Friday, April 28, 2006

UNDERSTANDING THE MIND

" Chapter 2, from Dr Kamath's book, Kamath Sutra.

2.1: The mind has two distinct compartments performing two distinct functions: the conscious mind and the unconscious or hidden mind.

[Understanding the distinct functions of two distinct components of mind is essential to understanding stress. The conscious mind is the one we use at any given moment. It is like the screen of your computer in front of you. We can see only one page at a time on the screen. Likewise, the conscious mind is aware of only one topic at any given moment.
The unconscious mind, hidden away from our immediate awareness, is like the hard drive of your computer with all its files and software. It holds millions of bits of information in it that we gathered over a life span. We are not aware of that information until a specific bit of information is brought up on the screen of our mind. After we have used it, it goes back to the hard drive. For example, you were not thinking of your grandma till I mentioned her just now. You will remember her and some good or bad feeling associated with her. Memories and emotions related to your grandma will go back into your hidden mind the moment you think of something else.]

2.2: Three functions of the conscious mind are thinking, feeling and acting in response to various life-situations.

[Any information mind receives via its five senses must be made sense of immediately. The first task is to think and assess if that information is good or bad for us. If the information is good, we feel good. If the information is bad, we feel bad and we experience one of thirty five painful emotions noted above. Even one of these emotions could bring on stress symptoms. Then we act. If we like what we perceive we want more of it. If we don’t like it we want to get away from it.
Let us say, you see a snake in your bedroom. Your mind thinks, “Wow! I have a snake in the bedroom! This is not good!” You would probably feel terrified and you would experience many severe stress symptoms: fast heart beat, heavy breathing,, etc. Now, if you are bold and experienced in snake-handling, you would try to get the snake out of the room. If you are timid, you would get the hell out of there as soon as possible. Almost all our interactions with sense objects have these three elements in them.]

2.3: The function of the unconscious or hidden mind is that of a reference library that tells the conscious mind how to judge a situation, what to feel about it and how to respond to it.

[What makes the conscious mind think that what it saw was a snake and that it could be harmful to us? Well, the conscious mind asks the hidden mind, “I see something
here. What is it? Is it good for me or bad?” The hidden mind tells the conscious mind, “It is a snake. It could be poisonous. Be afraid of it for it could bite and kill you!” If the hidden mind does not have that information in it the conscious mind would be baffled or puzzled by the snake, but not upset or stressed. Our mind is now said to be na├»ve, ignorant or clueless. Hence the statements: Ignorance is bliss. It also explains why “Our eyes can not see what our mind does not know.”
If our hidden mind has experience as to how to handle the snake safely, we would act prudently. Such prudent action guided by wisdom yields good results. Instead, if our actions are guided by ignorance, conceit, arrogance and know-it-all attitude, it could result in the snake biting us. Such imprudent action based on ignorance and human weaknesses is called stupidity. Opposite of knowledge is ignorance; opposite of wisdom is stupidity.]

2.4: The reference library in the hidden mind guiding all our actions consists of 1) Seven positive elements collectively known as wisdom: memory, knowledge, reasoning, judgment, insight, moral values and noble virtues; and 2) seven negative elements collectively known as personality weaknesses: greed, arrogance, lust, hatred, possessiveness, jealousy and insecurity.

[Any event could activate any of these factors and influence our behavior. For example, if we see a hungry child in the street, our compassion could become activated and we might give some food to it. If we see an expensive Lexus car in our friend’s driveway, our jealousy could become activated and we might buy a BMW to be one up on him. If we see a wad of dollars bills on a table, our greed could become activated and we might want to put it in our pocket. If we hear of a worthy cause, it might activate generosity in our mind leading to making a donation.
The behavior of a person at any given moment clearly reflects which of the “software” in the hidden mind is running the conscious mind. In general, weaknesses have far greater influence on our actions than wisdom.]

2.5: The conscious mind could be compared to a balloon and the hidden mind could be compared to a soda bottle with gaseous soda in it. Bad events and problems could be compared to a pump attached to the balloon.

[A balloon attached to the open mouth of a soda bottle with gaseous soda lends itself as a model of mind very well. A pump attached to the side of the balloon represents life’s bad events and problems. When one is upset by a bad event or problem the conscious mind is filled with painful emotions no different than air filling into a balloon. The mind experiences emotional tension just as the balloon experiences air tension. Stress symptoms appear immediately.

