Self vs. Mind
Amazing Species That We Are
The mystery of our true identity has been boggling the minds of everyone from an ancient shaman to a modern philosopher. Please note that I am not mentioning scientist, because science, by definition, is not even meant to find the satisfactory answers about who we really are.
From the question of defining emotions to understanding the nature of thought, the scrutiny of scientific labs is simply not the right method of getting to those answers. You can't measure love, you can't call hate a bunch of neuropeptides at work---and there is always that tenet of science that everything has to be able to be reproduced in labs.
We are a living mystery, folks. We are more mysterious than the vast universe we live in as a tiny speck occupying a negligible space. In a microcosmic sense, each one of us is an unfathomable galaxy filled with refined energies orchestrating life, and being an embodiment of a part of universal consciousness.
We are amazing, and we don't know it.
Our DNA is connecting us to other dimensions of reality where we are even less recognizable as Joe and Jane having an argument over what's going to be for dinner.
In a rhythmic dance of everything else in the universe, we are vibrating, and frequencies of our animalistic part of the first ancestor are outlouding the frequencies of godlike part of our nature given to us by an ancient donor which we like calling god---from our mind's limitations caused by that very unfortunate mix of frequencies.
No, we don't need to seek proofs for any of this. Let us just take an honest look at the nature of our personal, social, and global conditions. There we will see how something in us is pulling us upwards to our divine predestination, while something else in us is dragging us downward towards ignorance and misery of animalism manifested as greed, territoriality, arrogance, and a thirst for power.
And we are whatever appears to be in each of us the result of that inner tug of war.
That's how we come to these two concepts of "self" and "mind". Identifying each of them in ourselves, and a sort of "catching them at work", may help some folks enormously in their quest of finding peace and harmony, and to enable them to identify themselves with that spiritual essence which they truly are.
Let's Be on the Same Page
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle was known for always insisting that his participants in discussion first state their definitions of the concepts to be discussed. That way he made sure they would be talking about the same thing.
Now, using his example for the same reason, let me first give you my definitions of mind and Self, as to avoid any misunderstanding while I am sharing my views and experiences announced by the title.
Mind: Our socially acquired self-image with all beliefs, sense of the "appropriate" and common sense dictated by existing norms of reasoning. Also included are memories, habits, skills, education, and attitudes towards the world spurred by animalistic part of brain with an arsenal of strategies for psycho-physical survival. Please note, the brain sites of all of the above have been identified.
Self: Consciousness, intuition, that elusive, and mysterious part of our mentality that stays with us the same regardless of countless possible life outcomes and corresponding minds acquired.
Self is inherently detached from mind, but contaminable by it to a point of their blending into a state in which person is not even aware that they are identifying themselves with their mind, not Self.
The neurological site of Self, or consciousness, has never been found within brain, nervous or endocrine systems, and is the main theme of metaphysics, mysticism, and spiritualism, which in one fashion or another seek the answers about the connection between man and the universal intelligence.
Detaching from the Mind
I have already cited it elsewhere, but can't think of a better introductory statement, so let me reiterate that precious piece of wisdom:
"Mind is an obedient servant, but a cruel master".
The crucial difference being in the question whether we are using our mind similarly to Aladdin's using his magic lamp with a genie coming out of it to fulfill his every wish---or we are identifying with it.
My personal version of enlightenment, no matter how modest or not, started at the moment of my life when I stopped "being" my mind, and started the process of detachment from it, by expanding myself as a nonjudgmental conscious observer of my mind's tricking capacity to create illusions.
I am talking about the same repertoire of mind's trickery so easily observable in mankind's model of functioning sometimes summed up in the term human condition. Using the mirror of so many others around me I could identify my own mental flaws displayed as one or another form of negative emotionalism.
Not without a humorous note in all that observing. Namely, certain words have become like "household items" in the vocabulary of every thinking person---like "brainwashed sheep" for example---and yet, they keep portraying exactly that.
It's explainable by the fact that all people's wisdom is only their mind's another intellectual toy turning into a psychobabble. Books are written and read, and seminars given and taken mostly by people who never made a conscious effort to make that material their reality.
