What Is Mind?

Despite decades of research in neurology, psychology, and philosophy, the true nature of the human mind has yet to be fully explored or understood. Nonetheless, it is generally agreed that mind refers to the cognitive faculties that, among many other tasks, allow us to feel, think, reason, discriminate, and imagine. It is mind that allows us to be conscious of the world around us, although there is also much going on within the mind that is unconscious—subconscious and superconscious.

In another post, we look at the possibility that there is more to mind than mind alone. The qualities of personality, the soul, the Divine Spirit, and even our material bodies, all come into play within the mind. To varying degrees, they determine self-consciousness, self-reflection, self-evaluation, moral decisions, and spiritual desires—even the ability to know God.

Delving into the intricate workings of the mind or an in-depth exploration of psychological research is beyond the scope of this writing. Nonetheless, there are a few relevant observations we can make.

Psychological research by Daniel J. Siegel of the UCLA School of Medicine suggests, among other things, that mind is not spatially limited to the body or the brain, and that there exists an extended mental connectivity between individual minds (mind is relational).

This extended connectivity is a quality of personality as well as mind, which suggests there is more to the human condition than material science will admit. But more important to the objectives here, Siegel’s research demonstrates that minds are manageable. While this is not an entirely new idea, it has seldom been evaluated in an experimental context.

Mind is the creator of everything. You should therefore guide it to create only good.

– Yogananda

Mind is not only manageable, but also malleable. In science, the brain’s ability to reprogram and rebuild itself is known as neuroplasticity. In this process, the brain physically adapts or changes by creating new neurons and building new neural networks, making it possible for you to change dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaving. In other words, you can mold your material brain by means of active thought and repetitive actions. And other researchers would add divine communion to the mix.

In fact, two neuroscientists, Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman, claim that a daily routine of prayer and worship permanently alters brain structure and function. This is a proven way to recreate yourself and, in the process, become more enlightened, empowered, and improved.

Worries and Regrets

There are always challenges in life and problems to solve. You cannot escape the difficulties, responsibilities, and duties of everyday living. But have courage, step forward and take up the gauntlet. Face your daily challenges with faith and determination. This is the spirit way.

Minimize your disappointments by not expecting too much from others. And if you expect social institutions or governments to live up to your cherished ideals, you simply set yourself up for even more disappointment.

Instead of complaining about the present, try to do something about it. Instead of regretting the past, learn the lessons of your mistakes. And instead of worrying about the future, make plans and realize that it doesn’t help to worry about things that may never come. Complaints, regrets, worry, even guilt, are not spiritual states of mind.

There ain’t no future in the past.

– Vince Gill and Carl Jackson

Let your Spirit Teacher orient you within a greater, universal context as you evaluate your thoughts with reason, logic, wisdom, and spiritual insight. God is always trying to assist you, and all you need to do is become conscious of that help and be willing to receive it. Trust in the goodness, wisdom, love, and power of the Spirit to transform you—and it will.

Mind Is Your Gateway

Take control of your thoughts through the power of personality awareness—the ability to observe your mental activities (mindfulness). With spiritual guidance, your personality can train your mind to work for your benefit. Begin by acknowledging and accepting only those thoughts that are loving, truthful, good, and beautiful. These thoughts will motivate your vital, soul-changing choices (see Spiritual Habits for the Soul).

Mind is a divine gift—it is another one of God’s endowments. But although mind (or consciousness) is spiritual in origin, it is not spirit. It is, however, your door to the spirit dimension—the spirit phase of existence; it is the medium through which you harmonize with spirit life.

While the mind is not the seat of the spiritual nature, it is indeed the gateway thereto. 155:6.13

– The Urantia Book

Through the power and presence of your personality, learn to engage your mind as a good friend. Teach it new ways of thinking while adopting an instructive attitude of kindness, respect, and love. If you find your mind unruly, you will have to be patient, persuasive, gentle, and persistent in your efforts.

Teach your mind (thoughts, feelings, emotions) to improve, to become spiritually mature, to adopt a graceful poise, to be selfless, to love others, to be patient and forbearing, all the while doing your best to avoid unrealistic fantasies, harmful thoughts, and childish emotions.

Idealize the positive. Train your mind to remember the good and worthwhile events of your life. Recollect the great moments you shared with family and good friends and use these to construct a gallery of positive mental images you can draw on for your personal betterment and enlightenment.

Training your mind begins by understanding that mind and consciousness are things you possess but they do not necessarily represent who you are in entirety. The mind is a tool at your disposal. You can focus it, shape it, and direct it any way you choose.

All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.

– James Allen

Master Your Thoughts

You can be a slave to your thoughts or the master of them. You can allow your mind to work against you or command it to work for you. You can allow yourself to indulge in negative thoughts or you can direct your thoughts along positive and rewarding paths.

Use your mind to its fullest capacity; let it work for you. Train your mind to ponder an issue and to consider it from different perspectives. Focus your mind on the problem at hand and imagine every viable solution within a context of divine values. Then take a good rest and consider it again. Many of our problems are the consequence of making unwise and impetuous decisions, ones often based on few facts and little understanding. For more on this topic see Divine Problem Solving.

Learn to separate your personality from your mind. The personality decides—it is your source of willpower, whereas the mind is where you create, analyze, reason, and evaluate. But the mind also generates emotions and sentiments, some of which are primitive and irrational. Recognizing the clear separation between the willpower of your personality and the function of your mind allows you to choose more dispassionately, thereby avoiding the danger of becoming a slave to every whim, anxiety, or fear.

Your personality is your true self (see You Are a Special Creature). It allows you to see your thoughts, observe your actions, ponder the future, and to consider everything you do in a self-conscious and objective manner. Without knowledge of personality, it is easy to fall into the illusion that you are only what you think. Of course, your thoughts affect your behavior, but it would be more correct to say you are what you believe because your beliefs guide your thoughts and choices (also see Creative Imagination as a Spiritual Technique).

The true power of personality is that it picks and chooses which thoughts it will reject or adopt. You can simply refuse to entertain any particular idea or emotion, just as you can refuse to entertain notions of selfishness, envy, or jealousy. You can also counter unwanted feelings by choosing to be reasonable and logical. But the best way to nudge out your unwanted thoughts is by choosing to fill your mind with divine values, spiritual objectives, and supernal ideals—to express love, compassion, and goodness.

Treat your mind as a separate entity—objectify it—give it a life of its own by speaking to it forcefully but also with love, kindness, and respect. It is your child and your friend, not your foe. It is your mediator between the material and spiritual worlds. Attempting to beat your mind into submission with constant self-criticism will only undermine your feelings of self-worth.

In all your efforts, be persistent. Your mind is reluctant to give up bad habits; it doesn’t like to change. It will conjure up all kinds of sophisticated arguments or stereotypical views to dissuade you.

Once you come to recognize the discretionary power of your personality, you are confronted with the problem of deciding which thoughts to choose. And this is where divine values and the Divine Spirit come into play. Without this inner spiritual guidance, you risk falling back to selfish and immoral states of mind. The unseen Spirit is your source and your inspiration for all your moral decisions, notions of altruism, and spiritual insights.

Training your mind, therefore, begins with your ability to discriminate between your thoughts. And it also comes from the realization that there is, in truth, a correct or divinely led method of choosing, one that is intricately bound up with your faith in the wisdom of the inner Spirit.