8 February 2018
how do we cultivate our mind?
let life's experiences, your own heart, and your own wisdom be your teacher
What is mind?
Having recently talked about the importance of the ego, I thought that we would look at what mind actually is.
Firstly, other very ancient cultures, aside from yoga, may have slightly different knowledge of the mind. This doesn't mean that yoga is right and the other is wrong. What it does mean, is that the understandings and knowledge are approached from different angles, different perspectives. And that one description, one word, might be used for all aspects of mind.
But in the yoga world, different aspects of mind have been given separate names. The mind that we are referring to here, is not the Higher Consciousness, for that is something that is above and beyond the everyday mind. And, not everyone will be utilising the Higher Mind in a given lifetime, as it will not be part of the Path, of that lifetime.
Let us look at the four aspects that comprise "mind".
One of the most important things that I have learnt from studying the Ancient Lore of The Wananga, which are the deep spiritual teachings of Maori going back through aeons, is that everything has a skin. Even a thought has skin. Sometimes we have to realise that something like skin can be quite different and more ethereal, than what we would associate skin to be like.
Why is skin important to do with mind? Because manas is the receptacle of thoughts and emotions, and without skin, manas would cease to exist. Without this receptacle we would have no memories, no sense of I, no intellect. All of the thoughts and memories, all of our ability to cognize and mentally sort out, would not exist. And without skin creating this receptacle, the person whom we are, would not exist, as we would have no sense of identity. No sense of oneself.
The importance of manas, is that all parts of mind work together, and they need a place to work in.
Therefore, often, and generally, manas is often referred to as "mind," by virtue of being the container of the differing parts of mind.
Ego. The expression of oneself. I-ness. Sometimes (often!), our ego gets confused with our store of memories and impressions, because, and this is such a human thing to do, it is just the way that we just are. And we identify with this, we believe that this is totally whom we are. But we do have a choice to use ego as expression of other aspects of our Being, instead. This can be a positive, negative, or even an indifferent, force.
This is the part of the mind that is conscious: it "knows", discerns, makes decisions. It is our intellect. Our knowing aspect. There is an even more profound level of buddhi which is wisdom. Wisdom is not static; it grows and evolves.
Wisdom is the knowledge gained from experience.
Buddhi, intellect, combined with ego, expression, is a powerful tool for life. We learn, as life goes on, that when we express what we "know" or "believe", that there will always be a reaction. And that reaction can be a positive force, or a negative one. As our intellect refines, becomes more subtle, more knowing, wiser, so does our self expression (ego).
We also learn in the same manner, that what we "know" may not always be correct. This is one of the way that mind is used for us to evolve.
Buddhi is an important aspect of our being. It can be modified to work more harmoniously for oneself:
We do this by being aware of what is going on.
When we are aware, and use intellect, our expression of this, via the ego, is 100% different from when we are instead guided by our own assumptions which are totally influenced by our stored memories. This is very subtle, and happens without us realising it. I do it too. Often. And I make bad choices with what I say and do, when this happens. We all do.
So, using the above example, we can use our intellect (buddhi), to be more reasonable in life. Plus, intellect is objective, that is, it operates, ideally, as not being influenced by outside influences. Or in this example, not being influenced either, by "inside" memory influences. This is part of the "knowing" aspect, to do with mind.
There are other ways to be knowing, such as feelings, intuition, but in this instance we are looking just at mind, and the role of buddhi within mind
This is the part of mind which is subjective. This means that it is where our personal feelings and experience come into play.
Chitta is to do with memory and this is what makes it part of consciousness, for it is the mind-stuff. Who can forget Patanjali's second sutra?
"yogas chitta vritti nirodaha": to block the patterns of consciousness is yoga".
In this discussion, we can say that this is to do with the blocking of chitta, although technically, it involves more than just that.
It is referring to the storehouse of memories and deep impressions stored in our entire being, although often we mistakenly think that it is just to do with mind.
Without being too technical, we could say that memories are involved with our patterns of consciousness.
Some believe that chitta is to do just with the mental faculties in the form of thoughts and impressions. However, our accumulation of impressions, which is chitta, involves our ego, our senses, our emotions and our body too, for it is not possible to only isolate the influence of chitta to just our thoughts. The patterns of consciousness, in the modern yoga world, are often understood as just being to do with mind only. An easy way to explain this is: "in one's head". But we are so much more than what is just in our head.
An important aspect for us, is that our thoughts are not creating our feelings. How it works is actually that our thoughts arise from our feelings. And our feelings influence almost every part of us. I do not see how one can exclude these feelings, deep rooted ones, from chitta. Much of what has been attributed to chakras and kundalini is in fact, to do with the human emotional experience.
Chitta itself is a type of awareness. That awareness, like an energy, is what pervades our whole being, with it's roots in the impressions which it has received. Chitta in many ways, defines us more than we realise.
How do these work with cultivating the mind?
Our memories define us, on the Inner level. They affect every part of our Being. But our ahamkara (ego) and buddhi (intellect) aspects can have a lot to do with dealing with the effects of difficult and painful memories. It is in this arena of Being, that we can and do, make choices, via intellect, and the our whole being outwardly expresses these choices, which is ego .
Never think that everything in our life can be controlled, for we each have a predestined life to fulfill.
But, and this is very important, we each also have the ability to make profound choices with the use of the intellect, and the expression of Oneself. This is one of the easiest and simplest ways to cultivate the mind.
As a yoga teacher and healer, I have met many people who have been traumatised in life, some excessively so, yet they chose emphatically not to let it be the important definition of themselves. Of course, on the one hand it does define the inner aspects and health of a person in so many ways. But on the other hand, we can choose to express ourselves by word and deed, in a manner which is not defined by those traumas. And by doing this, we add another, very important, dimension of ourselves to the Inner Being.
Conversely, I have also met people who had an easy and nice start in life, but were unable to make the choice to allow that to define them, instead finding things to be tragic about.
In both examples, chitta (memories) have created a base for oneself, and, in both cases, choices were made about these memories.
But, and this is so important: the more that we cultivate our intellect, by being more aware, the more we will come to recognise the patterns of consciousness operating within us, and also around us, in our everyday life. In this way, chitta starts to work with the intellect, rather than being the over-riding force.
And just so you know, some of chitta is very lovely indeed. Some of our patterns of consciousness which are very beneficial in creating a happier life, are in there too. And yes, we also do express those through the ego.