How do I control my mind?
First of all, it is useful to flip the question on its head, and ask yourself, the apparent questioner; why do I want to control the mind? And, more importantly, who am I, who is this ‘I’, that wants to control the mind?
If we enquire into the one who is seemingly affected by the mind, and so, wants control over it, we inevitably recognise that an imaginary self, calling itself by the name ‘I’, is pretending to be perturbed by the mind.
In the ultimate analysis – which simply means, in a thorough investigation of our direct experience – the self who desires control over the mind is itself a manifestation of the mind. ‘I want to control the mind’, is a thought. The question is; who is this ‘I’?
There must be a hint of disdain or suffering in the very desire to manipulate or eradicate the mind. Where do these vibes come from? Where would the states of disdain and suffering appear to exist if not within a thought that conceptualises them? Have you ever experienced disdain or suffering in the absence of thought?
Disdain, suffering, aversion, rejection and resistance are all concepts that appear as thoughts. They only appear to be actually experienced when thought claims or believes that they are. But thought’s point of view is not fundamentally real. The point of view of thought, that is thought, is a temporary imagining. It is not reliable, for it is subject to change.
However, the aware Presence that watches all thoughts appear and disappear is ever-present and unchanging throughout their display, and is, as such, absolutely real. It is the only reality that we can absolutely trust, for it is the only Presence that exists independently of all thought and changing experience.
This aware Presence is our self. It is our self that knows that it is aware and present. We are always aware that we are. We are immutably aware of all changing experience, and therefore we are unconditioned by it. The fundamental condition of experience is that it appears in Awareness. All apparent experience is dependent upon our self.
It is our aware Presence that remains present throughout all changing experience, rendering all experience knowable. Remove our self, aware Presence, from our changing experience, and nothing of it will remain. All that will remain is our self, the presence of Awareness, being aware of itself alone, unaffected, undisturbed.
The swiftest way for us to truly transcend the influence of mental activity is to realise that we already transcend it.
If we know our self as this immutable and imperturbable aware Presence, then would we want to control the mind? Would we want to control something that has no power to influence what we are?
So, the question still remains; who is this ‘I’ that wants to control the mind, if the true ‘I’ of aware Presence is absolutely free of the mind?
If we think that it is ‘I’ that wants to control the mind, then we must be thinking that the mind is not giving this ‘I’ the thoughts that it wants, but instead, the thoughts which are deemed to be destructive for its peace of being. Thought must have mistaken our self for itself. In other words, thought, being insurmountably limited to its own domain, thinks that all that exists is thought, all that exists is objective qualities that can be defined and described, and so thought defines our self as a form that has objective qualities.
The instant that the thought ‘I’ is attached to or identified with an objective quality, our self seems to become something that exists within the parameters of the mind. Once this identification has taken place, and is imbued with belief, our self appears to become affected by the mind, simply because thought says, ‘I am affected by the mind’, and this ‘I’ has been identified as our self.
For there to be the appearance of conflict, there must be a relationship between the mind’s trash talk and the apparent self that the mind is trashing. There must be a subtle, or not so subtle, thought which says, ‘I believe I am suffering the mind’s attacks.’ From the fires of this thought, the sense of being an entity in battle with the mind is born.
Before we dive into the territory of this battle between an imaginary entity and the mind that imagines its existence, it is important to clarify how the mind creates the sense of suffering in the first place.
It is only the mind which can conceive of the apparent experience of suffering. It is the only mechanism which creates the idea of it. In the most basic way of inquiring, it is obvious that ‘suffering’ is just an idea that is superimposed upon our experience by thought. It is an idea that informs our interpretations of situations that have a specific likeness to our definition of ‘suffering’.
But is the thought ‘I am suffering’ the only way to respond to a particular event? No, of course there are innumerable ways to respond to any event. Thought does not necessarily have to affirm that suffering is taking place because of an event in our experience. One thought may respond to an event that another thought deemed insufferable by thinking instead, ‘this challenging situation is a graceful gift.’ All minds define and respond to events differently due to their unique cultural, biological and social conditioning.
Most minds believe this idea that suffering is ‘real’ primarily because most people in our environment have asserted that ‘suffering is real’, and as such, our minds have been conditioned to think along these lines. But has anyone ever actually experienced an invariable and ever-lasting sensation of suffering? Can you locate it inside yourself even when the mind says ‘I am happy’? Or is suffering only apparent when thought has come into the frame to distort experience through its interpreting biases?
