Introduce the thought to your mind, “I am whole and complete within myself.” It is a simple thought and has obvious logic. I am simply me. What else could I be? Within us there is a quiet knowing of its truth. It is the comfort we feel when we look into the eyes of an accepting and appreciative loved one. Acceptance of self flows from this encounter and makes life feel complete.
Yet, introducing this thought to our mind may wake up an awareness of a different thought process. Most of us are living with a narrative that is running day to day, generated by the part of our mind that sees life in linearity. To this narrator our lifeline is seen as a procession of tasks and goals and we are always behind the projection of success, not good enough just yet. This narrative reminds us frequently that we are incomplete and partial and goads us on, puts us to work. This is not a bad narrative. It keeps us on track towards goals. If it is the only narrative and dominates all of our time and attention, it can bring with it a load of anxiety, depression, and a poor view of ourselves. It can add up to an underlying self-rejection that menaces the mind from within.
Perhaps both are true. I am whole and complete within myself, and I am expressing and achieving more and more. Tasks that are undertaken when we are grounded in self-acceptance feel different and better. There is evidence that we perform tasks better when we are holding ourselves in acceptance. What is your way of nurturing a sense of wholeness that is a foundation for your efforts? What is the cost of not nurturing this?
More later about methods for nurturing wholeness.
At some point in your life you likely had a pet, and right now you may share your life with a beloved pet. Think for a moment about your pet, about that special connection. Now, quietly breathe your pet’s name. You will probably notice a soothing effect, maybe a smile on your face and in your heart. Just focusing on your relationship with your pet probably lowers your blood pressure, slows your heart, and relaxes your body.
Now imagine your pet, but with no name. It is just an animal living in your house, but it does not have a name. You call it “It” in an impersonal way. The relationship changes and you do not feel that same connection.
This is what happens when we fail to name our experience. Naming our experience involves wrapping words around the experience of self in the moment. There is some evidence that in the human brain words are special connectors between the limbic system (emotional mind) and the neocortex (rational mind). Using words to artfully describe experience blends our emotional and rational mind.
If you have ever been touched by poetry or the lyrics of a song, you know what I am talking about. What if your life is a poem waiting to be written or a song yet unsung? Describing your experience is a first step.
Try this simple exercise. After you read this blog, for the next period of time, maybe an hour, narrate your experience within your own mind. Simply describe moment by moment all the aspects of your experience–sensory, mental, and emotional. And try to describe it in language that is non-judgmental. You will notice and absorb aspects of experience usually unnoticed and unnamed. This will expand your awareness and you will have a deeper perception of the nature of your existence–a luscious blend of thought, feeling, and body awareness. You may experience a spontaneous sense of joy or gratitude for your existence, and as you continue to describe your eyes will be opened to the wonder of the present moment. And your mind can see the balance between pleasure and pain.
As you observe your experience and describe it, it will be more completely yours.
Where is my wise mind? The easy and obvious answer–within me. But where? Many people I meet in my practice as a psychotherapist have either lost touch or never known the presence of their own wise mind. They have come to a dead end–a lack of faith in their own life. They are pushed around by painful feelings and trapped in circles of irrational thought. They may be facing terrible dilemmas. Life seems to have created a perfect situation for their emotional mind and rational mind to feel like mortal enemies. The best thinking they can muster stands in direct contradiction to their most passionate feelings, and resistance to their feelings only makes them more intense. And for many, if the wise mind is present, it feels like it is at a bottom of a well, and the well is boarded up, abandoned and forgotten, maybe even scary.
How do you find that connection that can release the healthful energy of your own wise mind into your conscious awareness? For the next several entries I will be exploring the qualities of mindful awareness, which is a practice that opens access to the wise mind.
Mindful awareness starts in the observer self. If you start observing your own life, you will notice that there is an inner and an outer life–what is inside me and what is outside me, pretty basic. We tend to call the inner our self and the outer our world, but if we carefully observe, it may not be so. For in our inner life there are many things that we can observe–the flow of thoughts, the steady surf of changing emotion, bodily sensation, states like tired, hungry, excited, or relaxed. If we observe carefully, pretty soon we realize that the self observing is different and deeper than the changing realities observed.
Observing my changing emotions, I discover that I am not my emotions–I get a little unstuck. This takes me to a place within myself that is deeper than the current feeling and I am a little more free. Observing my thoughts, I discover that I am not my thoughts. I can begin to see my thoughts and test their truth, and thought becomes more flexible and creative–more of a choice. Observing my changing states, I discover that there is an awareness that moves through all of these changing states like the sun moves unchanged through different skies.
I experience the first hint of the wise mind.
You may wonder about the name of my blog. The Wise Mind is a concept that has come to the fore in psychotherapy circles. It is based on the notion that human consciousness is in three parts. Put simply, the rational mind and the emotional mind are two very distinct aspects of the human experience, operate by different rules, serve different purposes, and are even operating in two different brain systems. Rational and emotional are the thesis and antithesis of our daily lives. There exists a synthesis in the wise mind. In the experience of our wise mind the best of our thinking and the value of our emotions come together as one reality. The polarity is resolved not by confusing reason and emotion, but by appreciating each in its own realm. In the wise mind there is quiet and clarity. The wise mind has the best chance to formulate and execute a plan that is both reasonable and emotionally astute. That is our best chance for creating a great life.
This blog is dedicated to the search for the wise mind in every experience.