When upset about something one could say, “My balloon is inflated.” When one feels better after coping with it he could say, “My balloon is now deflated.” When a life problem has been solved, one could say, “I have turned the pump off.”
The fizz that is dissolved in the soda represents all the elements noted in 2.4 above. If one suddenly remembers an old bad event and becomes upset over it, he could say, “My soda bottle is shaking and the fizz is spewing into my balloon!”
Remember: For one to understand anything, appreciate anything, enjoy anything, feel anything and do anything, he must have the necessary validating information in his hidden mind/soda bottle. You can refer to a clueless or ignorant person as someone who “does not have it in his soda bottle.”]

2.6: The “inflating” and “deflating” of conscious mind/balloon with painful emotions happens day in and day out resulting in appearance and disappearance of stress symptoms.

[We experience upsetting events and situations several times a day, some small, some big. After we have coped with these, the balloon shrinks, stress symptoms go away and we calm down. Even when asleep, our balloon could inflate in response to a bad dream, say, a tiger chasing us. We would then experience many stress symptoms: Sweating, fast heart beat, shortness of breath, etc. When we wake up and realize it was only a dream, fear disappears from the mind, the balloon deflates brain chemicals go back to their normal state and we feel calm once again.]

2.7: Coping consists of promptly emptying the conscious mind of toxic emotions and restoring peace and tranquility in it.

[To cope with stress, one must promptly get rid of toxic, painful emotions from conscious mind. The balloon must be shrunk. This results in brain chemicals going back to their normal state. Stress symptoms disappear. Any mechanism that does not get rid of painful emotions from the conscious mind (jogging, relaxing, etc.) is useless in coping with stress. Also, activities that enhance pleasure in the mind are uniformly useless as they do not cancel-out painful emotions. Common potentially harmful pleasurable

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activities are: smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, gambling and illicit sex. Some useless pleasurable activities are: Hiking, skiing, cruising, bungee jumping and vacationing.
People who are not good at shrinking their balloon would need a shrink to do it for them sooner or later! Now you know why psychiatrists are called shrinks.]

2.8: Managing stress consists of adopting a simplified, wisdom-based lifestyle which prevents stressors and maintains peace and tranquility.

[By adopting a lifestyle based on wisdom, and not weaknesses, one could prevent occurrence of various life-events and problems. In the above model, this consists of controlling the function of the pump. All serious life-problems are caused by the influence of personality weaknesses on our actions.
This simple example would suffice: A wise man avoids drinking too much. If per chance he does, he is wise enough to avoid driving. A stupid man might think that he could drive safely even when drunk. Such a man would soon get into an accident or get arrested. Now he has created serious financial, health or legal problem for himself.
Likewise, people who apply wisdom in handling money would avoid financial problems by adopting a few wise rules: I will live within my means; I will not buy anything to impress others or to compete with them; I will balance my income and expenses; I will minimize waste; I will simplify life, etc. All wise people have hundreds of such simple prudent rules guiding various aspects of their lives. On the contrary, an insecure or jealous person afflicted with “Comparing and Competing Disorder” could get into a big financial hole by living ostentatiously on borrowed money. Wisdom-based lifestyle means living a simple life.]

2.9: The mind which reduces emotional attachments to people, money, power, etc. and connects with inner wisdom achieves steady state of mind that is immune to stress.

[This is spiritual approach to stress. The goal of all great spiritual texts such as Bhagavad Gita and Bible is the same: to achieve lasting peace and tranquility of mind. They all recommend four paths: 1) Rid your conscious mind of painful, toxic emotions (“conquer your fear with faith; destroy your anger with forgiveness;” etc.); 2) Rid your hidden mind of human weaknesses which create stress (“give up your greed, hate and lust” etc.); 3) Simplify your life and let all your actions be guided by wisdom in the hidden mind; and 4) Reduce or eliminate your entanglements with sense objects (people, money, power, etc.) while fully engaging yourself with them, i.e. living a full life. The last part is like the ant that enjoys drinking honey to its heart’s content from a bowl without drowning in it!]

2.10: Ability to change deep-rooted perceptions, ideas, opinions, views and beliefs is essential to successfully deal with stress.

[The importance of knowing this lies in the fact that an open-minded person steadily grows as an individual by giving up outdated ideas, perceptions, etc. and replacing them with newer ones based on current reality. This is called learning. The more we are in tune with the realities of the world the more we could avoid stress and the more successful we would be. This does not mean we give up our basic principles, philosophy or codes of conduct. We simply adjust our views and opinions to fit the new realities of the fast changing world. A closed-minded person who is not open to new ideas and information becomes stressed-out very soon due to conflicts between his beliefs and realities of life.]

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:14 PM

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with us!

    ReplyDelete

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