Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?
The mind is like a bio-computer, one that we forget to upgrade. So it runs on obsolete software of very old stories that have crystalized into a virus. This virus is the ego, the running commentary in our mind, the dictator that keeps us lost in time-travelling between the past and the future, never coming close to our present in-the-moment experience. Most of us are oblivious to the fact that our minds can be upgraded if only we’d wake up and see – Aha, the mind is not me; t’s mine but it’s not who I truly am.
This client works in computers and describes his habituated patterns of thinking as “running on old programmes”:
“I learned that I was running on the same old programmes and didn’t even know an update was possible until I started coaching.” (W.M., client)
Your brain runs on ‘software’ comprising your belief systems and their accompanying emotions. When new software is installed, you as bio-computer gain more memory. Now you have even more ‘knowledge’, more beliefs, ideas and opinions with which to argue the toss. And maybe the software allows you to run your mouth even faster in defending your point of view. This is true of the vast majority of the world’s minds. They run on what Integral calls 1st tier levels of consciousness. All these levels have one thing in common; they are all ruled by an ego that says that their particular way of looking at the world is the only correct way. People perpetrate wars to impose this one correct way. So adding more softwear programmes to 1st tier levels of consciousness only keeps you a prisoner of your ego.
Upgrading your mind means acquiring a whole new operating system, a 2nd-tier level of consciousness. Now a magical transformation happens as you rise above ego and a new way of seeing clicks into place. Thoughts don’t go away, they are included in your reality. The difference is that they are now transcended so that they can be perceived from a distance. 2nd tier levels of consciousness are permanent stages along the expanding spectrum of consciousness available to us. We find a wiser and more compassionate depth of awareness where there’s no more self-torture or torturing of anyone else. At 2nd tier we can take an overview; we can stand back and see within ourselves all of the levels of first tier clearly without identifying with any one of them. This is the upgrade from the tyranny of the mind to freedom, when we can dis-identify with our thoughts and realize they no longer define our reality.
Aha moments are very powerful tools for upgrading the mind to this more embracing, more evolved operating system. We realize that we have thoughts and beliefs but we are not those thoughts or beliefs. They are simply stories that we have spun, or more accurately, allowed to have spun for us. Waking up to this means that we no longer hook our personal wagon to the illusory stories of our fixed points of view. Mental life becomes much richer and lighter as we find ourselves relieved of the burdens of defending our belief systems. With an update to 2nd tier, a wiser, more tolerant and more loving attitude towards ourselves and others quite naturally develops.
It is imperative to wake up to the fact that you have a choice here: do you allow your life to be dictated to by virus ridden old computer software or do you transform your inner world by upgrading to a higher level of consciousness? The mind is an amazing evolutionary tool. And when reasoning or imagination or creative invention is called for, it has no equal. The problem is not the mind used as intellect, but the power of unconscious thoughts to run your life. Then the mind is like a herd of wild horses that have escaped captivity and are running amok in every direction. So you feel scattered, ‘all over the place’. By reclaiming control of your mind the wild ones become tamed. (Of course, thoughts need to be made conscious and parts 1a and 1b of this series on mind addressed this). Here is one of the secrets of erasing the virus in your mind:
Take a third-person perspective, or meta-view on your thoughts. This is a higher order of thinking that ‘looks down’ on thoughts so to speak. It’s meta-thinking - thinking about thinking; reflecting on your belief systems. This can be achieved by creating mental space between you and your mind games - your ‘old programmes’, seeing them as objects in your awareness so that you can now consciously perceive the bugs in the system.
This client recounts how taking a meta-view allowed her to see her egoic games from a distance. During a creative visualization, her coach had invited both of them to travel above the city in a helicopter and view her life from this detached perspective:
“My coach asked me to describe what I saw from this ‘on-high’ perspective. As I looked down on me and my colleagues, suddenly I could see the way I was being, the games I was involved in” (D.C., client).
Taking a gentle, non-judgmental approach to one’s mind games encourages Aha moments:
“Aha moments happen when I take a step back and reflect on my own mind games, without judgment. I can also go into my body and listen to what it has to tell me” (S.L., client).
When thoughts are out in the open, they can be examined simply as objects in your awareness. Just like any other objects, they can be experimented upon, manipulated, played with. You can look at the contents of your mind as you would look now at the sentences on this page– outside of you, spread before you for your consideration. You take a step back:
“I’ve learned to take a step back and can now see the bigger picture in situations!” (F.H., client)
Aha moments constantly reveal the importance of meta-thinking and feeling:
“The common theme in my insights is a sense of pulling back from the situation and sensing a system or big picture thing at work”. (K.C., client)
Your thoughts are not you, however persuasive the ego makes them sound and however much you believe them. Meditation allows you to see that the contents of your mind are just like clouds that pass in the sky. Thoughts just come and go, creating no emotional reactions if we let them, if we don’t attach to them, if we don’t follow those crazy horses galloping in all directions. We simply witness them, we allow them to pass over the vast blue sky of our open awareness and float away.
Mind and body are never separate and so meta-awareness can trigger a change in emotions. This awareness of being aware links body and mind to create a bodymind unity that heralds an upgrade to 2nd tier consciousness, a more intuitive level of understanding. After flights of fantasy with her coach this client’s meta-view has created a sense of expansion:
“Feeling expansion my mind…letting other possibilities in, allowing my imagination to lift me up and put me in touch with the bigger picture”. (L. M., client)
1. It’s great when you have a coach and there’s two of you to get in the helicopter and look down on yourself, your thoughts, feelings and actions from this ‘on-high’ perspective, but even a solo ride will produce Aha moments. So climb aboard your helicopter, stand on the rim of the plate, or whatever metaphor works for you in being able to separate yourself from your mind and see its contents in your awareness. Take a meta-view.
2. Meditation: Close your eyes and picture this: you are sitting in a green pasture on a lovely summer’s day beside a sparkling stream. Breathe deeply into your belly and allow your attention to follow your breath. When a thought arises, drop it softly into the stream. Notice that when it lands it turns into a little leaf that floats gently down the stream and fades from view. Continue dropping your thought leaves into the stream until you’re all thought out. Practice daily, even for a few minutes.