Copyright © 2018, Prashant S. Shah; http://www.spiritual-living.in
When we look at the world we do not see it factually like a camera picture. We see it through the lens of our MENTAL MODELS. We use these models to grasp things mentally; to interpret the happenings in the world; and to give meaning to our experiences.
However, the mental models have arisen from our personal experiences, beliefs and assumptions. Hence, what they show us is not objective or true. It is subjective and prejudiced.
When the problem situations of our life arise due to faults in our mental models, we get into stuck situations or our problems keep on repeating. We cannot get out of such situations without first correcting the faults in our mental models. Only after correcting these faults we can generate true solutions and get results we want.
Here we illustrate the role played by our mental models by considering three kinds of learning: No Learning; Ordinary Learning; and Spiritual or Quantum Learning.
- How our mind works
- The role of our Mental Models
- The no-learning habit
- Ordinary learning
- Quantum or spiritual learning
- The place of purification in spiritual life
How our mind works
When we look at the world we do not see it factually like a camera picture. Our mind receives only some impressions of the object and forms a ‘mental image’ of it. The mental image is usually incomplete. So the mind completes it by filling in the missing elements from our memory. This ‘filling in’ is the first source of error.
Next, we do not register this ‘completed image’ into our memory. We interpret the mental image with the help of our mental models. Our mental models are the stored assumptions, concepts and beliefs in our mind. Thus, what we register in our memory is not the original mental impression of the object or situation, but our ‘psychological remake’ of it. This is the second source of error.
The role played by our mental models
Our mind makes ‘mental models’ out of the storehouse of assumptions, concepts and beliefs in our mind. We use these mental models to grasp things mentally; to interpret the happenings in the world; and to give meaning to our experiences.
However, our mental models themselves are made from our personal interpretations. Hence, our perceptions with them are subjective and prejudiced. They show things as we imagine them to be and not as they really are.
When our mental models are faulty, we cannot generate true solutions. We can correct apparent problems but the deeper roots of the problems remain. Sooner or later they drive us into stuck situations or our problems keep on repeating. Hence, we have to correct the faults in our mental models. This is also the inner-work of ‘purification’ in any spiritual pursuits.
Here we show this need by discussing three kinds of learning: No Learning; Ordinary Learning; and Spiritual or Quantum Learning.
The no-learning habit:
In the normal process we learn through feedback. We are using feedback when our present action utilises our past experience. That is, what we do now is done after considering what happened the last time it was done. In this way we correct our mistakes and make improvements.
What happens when we DISREGARD the feedback on our actions? We repeat our actions without regard to the result. We may justify our actions by saying: “I’m like this” or “This is how I do things”. However, when we act like that we are not being intelligent; our actions are inappropriate to the existing situation; and we do not learn from past experience. Some people say: “If you don’t succeed, try and try again”. However, it would be more appropriate to say: “If you don’t succeed, try something DIFFERENT”.
People with the no-learning habit make recommendations without trying to understand the issues or situation; they make prescriptions without trying to diagnose the problem; and they reply without really listening to the question.
In most of us the ‘no learning habit’ continues in some form or another. That happens because it takes a lot of effort to be thoughtful and act intelligently.
When we use the feedback on our actions, we improve our performance; we learn from our experiences; we can act intelligently; and we do not repeat our mistakes. This is method of ordinary learning taught in our schools.
However, this method has one big limitation. If we are searching for the solution in the wrong places, then our feedback and logic will not guide us to the solution. They actually become irrelevant. Hence, the method of ordinary learning cannot be used to ALTER the direction of our search.
Example: If a mistake or an error has arisen due to a fault in our perception, then we cannot correct it with logic. Our perception comes first; it sets the direction for our search — where we look. Subsequently we use logic to organise our thoughts around the perception. So, when our perception itself is faulty, we look for solutions in the wrong places, where they do not exist. Hence, we cannot find them. We can deceive ourselves further by concluding that the problems cannot be solved.