That resulting with skeptics, cynics, and those who tried but quit prematurely and failed, now making it a laughing stock labelled "New Age mambo-jumbo". Blind eyes even turning to a massive evidence of people being healed by their redirected minds alone, or turning their lives around by requalifying their minds from tormentors to healers.
Mind Thriving on Conflicts
There was a time in my life, well, more than half century ago, when I was, along with so many other thinking human specimens wondering over the purpose and meaning of life.
I didn't like the answers imposing themselves; for, life was "happening to me", better yet "befalling me"---all until I realized that it was my mind that was happening to me, nothing that was coming from the outside. For, that's the master illusion that keeps being replayed---making us see ourselves at a receiving end, instead of at the source of it all.
Indeed, all along my treacherous young life it was my mind giving the suchness, the illusory substance to the world duping me into belief of a victimhood, a bad luck, whatever but seeing myself responsible for all of it. Not just some of it, but all of it.
Now, in retrospect, if I liked feeling embarrassed, that's how I would probably feel while thinking of those initial clumsy attempts to fight my mind which was far from showing any willingness to step down from the throne.
What I didn't know yet was the fact that mind is fueled by conflicts in its never ending game of psycho-physical survival. Mind is simply programmed to perpetuate inner struggles, and even when it takes up an apparent task of fighting its own negativistic tendencies, it doesn't have a positive outcome as an objective, but always another and another obstacle to overcome.
So, by fighting with my mind I was merely adding the fuel to its dynamics. Those days were so much of the kind I can see around myself with people chasing their tails in a never ending and futile attempt to find the exit from their mind's maze. Or, couldn't it be even better illustrated by a tail wagging the dog.
Crazy Path to Sanity
Intuitively I knew I had to do something crazy within the hierarchy of my mental forces, because if it was not to be crazy, everyone would have hit upon it and we would all live a happy Shangri La reality.
The craziness was in embracing my mind, after contemplating over Werner Erhard's words: When you let your mind be, it lets you be. Of course, it was rapidly becoming so clear---since mind was operating by perpetuating conflicts, the only way to tame that wild stallion was to "starve it to death" by insisting on loving everything in its lousy routine.
Yes, folks, the only way to detach our consciousness from an ever struggling mind is to consciously persist with allowing it to be. It was kicking and screaming in agony for a while, even making me physically sick---but then I smiled and loved even that pain and discomfort, actually asking for more.
Well, who ever said that enlightenment was to be easy. But then, at one point it all started rearranging inside. Riding on the crest of some emotional tsunamis stirred up by the rebelling mind, I just wouldn't allow myself to fall in and wallow pushed around again by irrational emotionalism. It felt so good feeling on the top of life. And it still does.
The Joy of Being True Self
A wonderful thing happens in the process of insisting upon feeling good about our life no-matter-what. A new neural pathway gets created within the mind/brain, a new algorithm that automatically wakes up consciousness at times when the mind tries to have another round of its domination.
I made it a silly little habit to thank that inner voice every time when it tells me: "Watch out, this is not really you thinking/feeling/saying/doing that". Playfully, I might choose an eventless, you could say boring winter day as they often happen here in freezing Canada, to reach into my mind's files and pick out that familiar pattern of having fun.
Having fun, being happy, even ecstatic is not unfamiliar to mind, it has experienced it before, so, once tamed, the mind won't offer any resistance to a conscious activation of it.
Right now, as I am writing these lines I can't help wondering how many of you are bound to see it as "artificial" experiencing. Let's see, what is really more artificial, this consciously chosen experience of happiness, or a so called "spontaneous" one---whenever it may show mercy to happen to us by itself.
What could possibly be more genuine than when coming from our highest Self and its free choosing? For, isn't "spontaneous" merely another word for automatic, learned behavior---learned from others, imitating others, as mind is known to generate it when allowed?
Indeed, isn't that in a big part why sex is such a pleasurable experience---as we drop all social masks, all pretenses, roles, strategies, while surrendering to the nakedness of our Self in its union with another human being's Self in that unique form of giving-and-taking?
For, those are the moments when we identify with our Self, and the mind is somehow just "in the way". At least until the morning-after when it resumes its leading role of a tormentor, with only a memory of a brief experience of life healed by joy of being who we truly are.