Brain and Mind
We humans seem to be quite attached to our brains. We tend to consider our brains as the origin of consciousness. But can you step outside this box for a few moments and look at your brain in a different way? Think of your brain, not as the origin of consciousness, not as an originator of anything, but rather to see your brain as a perceiver and as a kind of processing station for all that it perceives.
In many ways the brain is a remarkable result of our evolution. The brain is very adept at telling the body when to lift your right arm and turn your eyes to the left. Obviously you cannot function without the brain. But, it is also true that you cannot function at your full potential when you confuse who you are with the brain.
Function is the key word here. The brain’s job is to help you be a functional being in the world. Not only lifting your arm but also keeping track of your bank account, driving your car, getting to your appointments–all the things that, well, help you function in the material world. But there is more to life than functioning. And there is more to life than the material world. There is creativity, imagination, and insight. These are actions of the mind. Where we get in trouble in life is when we place all our eggs in the basket of the brain, of merely transactional existence, of the material world, of rationality, of conventionality. To be truly healthy, human beings need to recognize that they have two intertwining actions of intelligence. Too often there is the mistaken and unfortunate idea that the material, rational world is the only meaningful function of intelligence and, even more so, to believe that subscribing exclusively to the rational approach is the only way to be in one’s life. Let us not be entranced by the pronouncements of Monsieur Descartes.
In the simplest terms, the brain is the interpreter and the mind is the creator. I know this statement may be difficult to accept because ever since childhood we, in Western Culture, have been inundated with the elucidation of the brain as the Big Boss. Maybe you remember your parents admonishing you for some childish misbehavior by saying, “Use your brain!” Or, maybe you described that smart kid in your classroom by saying, “She’s a real brain.” Perhaps that smart kid has naturally integrated the functionalism of the her brain with the intuitiveness of her mind.
Same or Different?
As I consider the function of the brain I am endlessly astonished by the misunderstanding that the brain and the mind act in the same way. When you feel joy, do you not feel it in the center of your chest? Likewise, when you are sad, do you not feel it in your heart? When you come to understand something, do you not feel it in the totality of your being? It is the intuitive knowledge that brings clarity to a conundrum. All of the examples above are actions of the mind not the brain. Computer scientists can build a brain. They cannot build a mind.
Where is the Mind?
The mind is spread throughout the entire body. For example, when practicing yoga one part of the body squeezes another part of the body and you have a memory. Or, in another yoga posture, you may have a realization of something that you may never have thought of before. In yet another posture you may have a kind of dreamlike vision that brings you to an astounding clarity. All of these are experiences of the mind. They do not originate in rational thought. If you are really paying attention in your yoga practice, you see that these experiences come from the body moving in relationship to itself. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. You are experiencing the mind everywhere throughout the body. It is in your glands, in your muscles, in your joints, in your flowing blood. It is everywhere!
Where is Everywhere?
When we use the word, “everywhere” we come to a new and perhaps unfamiliar territory. Everywhere indicates Everywhere. Not just in the body but in the air, in the space in which you are sitting, standing, moving, or lying down. When you see the mountains and when you see a sunset does this not affect you? In these moments there is an undeniable connection between the seer and the seen. In that sense, you and the sunset are not separate.
Even with the sunset over there and you over here, the red, blue, and yellow sky, and the rich orange sun become a part of you in that moment. Why is that? Well, you will find out when you let go of your attachment to the brain and to logical thinking long enough to see, feel, and know that the experience that you have in the presence of something as dynamic as the sunset is the experience of mind in your body and your heart.
It is not just the dynamic experiences that bring us to this realization. It is also within the most seemingly ordinary experiences such as, watching a baby laugh, seeing a loved one after a long absence, feeling a balmy breeze pass across your face, or being in deep relaxation during the yoga practice.
Why am I writing this to you? It is to share with you a simple truth. When you define yourself through your brain your life becomes very, very small, very, very limited. You are defining your life through the action of processing what you experience rather than discovering the true nature of mind (of you!), also known as the whole of experience itself-
Including all that happens within you and the entire eternal, intelligent universe. This is mind and the mind is unlimited. You are unlimited when you realize the true nature of mind. What I am suggesting is that you take a chance and live your life with the recognition that you have the potential to truly experience what it feels like to be free. Take the leap of letting go of focusing on the brain as the controlling element living at the top of your personal pyramid. Allow yourself to embrace the limitless expansiveness of mind. Allow yourself to experience the limitless expansiveness of yourself.