Aha Moments of the Mind: Map Making

“The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.” 
― Rumi

Young people won’t remember how travellers in the London underground system used to find their route. Picture this. You look down into this glass-encased map of London showing underground routes marked by tiny light bulbs. There is an alphabetical list of tube stops under the map. You choose your desired destination from the list and voila! The little bulbs that show your quickest route obligingly light up in unison with a ping.

That is what your mind is like. A thought enters it and ping! – you disappear again into your mental cyber space, your virtual reality where the same old neural pathways light up, motivating the same old behaviour, keeping you trapped in the same old life! As they say in Buddhism, not advancing is retreating. Unlike the underground map, your neuronal lights are invisible. More than 95% of their activity is not on your conscious map of reality. Imagine that! You consider yourself a switched on human being and yet hardly any of your little neuronal light bulbs are firing. This is your crazy mind, a deeply unconscious mire of unused lighting. You sit in the dark, with your tiny little limiting beliefs about yourself, about others and about the world, not knowing that most of your potentials are switched off. That is your current map of reality, hardly any current running through it all. It won’t take you very far will it? Just round and round the same old circuits to the same old, same old days.

Our maps of reality started upon exit from the womb. We were born to parents who were not here for us, not present to our heart-felt, soul-felt needs, even if their physical bodies were with us. They were in the la-la land of their minds, lost in thought and therefore unable to acknowledge us, fully embrace us, make us feel safe, see and hear us without judgment, make us feely truly, deeply loved. So we learned that the world was not a safe place and that love doesn’t flow to us unconditionally. These early lessons and the beliefs and feelings that formed around them terrified us so much that we promptly buried them. And yet these repressed beliefs and feelings linger just under the surface, shaping our worldview and dictating the narrowness of our lives. If you felt abandoned, unloved or abused as a child you will have an unconscious belief that this is what life is like, this is what people are like and you may well attract the kind of people who will abandon you and abuse you. At least to your tiny mind these people will give you the feeling of coming home, no matter how abusive home was. That’s where you learned what love is and your unconscious is seeking home.

The physicist David Bohm had a great metaphor for the mind and its contents. He dubbed it ‘electrochemical fog’, a murky maze where we blunder again and again into the same old unconscious ways of experiencing our lives. The fog blinds us to the truth of who we are. It keeps us lost in the monkey mind, swinging from past to future, rushing to judgment of ourselves and others, all the while missing the only life available to us, the one that is happening right now in this very moment. This is the only thing you can say in truth. I am. Right now I am. There is a sense of I-amness always available to us. Being lost in thought means we lose this awareness that is the ground of everything that is arising and passing in our minds. Being lost in thought means losing our true identity. For we Westerners, this is the tragic state we are in – lost in thought.

There is a way out of the fog. With insight, your mind can be revealed and rewired. Aha moments switch on new little light bulbs, ones that lead you out of darkness and into the light, out of fear and into love. This is because they light the way out of the usual roadmaps and into your true Self. This is the consciousness you find behind all the maps, an awareness that preceded all your beliefs and ideas and assumptions. In this awareness lies undreamed of destinations like peace and happiness. But first, you must bring your maps into conscious awareness. This is the first step in escaping the tyranny of your thoughts and their outdated pathways. It is easy to bring pathways lying just under the radar of consciousness to light, as this client discovered during his Aha moment:

“I realised that I knew consciously that I had pre-conceived ideas about what would happen in a situation” (S. P., client)

Aha moments unearth thinking that is much more deeply buried too. This client writes in her journal to encourage Aha moments from her unconscious mind:

 “I know that when I write, allowing my unconscious to spill out on paper, I sometimes have Aha moments. I can remember this happening particularly when I allowed different parts of my psyche a voice.  As I moved the pen as fast as I could to capture their words, a dialogue would emerge among them from which an Aha moment might occur” (M.L., client).

You do not need more thinking, more ideas or more belief systems, yours or anybody else’s! You need to take a great big rock and chuck it into the stagnant pool of your mind. There is no point in tinkering around throwing pebbles onto the surface and unsettling the waters a trifle. Rearranging your thoughts is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. You might end up with better thoughts but you’re still stuck in your head with your limiting beliefs. Smash through them. This client did:

“The Aha moment suddenly smashes through the crust of consciousness to reveal what was hidden underneath”. (S.D., client).

As well as revealing your current mental maps or belief systems, Aha moments can also re-wire the brain, setting up completely new circuits. Neuroscience confirms a nanosecond of ‘brainstall’ before the Aha moment bursts into full cognition. The new neural pathways encouraged by Aha moments can be created in only 28 days. This is what is meant by neuroplasticity. Ahas can switch on unused neurons:

“It’s as if the brain has to stop before re-orienting itself in a new direction”. (D.L., client)


Examine your own underground mental maps. Observe your thoughts dispassionately. Find out what little bulbs keep lighting up.

One great way to do this is through journaling:

1.    Decide on a time limit of between ten and thirty minutes and set an alarm.

2.     Lay the Gremlins aside, take a few deep breaths, open up your heart and write about the contents of your mind.

3.     Do not punctuate, do not worry about grammar or spelling, do not stop, just write, without censor, without judgment, just spill your guts onto the paper.

You’ll be surprised how the simple act of regular journaling will yield Aha moments big and small, bringing into the light of consciousness that which has lurked underground.