The Workings of Mind

by meditative - April 8th, 2015

Our conscious mental activity is a flowing and energetic process of sensory perception, cognition, and emotion. A great deal of our sensory information is often missed as it arises and passes so quickly within the awareness of a busy and preoccupied mind. Much of our sensory data is also perceived as an abstract or mental representation. The thinking or conceptual mind generalizes our situations- and often disconnects the observer from having a direct experience. Almost instantaneously, we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch- and then “label”. From this conceptual representation, we generate one label after another- and from these “labels” there arises an affective or emotional reaction to the thinking mind’s creation… to streams of habitual feelings of like or dislike, etc. It is here where the emotional mind drives our impulse for action- “to move” toward, away from, or to simply be disinterested. Within this cycle, there often appears to be a continuous, self-perpetuating, and repetitive stream of thought… “label”… and emotion. Conditioned and habitual, our perception routinely ends up distant from the actuality of the direct experience.

Our everyday mind is predominantly regulating and processing from a conceptual and emotional perspective- what psychologists typically refer to as “top-down” processing. Its integrated counterpart- “bottom-up”- our sensory and intuitive processing are often veiled in awareness by a neural network that is charged and activated by constant thought and emotion. When our affective (i.e. emotional) states are agitated or afflictive, we become even more distant and obscured from our direct experience… the ‘mind maze’ becomes one obscure turn after another clouding our awareness and cycling our attention with habitual narrative and mental chatter.

Exhaustion with this cyclical process can often motivate our intent for inquiry into the conceptual nature of our labeling. We then ask ourselves how often do our labels truly represent our reality- and how often do they misrepresent it? How often do we get caught up in all the concept and emotion spun by our mind-made realities?  What are we bound to- and what may liberate us? Can we truly be mindful stewards and work with our own minds- with our awareness and attention to be open to honestly knowing the source of our confusion and ignorance?

Knowing how our mind works- the habitual cycles of thought and emotion- is key to opening our Way to liberation. In a mindful Way of being, we can become free to clearly see how our unwholesome patterns entangle us and limit our natural capacity for expansiveness, freshness, and direct connectedness to our experiences. Through refinement of this mindsight or seeing within– this inner capacity to clearly see the workings of our own mind, we set the stage for the mind to free itself… to use free yet focused, stable attention and open awareness to penetrate the exhausting cycles of mind that obscure our sentience and intuition from balancing and regulating our thought and emotion. It is here that we may discover the power of our own awareness and its capacity to directly change our lives by transforming our states of mind.