How to know the nature of your being
Author of The Untethered Soul – The Journey Beyond Yourself, MICHAEL SINGER, shares his thoughts on the nature of the mind and the heart. He also describes how we let impressions from the past and our thoughts affect our worldview and our potential, and how to handle the human heart – how to be at peace with the tremendous range of the heart.
What is the nature of mind? The truth is, it is easier to understand the nature of the entire universe than to grasp the nature of mind. But this is not because the nature of mind is so complicated; it is because you can’t see the forest for the trees. You can’t see the mind because you are lost in your thoughts. You are so involved in your thoughts that you can’t step back far enough to see what is creating them. You have to be able to get behind the mind enough to see what is not mind; then you’ll be able to see what is mind. Meditation gives you this perspective. In deep meditation you see the mind from a distance, like you see a star in the sky. But if you got up really close to a burning star, you would not recognize it as one of those things that dot the sky at night – you’d see it as a giant ball of burning fire. In order to see ‘star’, you must be able to see ‘not star’. The same is true with the mind. If you step back deep enough within your Self, you will see the mind talking at a distance – yackety-yak. But around the edges it’s not doing this, and beyond the edges there is perfect stillness. In other words, in deep meditation there is absolute peace, quiet, serenity, and total calm all around you. But if you gaze in the direction of the personal mind, there is noise. You are now able to see the thought-generating mind because you can see the still mind.
We don’t maintain this perspective for long, however. We quickly get lost in the thoughts of the mind. That is why we can’t see the nature of mind. In the purest sense, the mind’s nature is a field of unmanifest energy that has the ability to manifest in the form of thoughts. You should see mind as an ocean of energy in which thoughts form like waves. Just as waves in the ocean come up and go back down, so thoughts in the mind come and go. Each thought is different, just as each wave is different, but they are all manifestations of the same ocean.
You have to be able to get behind
the mind enough to see what is not mind;
then you’ll be able to see what is mind.
Meditation gives you this perspective.
In deep meditation you see
the mind from a distance,
like you see a star in the sky.
The mind is a field of energy that exists between you (the indwelling Being) and the world that you see. In this field of energy that is mind, there are laws that cause the wavelets of thoughts to manifest as they do. Just as scientists can study waves and understand why they behave as they do, so you can study your thoughts. You’ll see that there are underlying laws that determine how the mind creates thoughts. If I knew every single thing that ever happened to you during your entire existence, I would know all the data that programmed your mind. If I put it all together in the right balance, I could predict what your thoughts would be when you see something in this world. There are patterns or impressions that the mind has learned, and this underlying learning causes your thoughts to manifest in a particular way.
Your mind is the sum of your learned experiences. All the different experiences that have come in through your senses have left impressions upon the field of energy that exists as mind. Based upon these impressions, the mind generates different thoughts at different times. This is where thoughts come from. When the world of sense flows into your mind, thoughts will be created in accordance to these stored patterns. Once you see this, you’ll realize that it’s been happening your entire life. Wherever the spotlight of your senses happened to be aiming, your mind was being programmed. There was no planning involved; your mind was simply programmed by the events that happened to be unfolding in the direction you happened to be looking. If one or more of those events had not taken place, or if you had been looking in a different direction, your mind would be programmed differently, and your thought patterns would be different. If you understand nothing else, please take the time to understand this.
Every single second you are experiencing such a minute amount of the world, yet these events are being stitched together in your mind and presented back to you as absolute truth. But they are not the truth, and understanding this dynamic of how the world programs your mind is essential for knowing the truth. There is nothing holy about any of your thoughts, and they really have nothing to do with you. They are just the result of the impressions that got made upon your mind. Just as you can watch the waves of an ocean come and go, so you can watch the thoughts in the mind come and go.
There is something even more powerful
than the mind that affects
how you interact with the world
– and that is your heart.
Your heart is quite distinct from the
field of energy that creates thoughts.
