In the last part, we learnt about the differences between the Conscious and the Unconscious.
As you know they are both parts of you. If they go against each other, they will destroy your life. If they work together, they will give you all that you desire. The whole trick is to appreciate how they work and make the best out of it.
Imagine being a part of the family in which the parents are fighting with each other most of the time. These two people are at loggerheads with each other. The energy and the time spent to make each one agreeable to the other negatively affect the lives of the children. On the other hand, if the parents have a good relationship with each other, the family thrives. The children grow up to be well-adjusted adults who can then raise their own children the same way.
When the Conscious and the Unconscious do not get along together, emotional and psychological stress is experienced. In the present day world, the education system encourages logical learning or Conscious learning. All educational activities are about raising questions and exploring answers. The Conscious mind is a good planner.
When the student is engaged in such activities what happens to the Unconscious mind? The Unconscious mind takes a back seat and becomes inactive. Because it is creative and imaginative, it does not bother about facts and figures. Its main responsibility is to make sure that YOU survive. So it is very good at creating conditions for you to fight or flee if there is danger. It is spontaneous. It does not plan. It is emotional.
A highly qualified professional once told me that he was very good at passing exams. But when it came to living a life happily, it was difficult. He had not been happy since early childhood. There was no problem in doing a good job in the field that he was an expert in. Living a life of his choosing was not possible, that made him unhappy. It was obvious that the Conscious and the Unconscious were opposite each other creating stress in this particular individual. This had lead in the past to excessive use of alcohol.
In therapy, in this case, our job was to align the Conscious and the Unconscious minds. When the two get aligned, they relax the individual psychologically, physically and emotionally. Instead of mental turmoil, you feel calmness. A form of wisdom comes in. You can then bring together your gut feelings and facts together to draw a conclusion about any life issue, which will give positive results. You become more productive.
All forms of meditations and most therapies that do not involve cognition, work at the Unconscious level. These therapies align the Conscious and the Unconscious mind. They do so by clearing out the now unnecessary survival emotions, of anger and fear. These emotions have outlived their usage. They were meant to end after the event of perceived danger was over. But because they have outlived their usage, they become negative for the happy state of the body and the mind. The mere clearance of anger and fear makes you wiser and smarter as the Unconscious mind comes to peace within itself. Once it feels assured of your survival, the Unconscious starts co-operating with the Conscious mind. This brings about a state of peace and happiness in the individual.
In this first part you will get to know the meaning of the Conscious and the Unconscious mind.
The Unconscious mind got major recognition with Freud’s work. It was not that it was not known before that. The old Hindu scriptures are replete with references to ways and means of affecting your “inner self.”
Many people are confused or unaware of what the Unconscious is all about. In order to understand it, you have to look at the Conscious mind.
The Conscious mind is the aspect of us that allows us to plan our life, to think about philosophy of life or to create a routine in life. It is a “thinker.” It has made the world a materialistic place, with all the advancements in technology. It is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain. It is logical, factual, practical and business like. It is unemotional. From anatomical perspectives it is supposed to be located in the New Brain or Neocortex or Cerebrum. It is the part of the nervous system that makes us more intelligent as compared to other animals. It is considered to be the more mature, thinking part of the nervous system.
The Unconscious is a bit different form of consciousness. It is the part of the nervous system that is emotional. It is a “feeler.” It is supposed to be more influenced by the right cerebral hemisphere. It is the part that controls our habits. Anatomically it is associated with the older parts of the brain- the basal ganglia, hypothalamus, the hippocampus and is associated with the control of almost all of our internal organs. This part of the nervous system is oblivious to logic. It makes you cry and laugh and feel the feelings that you feel. Freud and others describe it as if it is like a child. It defies logic but plays a very important part in your life. It is a dreamer. This is where dreams come from. It is creative. It makes stories, fantasizes, creates images and enjoys music. And interestingly it helps the nervous system store images.
What influences do the Conscious and the Unconscious mind have in your life?
Suppose you are struggling with a habit of drinking too much. If someone asks you why you do that, you may say “I don’t know.” But you can also defend yourself by saying that you cannot control your drinking once you start. You may be asked to “just stop” drinking “too much” by someone who wishes you well. You know that it is a tall order. You cannot “just stop” drinking too much because someone tells you to do so. You just cannot control your drinking.
This example is true of many other habits you may have. You cannot control them. On the negative side, you may be gambling or you may be using drugs or you may be addicted to food. On the positive side, you may be engaged in doing regular physical exercise because you “enjoy” engaging in a physical activity. As long as you do them as a habit, they are controlled by your Unconscious.
