For each of us, there are two worlds that we live in. First there is our personal world, the world we have created or chosen by our beliefs, expectations, hopes and dreams. Then, there is the other world, the real world. When these two worlds are vastly out of sync, sooner or later there is bound to be a collision. And when the real world collides with our personal world, the real world always wins. And the defeat of our personal world is always something full of pain and suffering for us. As a matter of fact, one could define pain and suffering as the difference between these two worlds. Pain and suffering exist only in the mind, only in the resistance to what is.
The problem is that we each have a mind. And in our present day society, we are encouraged from birth to rely upon it. Not much attention or emphasis is placed on the other aspects of our being. Those who are the smartest and the cleverest are rewarded. This is not a problem in itself but the fact that the other parts of our being are ignored is. No one can have a truly happy life by relying upon their mind alone. The mind, though a truly remarkable instrument, is not up to the task of creating a happy life. It has its limitations. But no one teaches us that. We are taught to depend upon it for everything, which is a big problem.
The mind is a creator. It creates things by drawing images of them. The imagination aspect can create a picture of something and thus have it created on the physical plane. The more clearly the mind can imagine all the details of something, the faster that thing or experience will materialize on the physical plane. Thoughts, though they seem so transitory and elusive, are actually a subtle form of matter. Thoughts are things just as things are things. They are just subtle, pre-physical things. But they are things nonetheless. They have mental substance. And the stronger we are attached to that mental structure we create, the more pain and suffering we will endure when that structure, for whatever reason, fails to materialize on the physical plane.
But it gets worse. Not only do we create mental structures that we want to see materialize in the flesh, but we also create structures for things that we do not want to happen. We have a host of things in our mind that fall into the “I want to avoid this at all costs” category. Our mind becomes this elaborate and vast storehouse of all these mental wants and don’t-wants. And this storehouse becomes the world we live in, our personal world. We are constantly looking at life through the glasses colored by this storehouse of likes and dislikes. Whatever we experience, whatever new happens to us in the course of a day, an hour or a week, is quickly compared to our long list of likes and dislikes. If what just happened matches something on our likes or wants list, we experience pleasure. If it matched up with our dislikes or don’t-wants, we experience pain. Can it really be that simplistic? You bet! That is how the mind operates.
Because of our conditioning from early childhood to depend upon our minds we have become strongly identified with it. For most people it is very difficult, if not impossible, to separate themselves from their thoughts, ideas and mental expectations. That is why one of the most important and basic of spiritual practices involves becoming the witness to our mind. Unless and until we can see that we are not our minds, we remain the victim of the likes and dislikes pleasure and pain principle. And just try and control your mind, if you will. For most of us, mental control is completely impossible, utterly inconceivable. People and books, etc. talk about mind control but how many can actually do it? Try it yourself if you want to see what I mean. Sit down, close your eyes and see if you can, let’s say, turn off your mind for a minute. It will not happen. Nor will most people be able to keep their thoughts focused on one thing for more than a few seconds. The mind by nature is as changing as the wind and as wild as the horses on the plains. And on top of that, it has become used to being the ruler of the castle. Once you attempt to control it, it will rebel, in fear of losing this control that it has always had on your life. It is, and has been, in the driver’s seat and has no intention of relinquishing this control.
If the mind were actually able to lead us correctly this wouldn’t be such a bad thing. But our minds are highly susceptible to emotional and other influences. Fear, neediness, anger, lust, and all strong emotions vastly reduce the mind’s effectiveness. The mind was meant to be like a computer. Put in some data and out comes a conclusion or evaluation. If any strong emotions influence the mind, it puts out nothing but crap. And most of the mental structures we hold that cause us pain and suffering on a daily basis are ones that were created under emotional duress.
For example, most of us have childhood traumas that left us with emotional wounds. These wounds show up as conditioned emotional responses to certain situations or stimuli. The mind is trying like hell to resolve these gaps in happiness. And so it churns them over, again and again, and comes up with plans and ideas on ways to remedy these emotional gaps in happiness. But the mind is only able to effect changes on the external or physical plane. It is not equipped to deal with interior changes, and certainly not willing to shut itself down in order to effect healing or other internal changes that might be necessary. Most of us have used our minds to create elaborate structures, mentally and in the physical world, to avoid things that will cause us to feel these emotional pains that are left from our childhood. One example would be the common notion of finding the perfect partner in order to be happy in life. The mind is good at setting goals and creating things. So, finding the perfect partner is something the mind can get into. But often the real problem is not in the partner we have but inside of us. And the mind just cannot go there.
As a matter of fact, it will be difficult, if you have a strong mind, to even go where the real problem lies in situations like this. Your mind will not want to give up any of your attention, the attention that you may need to focus on your feelings for example. Most people who start to explore their feelings on different matters of life will find their mind constantly coming in there, trying to get attention back upon itself. It becomes a nuisance rather than the helper it was designed to be.
The true solution is to learn to separate our identities from our minds and to regain control over it. We don’t have to kill the mind, we only need to be able to see it for what it is and be able to determine when to follow it and when not to. Whenever we find ourselves in a situation where we are feeling pain and suffering, we can bet that our mental structures are the cause. In those moments we can stop and examine our expectations, beliefs and points of view and make adjustments, mentally. We can bring our mental structures in alignment with what is actually happening in the real world. This process of making mental adjustments in favor the real world is also called purification of the mind. And this is a job that each of us is responsible to carry out. If we are ever to have long-term happiness, we must begin removing all the mental structures that just do not match up with the real world.
Truthfully, our concepts can never match up with the real world 100%. This is because the real world is actually changing constantly. However, this is no excuse to not remove the glaring misinterpretations, false beliefs and expectations that are causing us suffering on a daily basis. And though the real world is constantly changing and evolving, you can live a life that is 90% or more happy and fulfilled by just getting rid of these false mental structures that you call your world.
No matter what spiritual or religious path you are on, you will sooner or later begin this work. It is an inevitable part of spiritual growth, this purification of the mind. Your particular path may now be the path of the heart, but you will someday also have to purify your mind.
According to the Magi texts, we can only do the work of mind purification while here on the physical plane. It cannot happen during our stay in the astral between incarnations. Therefore, the Magi regard this time on earth as being very precious for doing this work. They encourage us to use it wisely and use it to strengthen and purify our thoughts. They also say that this work of mind purification is part of our rightful good. Once this work is performed no man, nor even God, can take that away from us. It is our rightful good and will follow us from this life into the next and beyond. It is truly the treasure that is stored up in heaven that neither moths nor rust may corrupt.
My personal philosophy has always been, ‘when in doubt, always trust reality’. What I mean by this is that what is happening in our life is always more truthful and meaningful than what we think should be happening. I also believe that everything that happens in life happens by God’s wish. I do not believe that anything that happens in this world is outside of God’s jurisdiction. He condones and blesses everything that occurs here on this Earth plane. Therefore, in order to feel his love and blessings, I stay tuned to the real world. And when my expectations do not agree with what is happening in God’s real world, I abandon them or make adjustments to my thinking to embrace His reality. It’s a matter of surrender to the divine will.