Is it all inside of your head?

By Sal Barba, Ph.D. | Mar 13, 2013

“I am just an ordinary person like you, but I live in the world awake!” – Mahatma Gandhi

One of the world’s first great psychologists was the Buddha, who often said that he taught only one thing: suffering and its release.

Good psychological well-being, he would say, settles upon the willingness to recognize and accept psychological distress. The truth of the matter is that the Psychology of Buddhism does not pretend to inform us about how much effort we must put into the development of our mental health.

We must be honest with ourselves in recognizing without effort that we do not appear healthier than we really are!

In some way, our internal honesty opens the door to the healing process of where we really are. Perhaps some of us recall the old Zen story of the guy who announced, “Now that I am enlightened, I’m just as miserable as I ever was!”

It’s interesting to notice that in a way nothing changes, even though something fundamental inside us has made a shift. However, the Buddha also said, “We suffer because we misperceive,” at least this is what he taught.

There is merit in that quote above. It’s irrefutable! We do suffer because we misperceive ourselves and others.

Our life is informed by the great features of our technology: We text each other while taking a nice walk in the park, forgetting to recognize the breeze in the trees. We love to bring to the coffee shop our iPads and laptops, missing out on the taste of our tea or latte.

While we are so immersed in our digital orbits with each other, we think this is genuine connectivity. So pervasive is our delusion of electronic connectivity that we wonder why we can be instantly detached and cruel to each other; not to mention the alienation and despair from our lack of human contact.

The principal element that has enabled our species to survive beyond all other creatures has been our connectivity to each other!

Now days we don’t have to fly to study with each other at conferences. We can dial up and have a webinar connection.

These are great vehicles to support the good life, but they cannot become replacements for looking into the soul of each other’s eyes and finding a moment of profound heart felt connection and understanding of our shared personal mysteries.

It wasn’t that long ago I heard a story from a parent who said that her teen and teen’s friend were in the backseat of her vehicle as they were driving to their destination. She looked in her rear mirror because the two teens were so quiet: They were talking to each other through text messaging.

Perhaps this example reflects our desperation to connect with each other, while simultaneously it may express a kind of complacency in our atomized culture, where what is revealed to us is our individualized materialism; a materialism that arrests our nation from maturing into a nation of wise adulthood.

We consume to engage in self-effacement and hedonism. We are compulsive consumers. We keep corporate profit margins high at all cost.

We need a massive revolution in our consciousness; one that will challenge corporate corruption to stop setting aside ethical conduct and morality.

But first, we must acknowledge our absolutism to inform us of how our mind has its own propensity to create the incredible idea of an absolute self (skin bound), an idea we manufacture to exaggerate our solidity; an idea that is leading us further toward collective annihilation!

It isn’t too far-fetched to say that everything arises from our head. We must understand that in our current psychology, philosophy and neuroscience there is no clear definition of what we mean when we say, “mind.”

This is a big problem because it leaves us with too many potential unexamined notions about what we mean when we talk about “mind.”

One rather newly forming definition of mind that I enjoy talking about comes from Daniel Siegel, MD. He says, “The focus of our attention directs the flow of energy and information through particular neural circuits. In this way, we can say that the mind uses the brain to create itself.”

Attention activates specific neuronal pathways into this fundamental process referred to as “neuroplasticity.”

It is through attention, attunement, presence, mindfulness that support our mind/brain functions to become an integrated whole, both as a relative self and as a social interpersonal self.

The function of our mind – the regulation of energy and information flow – has the potential to change the structure of the brain enabling us to become integrated and deeply compassionate and connected human beings.

I invite more dialogue related to this column. Until next time, don’t hesitate to call for a cup of tea and meaningful connection at 360-929-5850.

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