The mind as a vehicle or an obstacle for conscious living.
As a young soldier in the Israeli army, it was common to hear the sentence: „It’s all in the head“. You have been trained for very tough physical and mental challenges, and forgoing through those, you need to remember that your mind will dictate your success or failure.
There is truth in this overused artificial phrase, and there is a depth hidden there. When you suffer, and we all do, it’s not about the situation that life puts us in, but what we tell ourselves about it that makes us suffer. All our problems are somewhere between your two ears, says Eckhart Tolle, but in our heads also hides the gate to our freedom.
We are constantly thinking. It is a fact. While sleeping, thinking subsides, but we are activated mentally, emotionally, and physically when we dream. But there is also the possibility to reach a non-thinking state of mind. We mostly visit it for short moments when we are exposed to a beautiful image of nature or piece of art, listening attentively to music that touches us or to a particular sound of nature that takes our thoughts away. When we look at a newborn, a baby, an animal or a tiny seed that grow a leaf, we are out of our conceptual mind for a few moments till thinking comes back with ‚so sweet’, ‚such beauty’ or other commentaries, tagging or naming.
The conceptual mind starts to kick in and breaks the moment of silence. We live with our collective and personal commentary background story that tells us all we need to know about any given situation, people, living conditions, problem-solving, especially other people’s problems. Sometimes the commentary is friendly, creative and exciting, but it is often stress-based and not so pleasant. Complains, judgments and opinions about everything that goes wrong in the world, in our life or in others.
When we are in the non-conceptual mind, we only witness and stay quiet. No comments, no self-talk, no stories, no trying to understand things or change situations, solving problems or people. No blame or complaint. It is the pure aspect of our existence, our essence as human beings, that can be easily accessible.
The conceptual mind is horizontal. It has past and future. It loves planning and stories. It is many times in a hurry and wants to be somewhere else. Sometimes it visits the present moment, but because it is in such a rush, it cannot get the pleasure of it and fast it realises that the present moment is dull and has to go back to search for a new mental content to consume.
The non-conceptual mind is vertical. It goes deep into the situation, into the moment, and it stays there. It holds on to physical sensations, eyes, perceptions, ears, taste, smell and touch. It goes beyond the thoughts. It is the non-thinking possibility of the mind.
What is freedom?
As humans, we have the great possibility to navigate between the two. It all happens in our heads. When we can escape from the grip of the conceptual mind and stay in the non-thinking mode or at least have space between us and our thoughts, we are free. Eckhart Tolle defines two states of mind: the underthinking and the above thinking levels.
When I realise I am driven by a cycle of thoughts running me around, I am under the thoughts level. When I realise that my thoughts took me under custody, I may be awake from this daydream and perhaps rise above the thinking pattern and try to stay there as much as I can. How do I do it? Will get to it later.
The non-thinking mind is where our inner power lives.
Do you remember those Karate old movies where Bruce Lee prepares himself for a fight? Like a cat, he becomes very alert, eyes open and focused, facing the ‚enemy’ and preparing physically and mentally. He takes an intense physical shape and pauses for a few seconds. Then comes conscious breathing, deep exhalation. The body stops, and the mind stops. This is the gateway to the inner power. Imagine what would happen if there was self-talk starting at that moment. The fight would be solved immediately.
I remember how alert and alive I was walking on foreign land as a soldier, knowing that I was fully present from every corner a danger could arrive. No time to think about anything and no stories in the head at that time. The eyes are wide open, searching for any suspicious movement in the dark, and the ears are alertly listening to the silence of the night. You hear your breath and your body becomes like an animal, one with the surroundings. You feel fully alive as you walk, perhaps towards death.
But there is no need to put yourself in a dangerous situation to feel alive, be on a stage in front of hundreds of people, run on high ruffs, jump from cliffs and so on. Simply walking in your city can bring alertness without stress or tension. It can be possible simply as you are doing the dishes, cutting vegetables or walking the dog.
When we dance, practice yoga poses or conscious breathing technics, we invite the possibility of elevating from the conceptual mind to the non-conceptual, from the horizontal to the vertical, from the thinking patterns to the empty vastness of the pure consciousness. Being aware of breathing, awakening sense perceptions; eyes seeing, ears listening attentively, and staying with the body’s physical sensations of the skin, the muscles and the bones.
It’s all in the head, the choice to sleep and continue the dream or the nightmare of the stories our minds are telling us, or choose to wake up from the dream and practice awareness, alertness, and conscious living.