All habits, good or bad, are controlled by the Unconscious. The Unconscious, as stated before, is illogical. But when you understand the power and the abilities of the Unconscious, you can change almost every habit that you would like to change. More than words, the Unconscious appreciates feelings. That is why almost all “life changing” experiences involve emotions and feelings. If you know how you can influence your own Unconscious, you can master your life.
There is another interesting thing about the relationship between the Conscious and the Unconscious. They influence each other.
If you are in the habit of leading your life as a professional or as a busy worker, it is likely that your Conscious mind has been more active than the Unconscious mind. With the logical Conscious mind so active, you are sometimes likely to lose the ability to be creative or even to enjoy music or arts. You will then probably describe yourself as a “busy” and “practical” person. You will find it hard to change your habits. You will believe, most likely, that you “don’t do emotions.”
Another interesting fact is that if you can influence your Unconscious mind to change, your Conscious mind naturally follows it because it has no option but to respect the change. This is the law of Nature.
How do we influence the Unconscious mind to change? We will explore in the future posts.
What Meditation Can Do In Your Life
Mindfulness meditation is popular at this time in the Western world. For people who have no experience or knowledge of meditation, it is considered a strange concept that is also considered as being against some religions. These people are folks who are usually fearful of anything new. Obviously they do not have the courage to experiment or explore new concepts. They are out of touch with the real world.
Meditation comes in various formats and methods. You can meditate with eyes open or with eyes closed. You can meditate with focusing on a point. You can also meditate focusing on nothing. You can meditate with breath. You can meditate while eating or even while walking. You can meditate with chanting and you can meditate with inner silence.
Depending on your personality or your liking, you can choose to practice whatever method of meditation you like.
I have had the privilege to work with hundreds of people having spent thousands of hours to help them change their lives with meditation. I am not a meditation teacher, but the techniques I use for therapy include the process very much like meditation.
Over the years, I have noticed how people’s lives change with meditation.
- Cleaning of the physical surroundings with internal cleansing.
At a certain stage, within a few weeks of starting meditation, the practitioner will start to clean up their physical environment. With meditation, the inner change happens with cleaning of negative emotions especially anger, guilt, grief and fear. As they reduce, a sense of calmness develops. As the body and the nervous system are cleared of the negative emotions, the meditator becomes uncomfortable with cluttered surroundings where they work or live. So it is natural that the person starts to clean up their immediate work or living space. A lady once cleaned up the house and the attic and removed more than eight bags of unwanted goods in one go over a weekend. On another occasion, a lady gave away a lot of old clothes in charity in one go. The development was sudden, only a few weeks after she had started to meditate. These experiences are quite common when people start meditation.
- Slowing down physically and mentally.
One of the attributes of long- term practice of meditation is that the person becomes grounded. Their physical activities are reduced. They become not highly active but do not slow down to the extent to give the impression of becoming lazy. I remember noticing a change in some highly chatty people. They became quieter in their social interactions as they meditated. This physical slowness- or appropriateness- is matched by their mental state. They are no longer moving from one thought to the next in a distracted manner. They are able to quietly focus on the task at hand.
- Physical needs are reduced.
At some stage, when a person has been doing meditation for a long time, a few months at least, their physical needs start to reduce. They eat lesser than before. This can result in a reduction in body weight without consciously meaning to reduce weight. I have noticed some people, who are mad into vigorous exercise, reduce their physical activities after they have taken to meditation. I remember a gentleman who attended me at some stage, who used to run marathon races. He stopped running marathons but he continued to engage in moderate physical exercise. Marathon running requires spending a considerable amount of energy in running. It also wears down the body. Stopping running the marathons, helps their body to reduce daily wear and tear. After many years of meditation, some meditators can find their sleep being reduced. Their need for sleep can be reduced to less than 7 or 8 hours. However, the quality of sleep becomes better. But the duration of sleep reduces. They can still wake up in the morning feeling refreshed. Overall, the body of a meditator needs less energy to survive. So their food intake, amount of physical exercise and sleep reduce to attain an appropriate level that is enough for the body to live by.
It is interesting to note that meditative practice brings about changes in your life, without you making any effort to bring about those changes. You have nothing else to do except spend a few minutes doing meditation every day, regularly. Amazing things happen when you have the discipline to do meditation. If you have to be critical of meditation, then it would be better if you have the experience of doing it. Then your criticism will carry weight.