I have read a lot of books in the last few years about consciousness, the mind, and the brain, and the links between them.
Is the mind that which we call consciousness, and if so, where does it reside? A lot of people believe that the mind resides in the brain. Others believe that the mind is stored in every cell in our bodies. Yet others believe that our mind is only part of the mind of God; there is a link to the brain, but that is not the mind’s receptacle.
Is it possible that there is some truth in all of the above?
After reading many books, including Superbrain, by Deepak Chopra MD and Rudolph E Tanzi PhD, I am convinced that no one really knows the answer to these questions, but a lot of people are trying to find out.
What does seem apparent, however, is that we create a lot of our thoughts, words, and actions unconsciously. How often have we seen someone wronged, only to hear the excuse of “Sorry, I didn’t think”, even sometimes coming from our own mouths. It seems that a lot of the way we react to circumstances has been determined, not by our free will, but by programming we had up to that point. Often our programming has taken place in our early childhood.
Those people who now want to blame everything we do ‘wrong’ on our parents, think again. Because that is exactly what we need to do now – to think again. Or rather, think for the first time. Deepak and Rudoph suggest that this is the reason for us to remember to count to ten if someone makes us angry, so that we can use our conscious mind to respond, rather than reacting from our unconscious programming.
We do have free will; we just have to exercise it. We need to start paying attention – not to what others are doing, but to what we ourselves are doing. We have to start being aware – aware of our reactions to everything that happens to us, and asking ourselves “Where did that come from?”
As is often the case, the best way to illustrate this is with a story.
My husband and I have quite a large house, but my husband has quite a lot of stuff. He has a lot of hobbies, and he sometimes brings work home to do – light fittings that need testing and such. On occasion, he has had to encroach on space that had been set aside as “my space”, just because that was the only space available. I started becoming angry, and defensive of my space. Later, I became aware that my behaviour was an overreaction. When I began to meditate on where this behaviour, which I considered negative, had originated, I was quite surprised.
When I was a child, there was a period of time when I slept in a curtained-off area of our lounge room, in the modest home which housed my parents, my three sisters and me. At that time, I had very little space that I could call my own. I had no memory of feeling deprived, or being concerned about it during my childhood. Yet, when I revisited that period during meditation, I became quite upset, and I realised that this was the reason for my strong defence of my space. I was reacting to a fear that was deeper than anticipated – a fear that in losing some of my space I would lose part of myself.
This sounded a lot like an over-active ego, which I had learned about in Eckhart Tolle’s books, The Power of Now, and A New Earth. I knew that Eckhart espouses being present in this moment. I believe that this is the way to get past those issues which have caused us to over-react to situations. Eckhart calls this part of us, which over-reacts, the pain-body. He points out that when we are reacting from the pain-body, we are usually not aware of it. As we start to spend more time in the present moment, we start to become more aware of our own reactions.
Our sub-conscious programming which creates the pain-body is not only caused by our parents, but our society and generations of looking at things in a certain way. One example that comes to mind is the word “negro”. In societies where this word has been used to subject people to abuse and oppression, the word creates such strong reactions in both races of people – the race oppressing and the race being oppressed. In other societies, where the word has not been linked to any situation, it seems an innocent Spanish translation for the word “black”.
If we were to live in the present moment, we would realise that, in this moment, there is nothing to fear. In the present moment, I cannot lose my identity even if my space is invaded, and you cannot lose yours if someone mentions the word “negro”. In the present moment I am all that I can be and so are you. In the present moment, we are all children of God, for that is where our God-consciousness resides – in the present moment. So if we can remain in the present moment, in the now, we will react, not from our unconscious programmed self, but from our conscious God-self.
My story had a happy ending. After telling my husband about my reasons for reacting so strongly to his space invasion, he was much more understanding. We are both now aware that this is an “issue”. He does his best to avoid encroaching, and I do my best to avoid over-reacting when he does.
Awareness is the key, and awareness is another term for consciousness. All of the scientists who are searching for the place where consciousness resides are asking the wrong question. The question is not where does consciousness reside, but when. And the answer is now!
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about consciousness, the mind, the brain, and living in the now.