses. Along with the limitations of our awareness of most of these extra-terrestrial sounds and disturbances, limited for our own protection, are built-in limitations from full consciousness and comprehension everything in progress which surely IS there to behold if our mortal senses were equipped to do so. This is a primary reason not to claim to know much about easy, off-hand explanations and descriptions about what it all is.
But there are also inexplicables about which we can receive input right here within our atmosphere and out into our timid probes beyond it, more than we can deeply consider all at the same time, – no matter how good at multi-tasking we may consider ourselves to be! But our minds must be able to sort down on the most imperative facts to consider at any given time and then must be able to ignore the rest in order to do so.
However, ignoring all the other factors does not cancel them, and once we are focusing, we can and do miss many important other stimuli going on. But we are equipped with an ability to sense other stimuli by our subconscious, which is able to take in all that is going on "globally" even while the higher mind is focusing. But the cerebrum, where the focusing is being processed, tends to over-dominate all consciousness and when it does, it leaves us more vulnerable to other factors we're ignoring.
It seems that the development of higher cerebral intelligence came with a price-tag. It's obvious that lower animals possess and use their entire consciousness for survival and to excel at what they do, though they may lack the ability to "reason" any of it out in ways our minds can. They don't invent and build great things, but neither do they destroy their own systems. They have more limited memory and virtually no fore-view, yet they begin to store food for the winter and to build nests for their young before they've appeared. One wonders if either higher intellect or more primitive instinct is the necessary choice of state of being? Let’s think on that.
We’ve heard of "the absent-minded professor". This is a man who is so focused on whatever he’s studying that he's obliviouos to almost everything else. It may sound extreme, but the truth is that we all do it in some measure when we're concentrating, because that is a major function of the brain and its strong M.O..
But we do also have our intuition, our subconscious and our other five senses picking up all the other signals and information. However, the additional SENSE which the mind is, seems to control the keys to the parts of the brain which might receive and digest the many sources of information provided by the entire body, if they were allowed access. Consequently the dominance of the cerebrum crowds out much of our global awareness. Only by cultivating our responsiveness to our global awareness can we make fullest use of it. The good news is – we can do that!
Example: Martial arts masters practice allowing their subconscious to instantly process incoming information without needing to run it through the brain. Their overall lavel of global awareness is so keen that it alerts them immediately and directly to danger from any direction and requires no processing through their cerebrums, where it would need to be received, examined, decided and a response signaled to the applicable body part to activate its course of action. By then, the opponent’s sword would have stopped the process anyway. Yet the same martial artist who has this global awareness mastery may also be a CEO of an international enterprise. It's not either/or. We can have our focus spotlight AND our global enlightenment simultaneously if we are willing to develop them to work in tandem for the greatest application of our entire "intelligence"!
Classic Martial Arts
Using All Our Conceptual Resources
Using the entire wisdom of the body present in every cell in it is a natural ability but requires that an individual deliberately develop it in order to put it to effective use. Perhaps people happen on to it by other routes, as in the study of martial arts, but it is available to everyone. Of course if this sort of intelligence is discredited and disrespected by a person, it will be limited, if not stifled by that person. The old-fashioned dismissal of "women’s intuition" as somehow deficient, is an example of that kind of discrediting. Even when intuition is respected, it has often been at the expense of recognizing it exists alongside high intellect. If anything, it may be an indication of superior intellect when it coexists in one person!
Even those who seem to lack the ability to think globally or act intuitively, though, almost everyone responds to emergencies so quickly and effectively it may be difficult to remember much of it. In those instances, the natural awareness and response simply overrules the analytical brain. But yes, we can have both faculties at will if we cultivate the more subtle one, respect it and allow it to function for us all the time. When we do, we gain more power over our lives and environment as we become more clear and effective in our responses to what is going on and our relationships with it all.
