We are born with a mind that directs our attention outward, towards things in the external world. Hence, we do not see the interior world or understand the realities of inner life. As a result we are easily confused about the true purpose of our life on earth or what we have come here to achieve.
To understand such things in the spiritual context, we have to journey into our interior; into the deeper realms of our own consciousness. What do we find? Here are some insights of this journey.
- Our condition at the beginning
- Taking control of our attention
- The nature of the subconscious
- What we see in the subconscious
- The inner battle
- After the victory
- The separate awareness
- The purpose of the separate awareness
- Awareness beyond the mind
1. Our condition at the beginning
In the beginning, that is before we undertake the journey within, into the interior of our own consciousness, our attention is exclusively turned outward, towards things in the external world. To begin this journey we have to withdraw some of our attention from outer things and direct it inward, into our interior.
At first this will be very difficult to do. Our mind is like a restless monkey. It keeps on hopping from one thing to another. It keeps us continuously distracts by outer things. We get fascinated by them. However, we cannot dwell on any one thing for sufficient time to really understand it. So, we observe everything superficially, and our understanding remains shallow.
Our attention it totally caught up with personal thoughts. So we keep on think of ourselves, our pending matters, our desires, our possessions, or our future.
2. Taking control of our attention
We can change this wandering tendency of the mind by practising concentration. Earlier our mind was like a ‘wild horse’, constantly resisting our control and distracting our attention. But as our concentration improves, this wild horse gets tamed. Our mind begins to listen to us; our attention follows our will.
We can use concentration practice to bring together all the scattered forces of our attention. When these different forces come together they are compelled to adjust and integrate themselves under the central leadership of our will. It makes our will strong and powerful.
We can use this strong will-power to control the thoughts and emotions that frequently occupy our mind. We do it by simply accepting the thoughts and emotions that we want, and by rejecting those we don’t want. In this way we can remove the distracting thoughts and disturbing emotions from our mind. It will make our mind becomes calm, alert and one-pointed.
Such a mind allows us to observe its contents – the thoughts and emotions that occupy it; and the mindset – the beliefs and tendencies that we use to interpret the happenings of life. We see how our habits and tendencies compel our behaviour. We see how these forces dominate our thinking and feelings, and decide our beliefs.
Now we can begin to change this inner situation; to free our mind from the compulsions created by our habits and tendencies. However, when we try to change or re-set our habits and tendencies is that we only succeed in making some superficial or cosmetic changes; and even these changes are not long lasting. That is, when we relax our control the habits and tendencies tend to return.
That happens because our habits and tendencies are rooted in the subconscious, whereas our will-power is mainly functional in the conscious mind.
3. The nature of the subconscious
The subconscious is a dark region of our mind. It is called ‘dark’ because here we do not see things clearly. Hence, we cannot observe how the forces work in this region.
We see things clearly at the surface, in the conscious mind; but here also our control is limited. That happens because some of these forces are supplied from below, from the subconscious.
So, what happens when we try to uproot a small or insignificant habit or tendency? The habit tends to return. That happens since the habit is empowered by the thoughts, emotions and desires that are connected with it in the subconscious. Since we do not see these connections clearly we take a compromising approach and settle for some small adjustments.
4. What we see in the subconscious
However, we can learn to take the ‘light of our awareness’ into the subconscious and observe these forces. Then we see the ‘hidden contents’ of our mind – our suppressed desires and emotions. They live here, and every now and then they come into our conscious mind and make us indulge them. Further, they make us justify having them. It gives them a hold in our nature and the right to return. In this way they break our will to resist them.
When we can see the working of these forces clearly, we know that our tendencies have friends. They have made connections, associations and alliances with other forces in the subconscious. So, when we try to overcome even a simple habit, we are not we are not dealing with just one thing, but we are dealing with a whole web of forces. This web of forces is strong, and it can resist our effort to change. So what seems to be simple actually turns out to be difficult and complex.
The habits and tendencies of our nature are like ‘entities’ that have a parasite-like existence. They feed on our attention by keeping a hold over our vital urges, inclinations, imagination and mindset. However, once we see all this clearly we can begin to uproot our tendencies and change our habits.
5. The inner battle
Before we change or uproot any habit or tendency, first we have to weaken it. We do it by finding its connections in our mind and disconnecting them. For example, if we want to overcome our craving for some food, we must begin by developing an aversion to having it. It will reduce its power.
Initially the tendency is strong like a lion, but after we cut its connections it becomes weak like mouse. We cannot throw out the lion, but we can easily close up the mouse hole.
Once the tendency has lost its power, it cannot move us with its suggestions; it cannot decide our behaviour; and it cannot make us dance to its tune.
However, these entities don’t leave us without putting up a fight. They may try to seduce us into believing that a life without (indulging) them will be dull, dry and uninteresting. And if we are taken up by such suggestions, we give them the right to continue or persist. Then they can again become active and try to dominate our awareness.
It is expected that there will be many battles inside the mind, and so for some time we may struggle. But if we persist, we will succeed. And the behaviour, urges, beliefs and philosophy that were built around this habit or tendency will also change.
6. After the victory
The entities in our subconscious do not have a power of their own; they merely draw it from our will-power. So, when we overcome some habit or tendency, our will-power gets stronger. And with a stronger will-power it will be easier for us to overcome other bigger or more vital habits and tendencies.
We can continue this process until we have overcome all the contradictory forces within our nature. It will overcome our inner resistance to doing anything. And as a result, our internal conflicts, aversions, and subconscious reactions to the happenings in the world will also disappear.
Earlier the forces in the subconscious would project illusions in our mind and tempt us or deceive us to scatter our force. But after we have cleared these entities from our subconscious, we do not experience wish or fear projections. Hence, we are not deceived easily. The light of our intellect pass right through the subconscious, so we see everything clearly. We do not act in ignorance and we are not easily fooled.
In the earlier stages of our spiritual practice we had to make a lot of effort to concentrate. Now our attention is free from the binding influences from the subconscious. Hence, no extra effort is needed. Our concentration is ‘at will’. We simply focus on something and our attention gets concentrated around it.
7. The separate awareness
Then we can keep the habit of keeping our mind in a concentrated state. It develops a ‘Separate Awareness’ within our consciousness. Something separates from our personal nature, but remains within our consciousness. It is a calm, wide and alert state of mind. It sees everything clearly, but it remains unaffected by what it sees. We can use this separate awareness to develop our insight and have a multidimensional point of view.
Initially this ‘separate awareness’ remains in the background. So we have to concentrate upon it to access it. But gradually it develops into a faculty that we can use like other senses. It gives us clarity of vision and a sense of direction in life matters – it tells us where we should look for the truth. We still have to use the mind to work out the details, but with this faculty we don’t have to depend on mental inferences.
8. The purpose of the separate awareness
The separate awareness greatly enlarges our field of knowledge and action. We can use it to look into the ‘mind of things’ and know the inner qualities and hidden motives in anything.
Further we can learn to transfer our will on to the separate awareness. It enables us to act on the inner planes of the cosmos and influence the happenings from there.
However, the true purpose of this faculty is not for making some things happen, but it is for integrating the forces within our own consciousness. It will change ‘the state’ of our consciousness and how we function with it.
9. Awareness beyond the mind
As we develop further, our awareness begins to recede inward. We become more conscious of our interior. First the contents of our mind (the thoughts, emotions, feelings and memories) become objective. Then the entire the interior worlds becomes objective, like external things.
Then we can awaken in our dreams and travel consciously in the interior worlds. We can make the light of our awareness bright and carry the greater light into the interior worlds. We become aware of so many things that earlier we could not even imagine.
At a certain stage in our development something turns over within our consciousness and we awaken inside the separate awareness. An inner veil is lifted, which enables us to become directly aware of things by making an inner contact. Then the automatic subconscious processes that were earlier going on in the mind also get discontinued.
Earlier we were led by social values and mental-inferences of right or wrong. Now we see such things as ignorant mental inferences that disturb the expression of living truth. Hence, we do not use them to function any more. We can draw our wisdom directly through direct awareness.