If suffering were truly real then it would be ever-present and immutable throughout all experience. For a thing to be given the certitude of reality it must always be here, available to be referenced in every moment of time. ‘Reality’, by definition, is something that exists independently of ideas concerning it. So then, what is suffering when we are not thinking about it? What is suffering when the mind has not said ’suffering is here’? It is non-existent! Suffering only appears to be present when the mind claims it is.
The interpretation of suffering is not always present in our experience. Even if we have experienced years of depression, anxiety, physical pain, or whatever, we have known a time when those states were not apparent. Therefore, they cannot be essential qualities of our being, for they are only a passing show. We are always here, being aware as the pure Presence of our self alone. The thought ‘I am suffering’ comes and goes within Awareness. It is not inherent in the essential presence of Awareness.
On account of our cultural conditioning, our minds often believe that suffering is a real phenomena, instead of seeing clearly that it is just a partial reading of an ambiguous situation. No thing, event or situation has one single inherent meaning. The mind superimposes its disposition onto the things that it perceives and comes to its own self-referential conclusion of their meaning. The thing does not have a meaning encoded in it before we perceive it. It is only after we have perceived it, that an interpretation of its meaning comes into the play of comparing and contrasting it with other things we have previously assigned meanings.
People say ‘there is suffering’, or ‘I am suffering’, and because during our childhood we were new on the planet-earth scene, our minds automatically adopted the paradigms and mindsets that we commonly observed and interacted with in our environment. This impulse to collect concepts and ideas from our environment happens simply because of our indiscriminate openness as children. In this openness we were willing to believe almost everything we were told, true or false, constructive or destructive, skillful or unskillful. Our bodies and minds are biologically programmed for survival. They have a built-in tendency to adopt the behaviours and attitudes of any available authority figure.
But are these thoughts we have embraced and used throughout our experience true representations of it? Is the belief that ‘suffering is real’ fundamentally true?
If we look clearly and simply at our actual experience we can see that the idea ’I am suffering’ or ‘I am suffering my mind’ is just a thought which seems to identify our self as the one who is experiencing an event that we have habitually defined as suffering. This ‘suffering’ is not a solid, unmodifiable phenomena. There is not an exactly identical sense of suffering arising to accompany many different states of mind. There are a myriad of different states of mind which are accompanied by their own unique flavour of what the mind has called ‘suffering’. Suffering does not exist independent of the thought which thinks it into apparent existence. ’Suffering’ does not exist outside the domain of the mind.
In just the same way of inquiring we can see that this ‘self’ that is suffering, and that wants to stop the minds seemingly destructive interference, is merely an imaginary entity made only out of the thought which thinks it. This ‘I’ which feels suffering is just an identity constructed out of mind-stuff. There is no sufferer identity when this thought – ‘I am suffering’ – is not apparent. The sufferer identity is apparently conceived in the thought, ‘I am suffering.’ Before and after this thought has appeared, there is no sense of being a sufferer for there is no suggestion offered from the mind that it is so, and conjointly, there is no desire to control the mind, for no conflict has been delineated.
The reality is that this sufferer identity cannot be what we essentially are because it is an intermittent appearance within our constant aware Presence. We witness this imaginary sufferer come and go, but we do not come and go when it is noticed to come and go.
So if this suffering ‘I’ is not what we essentially are, then who is really suffering?
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If there is no opposition in an attack, there can be no interference or conflict taking place. The mind needs two agents in order to stir up the appearance of conflict within itself, for a battle can only commence if there is an attacker and a defender, an agency of control and an object that can be controlled. The mind is, by definition, the realm of duality, in which the play of interrelated opposites exercise their diverse myriad of expressions. Hot depends on cold, positive depends on negative, light depends on dark, to exist as knowable phenomena seemingly apart from one another as poles on a spectrum.
For any kind of relationship to take shape, interaction between opposing forms must be apparent. In fact, we can only experience relationship, or a change in perspective, by comparing and contrasting interdependent forms. Without duality, there can be no relationship, for an interaction implies an exchange between two discrete entities.
Now we have illustrated the minds base mechanism, we can see that the relationship between the entity who wants to control the mind and the mind that is offering provocations to be controlled are both mutually necessary poles of a process which precipitates this sense of conflict and suffering. The seemingly insufferable attack from the mind needs something to make a defensive move against it and vice versa. They go together. In the same way that we can only have an actual act of selling if there is simultaneously an act of buying. We cannot have one without the other.