But that is not what you do. You actually believe in them. A thought pops up, and it becomes your whole world. You make every single decision based upon your thoughts. You practically worship your thoughts. In fact, you do more than worship your thoughts – you think you are your thoughts. If right now your thoughts suddenly start saying, “I don’t like this article. I don’t even agree with what it’s saying” – what is that? It is just thoughts forming in the essence of mind. There is not a single thought that is not the result of your learned experiences.
The sum of all these impressions determines what you think. Then you actually say outside what your thoughts are saying inside. Your mind literally tells you what to say, and you say it. That’s scary stuff, isn’t it? People don’t talk about this, and almost nobody explains it. There was not a single class you ever took in school, no matter how far you went in your education, that told you what was going on in your mind. Instead of teaching you about the nature of the mind, they are busy programming your mind. How are you supposed to get free?
The mind reacts based upon the impressions with which it is programmed, and the ripples caused by that reaction are what you experience as thoughts. You think you are making your own decisions, but you are not. For example, you look at somebody and suddenly your mind says, “I don’t like him.” That could have happened because the shirt he’s wearing was somehow associated with a bad childhood experience. Your likes, dislikes, and views about everything are affected by the impressions that got made upon your mind. So how can you call them your choices? You are just following the programming of your mind.
But there is something even more powerful than the mind that affects how you interact with the world – and that is your heart. Your heart is quite distinct from the field of energy that creates thoughts. Like everything else in creation, the heart has its own nature. The heart is best seen as an energy field with currents of different strengths flowing in various directions. These currents are like vectors of energy that can flow towards something or away from it, and they can certainly cause quite a disturbance when their flow is blocked. You experience these vector flows on a regular basis. If you see something in the world and the heart gets attracted to it, a vector of energy is formed in the heart and starts going in that direction. The next thing you know, you are drawn there. Your mind may be saying, “No, I don’t want to do this; it could cause real problems.” But the pull of the heart can be very strong in spite of what the mind is saying. This shows how distinct the heart is from the mind.
If you want to know why your heart is attracted to some things and repulsed by others, it’s pretty simple. For the most part, your heart is programmed by your past experiences – just like your mind. In yogic philosophy this programming is called samskaras. Samskaras are past impressions that have created habitual energy patterns in your heart. When stimulated by an object, the heart will tend to flow in these learned directions. Note that it is not just objects in the outside world that stimulate the heart; thoughts can also stimulate the heart. The heart affects the mind and the mind affects the heart. But you already know this. When your heart gets attracted to something, your mind wants to think about it all the time. Your thoughts didn’t used to fixate on that person, place or thing, but now they do. Likewise, when you get really scared by something, suddenly that’s all you can think about.
Now I want to discuss your heart in a way that you may not like. Your heart is a very active field of energy with underlying vector flows, and none of it has anything to do with you. It is just one of the things you are aware of. One moment you notice you are attracted to something and five minutes later you’re repulsed by it. It happens all the time. You can feel completely attracted to someone until they say or do something you don’t like; then suddenly you’re turned off by them. This is what we call the personal heart because its energy flows are formed by an individual’s personal experiences. At any given moment, almost everybody is following either the personal heart or the personal mind. And in most cases the mind wins. The mind simply applies its logic based on its past experiences and then tells you, “I know how to make you happy.”
But the mind cannot make you happy. It will never make you happy. The mind only knows about thinking. In the end, real happiness must come from the heart. The very fact that you are in your mind thinking about how to be happy means you cannot be happy. All the mind can do is try to calculate what will make you happy based on your past experiences. One minute it likes something, and the next minute it doesn’t. You’ve had billions of experiences, and your thoughts about a current experience simply depend upon which of these past experiences is being stimulated the most. Eventually you come to realize that you’re so busy dealing with your mind’s likes and dislikes that you can’t feel the true happiness that springs spontaneously from your heart.
You will not be able to truly explore
the nature of your being until you
come to peace with the world,
the mind, and the heart.
This is your spiritual work.