It is enormously refreshing deliberately to look squarely into one’s own mind and give it the boosts as well as the confidence to apply itself well and realistically, being unconcerned with how it compares to others’. Learning to distinguish what is really going on in the present from what we expected or were prejudiced to receive it as 'being how it is' takes care of mountains of misunderstandings and wearisome delays in getting at the facts and dealing appropriately with them. Giving the other person "benefit of the doubt" - especially while doubt (ie: uncertainty) is really the essence of the situation, - spares damaged bridges, unnecessary hurt feelings and many other mental and emotional difficulties which are pointless and life-consuming. Attempting to impose "certainty" by one's will on a situation in which all factors are not - cannot be - fully known is to fool one's mind into accepting dubious "facts" and then to base conclusions upon them. It is a house of cards, bound to crumble. Yet it is more common than not.
Seeing clearly helps distinguish these otherwise fuzzy areas which complicate relationships and often cost oneself important progress for naught. The trite term "one's own worst enemy" comes to mind when considering how much trouble we cause ourselves by jumping to conclusions, misjudging, burning bridges, and our general failure to pick up on the real facts while busily trying to superimpose our pre-conceived ideas on situations which are relatively simple otherwise, given "benefit of doubt".
It is fascinating and it is one’s own territory to explore and to cultivate. It FEELS good! Becoming aware of one’s own mind’s functioning and applying it well is a real visceral pleasure. When one can FEEL it all working like a well-coordinated organ, noticing what matters, sorting through extraneous information to zero in on the actual pertinent facts, avoiding traps of self-delusion when considering what really is going on, sticking to the point, and all the many things which improve a clarity of thought needed in maneuvering through the myriad of situations and possibilities of each day which constantly present themselves is satisfying. It just feels good!
But lest it seem that this is a mind which is not fully challenged, nothing is further from the truth. It may not be what would be called a restless mind, however, if by restless we mean one that is constantly unfulfilled or dissatisfied. There is satisfaction with where one is, from which one naturally takes a further step into the unknown and seeks more clarity. There is no idleness in the active contented mind, though it is able to rest and relax, allowing the mind to ease tension, as well as to probe with single-minded focus . During relaxation, all resources within the person - the wisdom of the body as well as of the mind - more harmoniously blend and recognize answers as they unfold and are comprehended.
So What is Genius?
There are many acknowledged geniuses both living and passed on. Some have been tortured individuals whose abilities almost seemed to have been more than their personalities could handle. Those may have become drunkards and addicts, though they somehow produced fruits of their high intellects. Some are very serious focused folks whose entire beings were absorbed in the objects of their creativity or mental excellence. Some highly intelligent people have turned their abilities to crime and mayhem. There are the high-IQ idiots when it comes to "common sense". There are also those who went undiscovered because they hadn’t become at home in their own skins with their full potential allowed to blossom. And there are those who didn’t get it together until later in life.
There is one genius I admire and find to be a balanced PERSON, someone with whom I'd have enjoyed sitting at his feet and hearing about - maybe even discussing - heady things or just bantering humor, picnicking or enjoying a view: His personality was as delightful as his mind was amazing.
Richard Feynman, nuclear physicist, dazzling intellect and fun-loving, happy-go-lucky, irreverent man. The list of his scientific accomplishments is awesome. His personal life was joyous. Somehow he didn't take himself so all-fired seriously!
When asked if he was looking for the ultimate laws of physics, he replied that he was not, that he was just looking to find out more about the world and that if it led to an explanation of everything, so be it. His goal was simply to find out more because that’s what he liked to do and obviously – what his mind was capable of doing extremely well!
"No Ordinary Genius"
This quote from himself in his biography sums up what I prefer to feel about thinking, exploring and being oneself, simply doing things for the pure delight and self-expression of it:
"I think I’ve got the right idea, to do crazy things – what other people would consider crazy things. There’s so much fun to be had. I must say frankly that I don’t understand myself and I don’t know why certain things amuse me. I am not going to try and figure it out. If I enjoy it, I enjoy it and I don’t have to explain it to anybody. I just feel like doing it and never mind…..I don’t care! I just do it for the fun of it, and I can’t define the fun, because fun is a different thing for different people." ____Richard Feynman, from No Ordinary Genius.
Some Feynman Titles
Feynman On the Bongos - A Joyous Genius
There is nothing more
And nothing less
A total moment,
Is the First
And the final
Step to God.
___© Nellieanna Hay