In the 5th-century before the common era, Buddha succinctly summed up the situation: “the mind is everything.”
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There are 3 salient facets of mental activity.
First, we have coremind. Coremind is the process of making sense of sensation – raw perception. Coremind provides the fodder for further mentation.
If an event or thought is of sufficient interest, its perception ascends from the subconscious to conscious attention. Korean-born Canadian cognitive scientist Diana Kwon: “We only notice an object once our unconscious has calculated its importance.”
Focal transition of awareness occurs seamlessly when you are intent on paying attention to something. The volitional part of the mind is willmind.
You might like to think you are in control of what’s going on in your head. But you know all too well that there’s an independent agent that keeps bringing up thoughts irrelevant to what’s going on, and that whips feelings into emotions that grab you and won’t let go. That agency is nattermind, which some call monkey-mind.
Nattermind takes the cupcakes of perception that coremind bakes and glazes them with frosting. Nattermind frosting is redolent with assumption, and thick with bias based on desire. Nattermind sprinkles on top expectation and emotion.
Nattermind presents its frosted cupcakes as if they were the real thing. They are not. The glaze is invariably a dimming of awareness from what’s going on, as well as a heaping of imaginative interpretation. American writer and artist Djuna Barnes called monkey-mind a “priceless galaxy of misinformation.”
Ignorance is the state of eating monkey-mind cupcakes and thinking they are nutritious. Instead, such frosted cupcakes are junk food for the soul.
Nattermind does not like to be questioned, so it gulls its followers, making them quick to believe.
Whereas awareness is stealthily quiet when borne by intent, through willmind, the interferences brought by nattermind are crunchy with thought. As you know, nattermind distractions can be quite troubling. Nagging nattermind thoughts are themselves the source of stress.
Willmind has no need of thought. Willmind relies exclusively upon coremind for answers to questions that may arise. That handy technique affords fullsome awareness to what’s going on.
Coremind operates subconsciously. You can solve problems without ever thinking about them. Just desire an answer and it will arrive in due time.
You’ve had something trouble you before. You sleep on it, as the old saying goes. In the morning the answer appears. That’s willmind making use of coremind.
Speech proceeds from intention. You don’t first consciously think what you are going to say and then say it. You just talk. That’s willmind at work.
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Nattermind is a restless beast, continually striving to overshadow the pure witnessing afforded by consciousness. Conscious thought is almost always the expression of nattermind: a talking by the mind rather than the listening of awareness. The only sincere comfort that conscious thought provides is confirmation of something positive which coremind has dreamt up.
The internal disruptions of monkey-mind are the root of mental illness. Mental health is being free of the predations of nattermind, so that you can enjoy life without the high-drama diet that nattermind feeds you. 20th-century Indian yogi Paramahansa Yogananda: “The mind is the creator of everything. When you are able to employ your will always for constructive purposes, you become the controller of your destiny.”
To those who are not enlightened, who do not experience the quietude of mental health, mental illness is a slippery slope of murk. American novelist Marty Rubin typifies such ignorance when he said that “we all talk to ourselves. Those we call mad just talk a little louder.”
American psychologist Philip Zimbardo: “Most people daydream every day. In fact, it is abnormal if you do not!” In letting nattermind run wild, daydreaming is symptomatic of mental illness. As the Collective of humanity live in spiritual ignorance, mental health is indeed abnormal.
The distinction between mental illness and health is stark. It is the difference between living with a monkey-mind that pollutes awareness and the blissful clarity the comes with enlightenment. Nisargardatta Maharaj: “There is no such thing as peace of mind. Mind means disturbance; restlessness itself is mind.”
Maharaj continues: “No particular thought can be mind’s natural state, only silence. Not the idea of silence but silence itself. When the mind is in its natural state, it reverts to silence spontaneously after every experience or, rather, every experience happens against the background of silence.”
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Up next is an elucidation of consciousness: its states and levels.