So are you better off following your heart than your mind? Truth is, neither will take you where you want to go. This is because neither is who you are. You are the one who experiences the heart, and you are the one who experiences the mind. If you can objectively watch something, then it is not who you are – you are the one who is watching. What do you see when you watch your heart? One thing you see is that it can open and close. You experience this as attractions and repulsions, loves and fears. You feel great inner strength when the heart is open to an experience, then if something closes your heart, all that energy drops out or becomes turbulent. That’s how you know you’re not your heart: you were there when the inspiration started, and you were there when it stopped. You’re the one who’s in there watching all these changes take place inside.
Over time you will come to realize that there is only one you in there. You who sees the world, you who witnesses the mind, and you who experiences the heart is the same you. There is only one conscious being in there aware of all these experiences. And none of what you see has anything to do with you. Only you, the awareness of being, has anything to do with you. When you reach this state of awareness, you are awake. But you will not be able to truly explore the nature of your being until you come to peace with the world, the mind, and the heart. This is your spiritual work.
By honoring the nature of the world, you can come to peace with it. Your work with the world becomes to appreciate it, honor it, kiss it hello when it comes and kiss it goodbye when it leaves. Because in truth, that is all it’s ever doing – coming and going. God is trying to teach you something: every day a new day comes and every night it goes, never to return again. Now you see it, now you don’t – like a magic trick. It has nothing to do with you; you are just experiencing it as it flows by. But the incessant activity of the mind will not allow you to honor the world. Based on its past experiences, the mind has its own idea of what should be going on, and it believes it’s right. A truly wise person understands this as part of the mind’s nature and does not struggle with it. The wise one simply looks at the personal mind with compassion, realizing that all it is doing is trying to solve the problems of the heart. Therefore, the best way to come to peace with the mind is to come to peace with the heart. …
The highest spiritual practice
every single moment of every single day
is to set the world free, set the mind free, and set the heart free.
When those three are free to be true to their nature,
then you will be free to be true to your nature –
your true Self. This is the journey back
to the nature of your being.
Your most important work as a spiritual being is to learn to come to peace with the tremendous range of your heart. You have to wake up every morning and say: my heart is very interesting, and I’m going to handle wherever it goes today. You may feel tremendous love, or you may feel tremendous pain. You may go to the heights of your being and think this is the meaning of your life, or you may visit the pit of your being and think that your life has no meaning. But neither is true. These are just places your heart can go. From the seat of witness consciousness, just marvel at the tremendous range of the human heart. Love, disdain, joy, sorrow, pride, and shame are all simply places the heart can go depending upon whether it is open or closed to what’s coming in through the senses or passing through the mind.
… People misunderstand the path of unconditional happiness. It doesn’t mean that your heart is always feeling happiness; it means that you are always at peace with whatever your heart is feeling. Do you see the difference? There is a deep joy in your awareness of being for the honor of experiencing what you are experiencing. Tears are pouring from your eyes, but they are not tears of sorrow, and they are not tears of joy. They are tears caused by the sheer depth of experiencing what that heart has to say.
The heart is a great gift that the Universe has given you. It adds tremendous richness to your life. But because you can’t handle your heart, you are not free to explore the true nature of your being. If you want that freedom, you must learn to honor the world, observe the transient nature of the personal mind, and be able to handle the human heart. Only then can you sit comfortably in the Self; only then are you free to naturally merge into the true nature of your being.
What is the nature of your being? Christ said: “My father and I are one.” Genesis says: “God created man in his own image.” That is the true nature of Self, and you are capable of experiencing this directly. Just remember every time the heart goes someplace you think you can’t handle, you can choose to just breathe and relax back into the seat of Self, instead of getting involved in the heart or the mind. This is the highest yoga. The highest spiritual practice every single moment of every single day is to set the world free, set the mind free, and set the heart free. When those three are free to be true to their nature, then you will be free to be true to your nature – your true Self. This is the journey back to the nature of your being.
© 2012 by Michael A. Singer. This article contains excerpts from an edited transcript, excerpted from the audio The Clarity of Witness Consciousness Lecture Series: The World, the Mind, the Heart, and You, published by Shanti Publications © 2009 Michael A. Singer, www.store.untetheredsoul.com or www.untetheredsoul.com.
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