The phrase “mind over matter” reminds me of my first year university English Literature class. My 1972 hip and eccentric professor themed the year’s readings around R. D. Laing’s The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (1960). As a common belief of the day, the human mind was viewed as the champion while the body was merely a vessel through which we used our will to manipulate the physical world. To prove this thesis, my professor had four of the smallest students, me being one, lift a football player (over 300 pounds) off his chair by using only the first two fingers of our hands. Of course, when we originally tried lifting him with the benefit of our full hands, we were unable. That demonstration of the mind’s power stayed with me and influenced my choice to study psychology.
Fast forward 40 years and I am still fascinated by the intricacies of the mind and its connectedness to the body. In today’s stress-ridden and complex world, we have discovered the body’s capacity to provide early warning signals for avoiding injury and disease. When we ignore these preventative signals the mind is impacted negatively. For instance, in a world where rapidly accelerated change is the New Normal, multi-tasking is a much sought after corporate productivity talent. Interestingly, Tony Schwartz dispels this myth by claiming 25% to 50% of the workforce report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work. In his HBR blog, The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time, Schwartz states we not only lose productivity by multi-tasking but “relentlessly burn down [our] available reservoir of energy” because our bodies and minds are constantly in reactive ‘fight-flight’ mode.
When neither the body nor the mind is allowed to relax and rejuvenate, one or both eventually say ‘No’ through physical or mental dis-ease. Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates by 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disease. Given that it affects 121M people worldwide and can be reliably treated — but fewer than 10% to 25% are — it behooves us to pay attention to what our mind is attempting to teach us. As a survivor of depression, my experience taught me the benefits of quieting the rational mind so I could hear the wisdom of the intuitive mind. In my third chapter of Creating Space: The Practice of Transformation, I outline some of this experience and my own thinking on the true purpose of our mind.
During the first half of my life and a major portion of my professional career, I
learned and lived primarily through my intellectual and physical abilities. Both
were valued more in my culture than emotional or spiritual intelligence. In the
last decade, as I began to more fully develop my emotional and spiritual abilities,
I discovered the real purpose for my mental intelligence or my mind. Essentially,
but in opposition to how society has operated, the mind is a servant not a master.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a
faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the
servant and has forgotten the gift. Albert Einstein
The mind, very much like a CPU (computer processing unit), serves to store,
organize and retrieve information and experience. It runs continually whether
we are asleep or awake. During the hours we are awake, if we listen, a constant
babbling of disconnected words and phrases are broadcast. As I listened in on
my own bandwidth, it became clear that this disjointed script was certainly not
my truth. In fact, much of it was irrelevant if not ridiculous. The more I listened,
the more I would catch myself laughing and ponder, “Where did that come from?”
Listening in on my mind’s prattle confirmed for me that I was more than my mind
and self-mastery was not an exclusively mental process. In navigating the first 40
years of my life with mainly my mental processes, I often missed out on “hearing
from” the more creative aspects accessed through spiritual, physical, emotional
and relational experiences. No wonder life felt like a struggle. In order to move
from exhaustion to effortlessness, I needed to tap into my entire resource bank,
which required me to create space in my conscious experience for more than my
mind. However, my chattering mind was already taking up most of the available
space and a larger question loomed before me, “How was I to gain control over
these endless thoughts that also seemed to have a mind of their own?”
My initial step was to begin dumping this garbled script into an imaginary
“garbage out” bin. When I found myself conscious of a thought that no longer fit
with who I wanted to be, I would cancel it out and replace it with a new, aligned
thought. In time I realized I was consciously facilitating a process already begun
by my mind, that is, creating space for new possibilities by bringing to the surface
and expunging what was no longer needed. At the same time as I was creating
space for my truth to emerge, I was becoming “mindful” of my inner experience.
Eckhart Tolle calls this “the beginning of the end [. . .] of involuntary, compulsive
When a thought subsides . . . you experience a discontinuity in
the mental stream . . . a gap of “no mind”. At first the gaps will
be short . . . then gradually they will become longer. When
these gaps appear . . . you will feel a certain stillness and peace
This is the beginning of your natural state of Oneness with
Being . . . With practice . . . the sense of stillness and peace
will deepen . . . in fact there is no end to Its depth.
You will feel a certain subtle emanation of joy arising from
deep within . . . The Joy of Being. In this state of Inner
Connectedness . . . you are much more alert, more awake
than in the mind-identification state. You are fully Present . . .
It also raises the vibratory frequency of the energy field
that gives life to the physical body. Eckhart Tolle
Herein lies one of the greatest benefits for quieting the monkey chatter of the
ever-processing mind — we literally uncover our inner sense of joy. Joy is
buried at our core and once we dig deep enough to connect with the essence of
joy from which we are all created, then the mind is serving its true purpose.
Close you eyes. Ask yourself, “What brings me joy?” Sit quietly until your intuitive mind offers up its answer. Remember if something from outside of you surfaces as an answer, then your rational mind has spoken and opted for ‘thrill seeking’ instead of joy (impulse instead of intuition). Try again, the answer lies deeper than the surface of your mind.