and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
We use our mental body to protect our physical body in all situations. It takes in information about the outside world and stores it. It cross-references against previously stored material. It draws on memory and it creates fantasy, and in doing so creates a sense of self that is separate from all others. My senses might take in the same information as you but my mind will process it in a different way, for example a particular smell might call to my mind an unpleasant memory of being made to eat something I didn't like as a child, creating a feeling of anxiety inside me. The same smell for you might recall memories of your grandmother's kitchen and evoke feelings of love.
The mind is a unique combination of what we have learnt and seen throughout our lives - it is our mind that is responsible for different reactions to the same event - thus it is the mind that forms a personal window on the world, separating us in a container of individuality. Our mind is our ego, our idea of ourselves. But we are not JUST our body and mind. There is a part of us, an essence, that cannot be described by adjectives or nouns.
We may experience this other consciousness in unexpected moments, during events or practices that pull us sharply and completely into the present, where we do not think and are able to experience what it is to simply exist. We are still conscious, but this is a different consciousness, a subtle awareness that seems to be more whole, apart in a sense from the individual container that the mind represents. We feel somehow connected, sharing this subtle consciousness with the rest of the universe.
When we release the hold of the local consciousness, the mind, we find ourselves immersed in a formless, unbounded sea of universal consciousness. It is as if the mind is a kind of glass vase, keeping our consciousness separate from the greater sea of being. Meditation simply removes the glass walls and allows the what is within us to join back into the infinite sea of consciousness, unshaped by the individual experience that the mind creates.
So we see that we have two different ways to experience the world; through our local consciousness, or ego, governed by the mind, or through the universal consciousness, governed by something that is at once a part of us and something much bigger than our individual selves. We are both our self and our Self.
So why do we practice meditation? Because it enables us to choose between these different viewpoints. The local consciousness is a survival tool that serves our body and our mind. Without it, we would not be able to live in this world. But all too often we become ruled by this logical processing of what we see. To identify with the ego is to be limited by our own experience and ideas of how things are or should be. To identify with the Self is to be unlimited, infinite, and pervaded by an understanding that we are the same as everything.
From this position we can observe local consciousness and know that we are more.
In order to know the Self we must release from attachments of the ego - physical (possessions), mental (ideals, beliefs) and emotional (relationships, causes). At a certain point, when we become disinterested in our mind, it falls away, and we realize we are seeing with different eyes. We connect ourselves to a source of wisdom to which every other being is connected, which contains the experience of everything that has ever existed.
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