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Learning to differentiate your mind from your self

Above and beyond all experiences there is a witness. There is something there that witnesses your dreams, that is in all your experiences, it is the definition of passive, of accepting, of awareness. If you have a brain injury and your personality changes, so much so that nobody even knows you to be the same person, well that same witness is right there with you.

Your Mind is not your self.

Modern science cannot find an actual ‘self’, there is no mini-me sitting inside you head observing and commenting on the passing parade of thoughts, experiences, sights and sounds. Your inner dialogue (don’t worry, we all have one, usually a cacophony) is a ongoing conversation with no centre of reference. It certainly feels like there is. There is a definite sense of continuity through time, a me that learned to ride a bike, to make a cup of tea, that kissed his first girl, that got his first job, etc… but that is memory of an experience, quite different from knowing that there was a permanent and real ‘you‘, the same as the current ‘you‘ reading this.

So what actually is this sense of continuity?

Above and beyond all experiences there is a witness. There is something there that witnesses your dreams, that is in all your experiences, it is the definition of passive, of accepting, of awareness. If you have a brain injury and your personality changes, so much so that nobody even knows you to be the same person, well that same witness is right there with you.

You could call it the immediacy of experience, some people call it the soul, still others call if the self, or the higher self, or any number of other words and names.

However the one thing we can mostly agree on is that it cannot be named as it arises and exists prior to language, prior to description. It was there before we gained the intelligence to name things, it remains there through think and thin throughout our waking, sleeping and dreaming lives, and perhaps it will be there afterwards too.

Your mind is that part of you which experiences, it is the field in which experiences happen, whether a sight, a sound, a smell or anything passing through as thoughts. In fact all experiences are made of mind stuff since its only in the mind that they exist, we assume there is something ‘out there’ for sensory experiences, but the reality is that it cannot be found to exist in any way other than light particles and waves, and changes on the wavelengths of air hitting your ear. All the good stuff, the actual experience is in fact interpretation, in the mind. As such its not so far removed from thinking, which we experience as a sort-of ‘in here’ experience. But again, its mostly imagination, internal dialogues and memories, plans, expectations, imagination of pleasures, regrets and a lot of what if’s.

This is the mind.

The mind is like the cinema screen, but there is still a watcher. The watcher, that which witnesses the show, has no qualities we can adequately describe since it doesn’t get involved, other than to say its our natural consciousness, it is that which allows anything at all to be experienced, whether internal thoughts or apparently external sensory experiences, it is through the fundamental ground of consciousness that all things can exist in our own inner and outer worlds.

And it is this that we seek to relate to, to be drawn into a closer relationship with, during mindfulness and meditation practice.

Why?

It does not worry, it does not have anything lacking, it is fully and utterly complete in itself. And when our flawed and troubled minds come into touch with it, when we allow it to arise consciously through mindfulness and meditation, with our sustained focused awareness, those feelings of completeness spread through our noisy, changeable, fluctuating minds and moods, and the experience is joyful. The effect is long term, repeatable and has a power to transform our relationships with the whole world and ourselves.

So that is the difference between your Mind, the changing noisy stream of good and bad experiences sights and sounds, aqnd your ‘self ‘ (for want of a better term), the open, free, unhindered, uninhibited seat of your own consciousness.

 

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