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Let us establish a few matters regarding the mind, the self, and beyond, or outside ...
First, the mind comes and goes. The brain is not the mind; the mind is what the brain does.
Second, the mind is one capacity within a larger embodied self. The self is not limited to form. The body lives within the self.
Last, the self derives from and lives within a whole by which it exists. An early Christian, drawing off Greek philosophy, said, while speaking in Rome, "For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring'" (Acts 17.28). All great spiritual traditions point us to this Wholeness, this Intelligence, this Presence, but cannot name it - though they have many names for it. That we differ on how we speak of it is not paramount, that we acknowledge it is.
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (France, 1614-1691), a Christian monk, points us to this Something we find rest in - knowing we do not find rest anywhere else.
He [Brother Lawrence] has formed this habit, he says, by acts of will that bring his mind back into God's presence frequently. So that as soon as he is free from his ordinary occupations - and often even when he is most engaged with these - the tip of his mind, the intent, or the highest part of his soul rises with no effort on his part, and remains as if it were suspended and fixed in God, above all earthly matters, finding its center and its place of rest.
*Nicholas Herman [Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection]. Practice of the Presence: A Revolutionary Translation. Trans. Carmen Acevedo Butcher.
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This morning, in prayerful silence, after the rising of "See Life happen around you," the mind begins spinning a story. The story is appealing, but I do not want to be in it.
Suddenly, I am out of the story; it has unwoven, dropped. Awareness arises of two bare feet on the floor, a holy, here-and-now grounding... new and fresh - even alive.
Another story begins to arise inside this Hereness, Nowness, Aliveness, for that is the mind's nature. Storying is what it does. Yet, the story is not pulling me into its narrative. I see it as though from the outside looking in, observing free of it.
A wonderful story now. One about the wonder and beauty of being alive and feeling life, like these two bare feet resting on a floor.
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The mind is not your enemy. It is useful, even necessary. The mind is a tool. You lay an instrument aside when you use it to accomplish something and finish it. You do not keep holding on to it. A carpenter does not take a hammer to the kitchen table to eat a meal with the family.
We learn to use the mind - rather than it using us - and lay it aside when it serves its purpose. How many of us identify with the tool called the mind? How many of us get so immersed in the stories of the mind we lose touch with ourselves? We think we are who we think we are. When we identify with the mind, our identity arises from the mind.
The mind arises within you; you are not encapsulated within it. If you identify with its stories, you lose yourself. The plots capture consciousness - you.
Learn to allow the stories to play out while you remain the observer. In this role, you can practice dropping the story. The power of the play of mind over consciousness gradually lessens. You discover consciousness does not stick as quickly or remain stuck as long to mental narratives.
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You do not need to see the play of mind as bad. Still, you realize everything of the mind is fantasy.
I once told a congregation I served as a pastor that if one-hundred persons were present that Sunday morning, there would be one-hundred gods present. Each attendee would have a version of Spirit. Whether we call the story secular or sacred, profane or religious, unspiritual or spiritual, it is a story.
The fantasy of mind stories does not mean they are untrue or true, only that the mind cannot contain reality. However, the mind can be a means of approximation of the truth. Hence, on that Sunday, one-hundred fantasies of Spirit would not mean the fantasies were untrue, only they were not true in case of distortion of truth or an inability of mind to communicate Spirit.
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Last, in detachment from the mind, you can be inquisitive while you remain an observer. You can practice what some Buddhists call "beginner's mind." In childlike wonderment, you can watch the mind and receive insight.
In silence we practice being watchful. This watchfulness leads us back before the mind, where in not-knowing, we know. The nonconceptual arises through the embodied self as felt truth, not thought. All presences are absorbed back into their origin - Presence.
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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2023.
*Use of photography is allowed accompanied by credit given to Brian K. Wilcox and title and place of photograph.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse.