Wisdom Does Not Change: Sages, Saints and Science Share the Way – Part 2

Part 2 of 6-Part Series: Conscious effort alone does not fulfill us

This is Part 2 of a 6-Part Series

Read Part 1 Here

Conscious effort alone does not fulfill us

Our conscious thoughts seek to make sense of life, analyze problems and reach decisions. And they affect how we act: we transfer what we think to those around us. Angry thoughts, for example produce angry interactions. Peaceful minds, however develop peaceful attitudes; and these bring greater fulfillment. But peace cannot be achieved by its conscious pursuit; it is found in a Quiet Mind. Unlike conscious, intellectual thinking that asserts self-interest, the Quiet Mind is a source of ‘Not Self’. Not Self really means Not as Selfish; to think less of yourself and about yourself. And this can bring us fulfillment in ways that transcend intellectualization.

A good starting point to explore the Quiet Mind is what neurologists like Marcus Raichle call the mind’s Default Mode (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuro-behavioral-betterment/201508/does-resting-mind-correspond-the-brains-default-mode). Basically the mind’s Default Mode is when we cease conscious struggles and let our minds rest. This is popularly described as to put it at the back of your mind, mull it over, daydream or zone out. The Default Quiet Mind is an unattached, harmonious state that makes all seem one: a space where we are ‘here and now’.

The serene benefits of a Quiet Mind, Default Mode or meditation by any name have been part of belief systems throughout history. It is advocated for in Buddhism as Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept of what people experience when they intentionally practice open-minded awareness of the present moment. But it is not only Buddhists who advocate for Mindfulness. In an article entitled ‘Introduction to Mindfulness’ (www.lgilliom.com/Mindfulness.docaura), psychologist Laura Gilliom describes some therapeutic advantages of Mindfulness and offers simple techniques for beginners.

In Positive Psychology (://https www.coursera.org/learn/positive-psychology/home), Barbara L. Fredrickson describes attributes that developed after research volunteers learned to practice greater Mindfulness. These include being more aware of emotional conditions; more connected to self and others; greater resiliency to master difficult situations and improved sense of general health and wellbeing. Quiet Mindfulness helps us to be more aware of and connected to our moments. And this helps us to become more aware of ourselves. Knowing ourselves is an oft-recurring theme in spiritual, transcendent and therapeutic practices. And they share common guidelines:

Admit to having a thought, fantasy or feeling; it’s OK!
It is only a thought, fantasy or feeling—it is not you!
Allow it to flourish: it is harmful only if you repress it or act on it
Be curious about it: is it wholesome? Would I like it to stop?

By tapping the Quiet Mind we can facilitate what is variously referred to as enlightenment, insight, vision or any other term for realizing something that is more fulfilling than conscious thought. William James wrote about such experiences. In “Varieties of Religious Experience” he described their attributes as being noetic—something we know, and ineffable, something words cannot explain.

Experiences that are both noetic and ineffable diminish the dominance of conscious thoughts: not directly by changing them but by helping us to become less attached to them. And we can become less attached if we are more self-honest, open to change, and willing to learn. Only by being less attached can we become more fulfilled, ‘At the still point of the turning world’ (T.S.Eliot).

The next essay explores more about tapping the Quiet Mind and how it benefits conscious thinking.

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