Tag Archives: Mind

Wherever I go you are there…

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Psalm 139:8 

Again and again I see in descriptions of God in the Bible the connection between the infinite Deity and my internal mind. Wherever I go there is God and wherever I go there is my mind. Does this mean I am never alone? Does this mean God is my companion? Does this mean my mind is my companion?

Is God separate from me? Am I separate from my mind? Is God separate from my mind? Are they all the same in some elusive manner?

Does it matter if they are all the same? Does it matter if they are all different? Should I spend time thinking about this?  Will this get me anywhere or accomplish anything? Is pondering this ultimately to my benefit?

Through meditation (at least to me) these questions arise. But these are thoughts and when I meditate and find my mind wondering I bring it back to center. I anchor myself in the present moment. I observe and let the thoughts pass.

But I am not always meditating and yes, it is interesting to speculate about these things. But ultimately these ponderings do not lead me anywhere. They do not build a better foundation. They only send me wandering (wondering).

In meditation my foundation is in the silence that underlies my thoughts. My rock and my salvation is in the God that underlies the reality in which my mind (and the thoughts it creates) exist. It is in the silence that I find peace because nothing can be done to silence. Even if there is noise that fills the silence there is still silence underneath it. Nothing can be done to nothing. For even the things that fill the nothingness exist within the nothingness.

I am me. I think and worry and I fill my day with things to do. And underneath all of this underlies silence and nothingness and God.

There is something little disturbing about all of this. I want to be me. I want to be immortal. I want the things that I know and love to be real and meaningful. But is it my true self that funds this disturbing or is it my ego?

Wherever I go, you are there. I am never alone and I am always alone at the same time. At times this is a peaceful thought. Other times it is a burden. When these thoughts arise and I bring myself back to center and the present moment, am I running away from something that disturbs me or am I leaving to itself something that does not serve me? I am as connected to these thoughts as I am to God and peace. For certainly it is true that wherever I go my mind and its thoughts are there. But it is equally true that wherever I go the silence and the nothingness that underlies the reality in which my mind and thoughts exist are there as well.

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Defining the Mind

There are many theories on the mind and many different terms used to describe how the mind works.  For example, the term “Ego” can mean different things in different contexts.

Dictionary.com lists six distinct definitions for ego, the first two of which are the ones most commonly used in popular culture.  Although these terms are commonly used (sometimes interchangeably) they are quite different.  The first definition is:

the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
This definition, I believe, refers to the type ego that you might hear used by Yoga instructors, Eckhart Tolle, or Depak Chopra.  This ego is the “false self” that separates itself from the “true self” to cope with and survive in reality.  This ego is often referred to pejoratively as a problem to be overcome or a sickness of some kind.  This is true in a sense because this type of ego often is maladaptive and creates more problems than it originally set out to solve, but this type of ego is also a defense mechanism protecting the self from external assaults.  I believe that was the original intent behind bringing the ego into existence.  It’s an ally that comes to help but then takes over.
The second definition of ego is:
the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment [also known as the ‘super ego’].
This is the Freudian definition of ego I learned as a psychology major in college.  This ego works in concert with id and the super ego.  The id is the primitive part of the mind that covets.  The super ego is the moralistic part of the mind that councils not to listen to the id.  The ego is the part of the mind that decides between the id and the super ego.  This ego seems more like beneficent administrator than the false self ego.
There are other systems used to define and classify the parts and functions of the mind.  In other posts I have talked about the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex.  There seem to be some correlations between the “false self” ego, the id and the limbic system.  They all seem to covet and do not do not seem concerned with moral issues.  But the limbic system and the id do not think in terms of language and logic but rather emote whereas the false self ego can be critical and judgmental as well as emotional.

Similarly there appear to be parallels between the super ego and the prefrontal cortex.  Both of these concepts can think logically and use language.    The prefrontal cortex is able to receive the urging from the limbic system but then use reason to decide whether it makes sense to act on it.  The super ego challenges the id in a similar but slightly different (more moralistic) way.

The freudian ego and the true self do not seem to be similar concepts.  The freudian ego is similar to the prefrontal cortex in that it receives advice from the id and the super ego and decides the best course.  The true self is mostly awareness combined with compassion and a small amount of will.  This is more of a spiritual concept.

Then there is thinking and feeling overlaid on these structures.  Thinking is labeling, conceptualizing, making into words, reasoning, planning remembering.  Feeling is a physical sensation in the body in the body connected to an emotion such as happiness, sadness, fear.  Feeling is more primitive but it is also more honest.  Thinking is more advanced but can engage in falsehoods.

The conclusion seems to be that there are many overlapping concepts use to describe the mind and its functions.  But they do not fit together seamlessly and can cause confusion.  The reality is that all these concepts do overlap in a manner that is probably not understood completely by any one (or perhaps all) schools of thought.  It might not even be helpful to design an entire system to encompass them all.  Where would that get us anyway?

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