There is an interesting Zen STORY on this point: A monk is searching for a needle. Some people join him in the search. Then someone asks the monk, “Where exactly did you drop the needle?” The monk replies: “I dropped it over there”, pointing to a spot in a distance. Then the person remarks: “You should be looking there; why are you looking for it here?” To which the monk says: “I am looking for it here because the light (lamp post) is here”. This story illustrates how we individually and collectively look for our solutions. We look for them in the places that we are familiar with, or in places where we expect to find them. But what happens if the solution lies in a different place? Then we cannot find it through experimentation, feedback, or logic.
To put it differently, when a mistake in our perception is due to a fault in our mental models (that is in our attitudes, assumptions and beliefs), then we cannot use ordinary learning to correct it. Ordinary learning can only help us in correcting a mistake when the causes are on the ‘object side’ – that is on the outside, as in others. It cannot help us in correcting the mistakes when the causes are on the ‘subject side’ – that is within us, as in our perception. When a fault lies in our mental models, the ‘mistake factor’ is within us. Then ordinary learning cannot help us. We can only use it to make some small superficial improvements, like increasing our efficiency.
Whenever we get into stuck situations or when our problems keep on repeating, we must understand that the root of the cause lies within us, in our mindset. Hence, we cannot solve the problem or situation by trying harder in the same direction. We have to scrutinize our mental models and find the fault there. Next we have to correct it. That will radically alter the direction of our search. However, if we ignore the mental models, we continue to work with the wrong assumptions. It is like looking for our solutions in the wrong places!
Quantum or spiritual learning:
To solve repeating problems or to get out of stuck situations, we have to scrutinise our mental models. We can do it by trying to VALIDATE our assumptions, attitudes and beliefs. It will show us the part of the cause that lies within us. First we have to correct this cause. Then we can to solve the problems that arise on the outside.
Our mental models subconsciously dictate our choices. Hence, by correcting the faults in our mental models, we also clear our perceptions. It alters the ‘lens’ through which we see the world. It changes our experience of the world, our assumptions, and how we regard everything. It re-orients our mind and enables us to look for solutions in the right places. Once we have the right direction, we can use ordinary learning to make our actions result oriented and improve our performance.
Spiritual learning is not limited to correcting the mental models. We scrutinise the entire ‘subjective nature’ of the mind through which we see the world. It raises the ‘quantum level’ of our insight – from where we see. Then we can see clearly; correctly diagnose the cause the problems and generate truly lasting solutions.
The place of purification in spiritual life
In spiritual life we talk of growth in terms of clearing the ‘impurities’ from the mind. These impurities are our personal thoughts, obsessive desires and negative emotions. They create a fog in the mind that obstructs our perception through a higher faculty. Hence, we cannot recognise the true nature of things.
Purification clears this fog. Then we can see things clearly, without distortions; we can situate everything properly; we can know the right place and right order for everything.
The problems that we experience in life, individually and collectively, arise due to the faults in our mental models. The apparent causes of the problems are in the existing situations, but their deeper roots lie within us. So, we cannot generate lasting solutions by merely attending to the apparent causes. Sooner or later we have to deal with roots. To get to the roots we have to look with the right attitude and in the right places.
However, there is a LAZY SIDE to all of us that does not want to make the effort to change our ways. Hence, we keep on searching for external solutions to our problems. Hence, our problems keep on returning. It is similar to what happens when we take ‘a pill’ to solve the health problems that arises due to our faulty eating habits.
Most of us do not want to accept the responsibility for what happens in our life. We’d rather blame our fate or the circumstances; or we hope that the problems will simply disappear in time. Unfortunately the faults in our mental models do not autocorrect. So we keep getting into stuck situations and our problems keep on repeating. If we want a different outcome, we have to undertake purification. If we keep on postponing this task, we can wait for a lifetime.
If you want to implement the ideas contained in this article, please read our Course-4: Advanced Spiritual Practice (Sadhana) under the tab of ‘Correspondence Courses’ on our site http://www.spiritual-living.in