In such wise, the mind cannot attack us if we are not identified as something that can be attacked, or that needs to defend the mind. When we identify as something made out of mind, composed of objective qualities, then we are liable to be subject to the play of duality, in which a conflict can appear to affect the imaginary entity we have taken our self to be.
A conflict seems to take shape whereby ‘the mind’ attacks the imaginary self which thought has habitually defined as our identity, and because there is a momentum of attentional investment in this imaginary self, there is often an automatic reflex to think that ‘the mind’ is attacking what we are. But this imaginary self and the thought which says ‘I am under attack from the mind’ are not what we essentially are, for we witness all of these thoughts as they appear, change and disappear within us, within our aware Presence.
We cannot fundamentally be a collection of temporary thoughts because we are ever-present to observe their changeful qualities within the unchanging experience of being aware. Both the abusive stream of thinking and the ‘self’ that feels abused are made only of thought.
For the aware Presence in which these thoughts appear and disappear, there is no conflict, no harm, no alteration in its essentially pristine condition of simply being aware. The pure presence of Awareness has no opposite with which it could battle. It is the space in which all interrelated opposites are known and given an arena to play and interact. It can only be a form in the play of opposites that could have the sense of being in opposition with another form. As such, it can only be an imaginary self who feels to be in opposition with ‘the abusive mind’, and so desires control over it.
The ‘desirer of mind control’ is just a thought-made self that we seem to identify with, primarily because of the conditioned habit of believing we are the ‘thinker, chooser and owner of thoughts’. But this “we” I refer to is just another thought-made self that imagines it is identifying with thoughts that it owns and controls. Only the mind can claim to own, believe, control or be the same as thoughts, for these notions only exist in the mind.
For aware Presence there is no desire to control the mind because no thought could ever affect it. No thought could ever affect the source and substance out of which it is made, just as no object can interact with or affect the space out of which it is made. The space offers no resistance at all to the objects that appear within it.
All there is to objects is space, and likewise, all there is to objects of thought is the Presence in which they appear, with which they are known and out of which they are made. Presence does not experience suffering. Presence does not know how to resist what is made out of itself.
Only an imaginary self can experience imaginary suffering. Just as, relatively speaking, only objects can incite friction or conflict with other objects. The space knows nothing of conflict. Presence experiences nothing of what thought imagines.
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For the witnessing presence of Awareness in which all mental activity appears and disappears, there is no problem or suffering. Presence is not affected or defined by anything that fluxes within it. It is absolutely independent of all that is made out of itself. Just as space, being the substance of all objects, is never affected by any of the objects that move within it. Likewise, Presence is never altered, stained or diminished by any object of thought that arises within it, no matter how much it screams, cries, hails abuse and so on.
Does Presence have any need to control the mind in order to feel peace? No! Presence is peace. Nothing can perturb Presence. It simply is. It always has been and always will be exhibiting the same nature, for it transcends the realm of time and change. The manifest world of motion sprouts from within its unchanging stillness.
There is no need to control the mind to be at peace. In truth, there is simply no way to do it. It cannot be done. It is only from within the domain of the mind that the apparent sense of control can seem to exist. ‘Control’ is just an interpretation of experiencing cause and effect. It is not a fact.
Thought assumes that the thoughts and actions which follow on from the preceding thoughts and actions have a controlling force as their fuel, punctuating their motions, but that idea of a ‘controller entity’ is just another thought added retrospectively. The mind is the only thing which believes it has control, because it is the only domain in which the thought about control can exist. The mind only seems to have control over itself from its own illusory point of view.
Beyond the mind, we have no actual experience of being able to control our Presence. We cannot escape the experience of being aware as Presence. We are choicelessly aware and present. There is no other option.
As we knowingly abide as the aware Presence which encompasses the mind, we see the thought of control appearing intermittently within us and know intuitively and silently that it is not a true representation of our actual experience.
We cannot control our essential nature to be aware and present, and so there can be no intrinsic capacity within us to control any form of thought which is made out of our self, out of our essential Presence. Space cannot control the movements of objects that appear within it, that are made of it. There are not two things there that can interact with each other and hence, influence each other. There is just space, modulating itself in the form of the objects. Space cannot interact with itself. It is one indivisible substance.
Likewise, there is just our space-like Presence, modulating itself in the form of all thinking. Presence cannot interact with itself. It cannot control what is made out of itself. It cannot control itself, for it cannot divide itself in two. It is one irreducible wholeness.