What are mental activities?

Mental activities are experiences that happen in the mind. When we describe what our minds are, or what happens in the mind, we are talking about mental activities. What are some of the things you are aware of in your mind?

Mental activities are dynamic. Dynamic means there is constant change, activity or progress. An old philosopher called Heraclitus once said “No man ever steps in the same river twice, because its not the same river and he’s not the same man”. This is what it means to be dynamic. Everything in life is changing. What changes can you notice happening in the world right in this moment? What changes are happening in your mind right now?

In our minds the information that is constantly running through them is being transformed. What is this information? Emotions, feelings, sensation in the body, thinking, perceptions, meaning-making, memory, planning. Other activities in the mind include imagery, beliefs, dreams, intentions, desires, hopes, attitudes and aspirations.

As well as mental activities there is the part of our minds that is aware of these activities. How do we know we are having a thought? How do we know we are experiencing an emotion? Or a memory? A sensation? In order to ‘know’ that you are having an experience, there must be a separate part of you that knows! It is a bit confusing I know (!), but try it out for yourself. When a thought pops into your mind, notice that you can be aware of the thought. The thought is the ‘known’, the part that is aware is the ‘knower’.

Here is where it gets a bit trickier. Some mental activities are called ‘explicit’. This means it is clear and exact. It can be seen. When a mental activity is explicit, we know it is affecting us. But other activities, like attitudes and intentions are implicit. This means it is unexpressed or suggested. It can be understood from something else. It is the essence of something but it is not revealed or developed. When a mental activity is implicit, we may not be aware that it is influencing us in the moment.