In the previous article in this series about How to find the truth in a world of lies, I moved around a general theme of having the courage to break your belief systems in order to improve them. Here I’d like to look at how the mind works and how you can use it more effectively.
“The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master.”
The mind and the spiritual path
I was first inspired to take a step back and look at my way of perceiving reality itself by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now, a book which has been utterly transformative in my life as well as for millions of others. He suggested that our mind isn’t just the innocent calculating machine we thought it was. When we become identified with the mind and think we need to defend it, we are capable of seeing anything but the truth in order to hold onto a feeling of being right or superior. So suddenly we have two, not one, adversaries to deal with in finding truth. One is ignorance. The other is our own selves. The more dangerous a truth is to our sense of identity the better we are at deluding ourselves. This is why science, which advocates a totally mental approach to finding truth, has had great success in areas such as physics but practically none in psychology and the tender issue of how to be happy in a world which needs constant dissatisfaction to maintain the status quo.
For the issue of how to be happy, Eckhart Tolle recommended you give up entirely on trying to work things out mentally and see this instead as a contest with your mind. You have a lack of clarity because your mind is making things unclear. You gain clarity, then, by stopping your mind from doing so. There’s nothing you need to “know”.
I still learn that lesson anew from time to time as I explore using meditation and prayer instead of trying to tackle my psychological issues from the frame of solving a problem. Nowadays I’ve dropped a LOT of complications and have a very simple spiritual path:
Keep walking. Live life. Follow my heart. Have faith that I’m where I need to be in any given moment. Learn from experiences and ask for help from my angels and spirit guides. Meditate when I’m drawn to it.
It’s up to you to create your own spiritual path. Feel free to take inspiration from mine, and look into other paths, too.
So that’s how to find the Truth. But what about small-t truths? I took a detour, yet small-t truths and perfecting your more general worldview are what this series of articles is really about. But don’t worry, there was a point to what I’ve just written.
To get to be good at finding the truth in a world of lies, I think it’s impossible to separate entirely the spiritual aspect of all this. If you don’t know yourself, you can’t know the world. And take a step back – why do you want to know the truth? If you only want to build your intellect then you can. But it might be worth challenging yourself anyway. Is that the best use of your energy?
I know plenty of people who think that
n = çi
Where n is number of books read, and i is intelligence. ç is the number 1, making it effectively irrelevant. I just put it in because it looked funny.
I disagree. I believe that
ne = çi
Where e is the energy you put into being transformed by what you read. I know someone who leant me a book on the Law of Attraction who doesn’t live the knowledge it contains. She asked me why I spent so long reading it and why I gave it back only half-finished. I said it was a good book, but I wasn’t ready to totally integrate the information yet. I wasn’t interested in reading for the sake of it.
Reading for the sake of it is a big thing in our society.
The problem with this, quite apart from the fact that it’s a waste of energy, is that people gain knowledge but they don’t UNDERSTAND it and they don’t LIVE it. This is absurd, but it makes sense to them because what they want is to build their identity, not empower themselves with understanding. They want to shelter from life rather than living it.
I can’t be too hard on these people because I was the worst there is. I changed because there was something more important to me.
So we come back to the spiritual aspect of finding the truth. Here we go: To align with truth you must transform yourself, transmute your fears, and empower your passion. A fearful person just can’t see the world as it is.
If you want help on how to do this the best book in the world is The Power of Now.
How to think clearly
Inspired by that book I learned to intersperse periods of meditation with periods of thinking. Yes, like most followers of Tolle I went through a phase of trying not to think ever and getting angry at myself whenever I noticed I was thinking 🙂 But nowadays I’m happy to think a lot and continue to search for truth, and I don’t think I’m misguided in telling you that you could benefit from doing so, too. Make a point of observing if your mind is overactive or going in circles, and take time to meditate if so.
If your mind sounds like a broken record and you just can’t seem to find the solution you need, check to see if your mind is just going through a feedback loop where you feel fearful and create more feelings of fear by imagining all of your problems in vivid detail, thinking that focusing on the problems will banish the fear. With harcore intellectuals, their problem is often that they aren’t totally right about everything yet, making them scared of damage to their ego. At these times the solution is to calm down. Though it’s hard, you would probably benefit most from choosing to do nothing for a while. I know it often seems impossible. Just realise that nothing is ever as terrible as the mind makes it, that the world doesn’t end if you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, and that solutions often come up of their own accord without need for intervention. In short, doubt your mind.
Try laughing. There is nothing that cannot contain humour except a person controlled by his ego. Laughter is a cleanser: it destroys false structures. I actually suggest this trick: stop and laugh for no reason. If you have the strength to do so, I guarantee you your train of thought will be on a different track when you return to the problem at hand. It’s a great excercise if only to learn to doubt the mind and the things it makes serious. If so many things stop being important after laughter then what is important? Check it out.
So take regular “steps back” and consider what your true motivations for thinking are, whether your fears and desires could be leading you to false conclusions, and what results you are getting. A sure indicator that you are on the wrong track is if you’ve spent a lot of energy in making a stunning case for what you already believe 🙂
Finally, who could discount the need to share thoughts with others. I’ve not historically been that good at it, but the more you open up the more “real” you become. Connections with other people, especially people on your wavelength who can understand your ideas and accept your way of being, are the best way to stay grounded. Often just speaking your thoughts aloud to someone is enough to alter your perspective (consider the shrinks who get paid excellent salaries just for thoughtfully listening to people). They’ll automatically point out the gaps in your ideas and if they’re really cool, they’ll be able to help you notice if your mind is distorting things. Cultivating relationships where you can give and recieve criticism is so powerful.
Your brain is not a computer
This is the message I’d like to finish off with: your brain is not a computer. A computer works by taking all factors into account and doing expert calculations. Do you know how many “thoughts” a robot would have to undertake to correctly ascertain where a ball is going to land? Yet even a dog can play fetch. It’s the same with other “calculations”. You go from one idea to the next but you don’t know exactly how. It’s not mathematical. Basically, like you will your hand to move, you will your mind to come up with an answer.
So don’t think you need to craft a perfect mental dialogue to arrive at a solution. You don’t necessarily need any mental dialogue at all. Quiet your mind, feel the issues at hand, and, with your consciousness, push into the feeling that is in the space between wanting to know something and knowing it. You need to have an quiet mind to be able to do this or you won’t even notice the space. And when the answer arrives, move on to the next thing you want to know.
This is what you do already so don’t think it’s a magic skill you need to learn. But knowing the process is useful. It’s a reminder that YOU aren’t doing anything. The answer comes, or it doesn’t. You are just the will to know.