Separating oneself apart from a purely mental identity is the most important developmental step in human consciousness. Our basic understanding of consciousness happens through the mind (as an idea, a mental construct) and for most people it remains centered there, conceptualized within (as part of) the brain itself. The notion of consciousness existing separately from the brain is difficult, if not impossible, for most people to accept, and it is this very resistance—this lack of providing enough space and support for a higher consciousness to develop—that causes the vast majority of physical, mental and emotional problems that people experience.
We are born as purely spiritual entities, without mind, without mental consciousness, completely centered in our physical bodies and our emotions. The world we are born into (our society), however, is conversely centered around the mind—around mental constructs, language, science, mathematics, religion, business, etc.—and to survive and be successful in the world of mind, we must rapidly accelerate our mental growth, must acquire and manipulate all of the aforementioned constructs as fast as we can and at all cost, to the obvious detriment to our more natural, physical and emotional selves.
The physical/emotional self is always there, but for fully mind-identified people (which is most people), the physical/emotional self is neglected, ignored, starved and left to atrophy. Developing a strong mind is absolutely a critical step in the evolution of consciousness, but if that is the final step—if the physical/emotional self is not at some point returned to and given equal advancement, cultivation and encouragement—then that consciousness will remain one-sided, and at best reach half of its actual potential. Higher consciousness is a seamless integration of both the mental and physical/emotional selves; higher consciousness is two-sided and sharp on both sides, like an arrow.
The problems people experience—the sickness, disease, psychosis, misery, malady—are not problems with the mind itself but are problems with the use of the mind. Many of us are aware of and even complain about the mind being overused: “My brain won’t shut up,” or “I can’t stop thinking about this or that,” etc., but what most people are unaware of is the misuse of mind. Mind is a very specific tool designed for very specific purposes: for example, it can discern whether a particular plant is edible or poisonous; it can recognize and predict weather patterns in the natural world, yet it can’t appreciate the beauty of the natural world; that is where the problem begins.
Fully mind-identified people use their minds in every situation, in places where mind has no business being. When you are admiring a perfect sky, or a fiery sunset, that is when the emotional self should be active, without thinking, just feeling and experiencing. As soon as you say “This is beautiful,” you have labeled it and mind has entered. From there the thoughts will continue: “That cloud looks like a cat;” “This reminds me of the beach;” now you are engaged in a mental activity and the experience itself is diminished, as mind is coming between your existential self and its physical/emotional connection to that moment.
The same is true for love. When you are in a loving state, mind’s presence will weaken the intensity of the feeling. As soon as you say “I love you,” you have again labeled the feeling. It is ok to acknowledge any emotion when you feel it, but know that that is opening the door to all the other thoughts: “Why do I love you?” “How do I love you—let me count the ways…” Love, or any powerful, deeply-felt emotion is not meant to be understood; it is meant to be experienced deeply, and the mind’s constant intrusion keeps us from understanding that depth. All the mystics’ talk of nirvana, rapture, heaven, has to do with them finding that unbroken connection between the existential self and existence. They live in a place of which most of us only get seconds-long or minutes-long glimpses.
Asking yourself before loving “Can I love this person?” or “Is this dangerous?” is a smart application of mind because it is dealing with rationality, but once you move into the loving state, mind’s presence will only impede upon the feeling. When you are looking at that perfect view, or sitting in that perfect moment, you have to be the master and make the mind quiet, so you can experience it as fully and as deeply as possible. This is the ultimate (as well as the easiest way to start) meditation.
As you become more aware of your physical/emotional self, it will naturally grow and present itself more often in not only the remarkable moments but in the mundane, everyday parts as well. Without much effort it will become your baseline, as it was when you were young, because it is peaceful and still, and your being naturally gravitates towards its more natural state. When you do use your mind, it will operate with amazing clarity and precision, and even when the mind freaks out, your body and emotions won’t be as affected because the mental self is no longer dominant. This is the higher consciousness, and with awareness, and a little practice, it can easily be activated.
Andrew Crenshaw lived in Taiwan for 7 years, studying traditional medicine, language, philosophy, religion and spirituality. Professionally, he has taught composition, TESOL and general-education English at National Taiwan University, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, National Taipei University of the Arts, University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College, and Western Kentucky University. He is currently working for Jefferson County Public Schools in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.