Albert Einstein wrote ‘The fish will be the last to discover the water’. What does this mean? It means that we often don’t see what is right in front of. Or what we are in the middle of.
Take the mind, for example. What is the mind? It is the sea in which we swim and so can be hard to notice. Everything we think, feels, taste, touch – all of our experiences – take place within the mind. It therefore makes sense to try to understand what is this think we call ‘mind’?
What are some things we can say about the nature of the mind?
Firstly, mind is an experience. We are always immersed in the mind. You experience your mind, I experience my mind, and when we meet those two minds meet too. It is a subjective experience, which means it is a sensation of lived experience. Subjective means we are inside the experience. We call something ‘objective’ when we are outside of an experience looking in (however this may not really be possible, because we can never stand ‘outside’ of our own experience. We are always in our experience).
Having a mind is also about being aware. It is noticing where you are at any given moment, being aware of a song you are listening to, seeing a bird fly in the sky, remembering your last birthday.
According to interpersonal neurobiology, the mind can be understood as a process that regulates the flow of energy and information. This happens both within our bodies and also between our bodies and the world. Energy and information move through the body. It also moves into our bodies from the environment, as well as, moving from our bodies back out into the world. These movements are patterns of communication.
Our minds are also said to be emergent. This refers to an on-going process that arises from how the parts of a system interact with each other. Emergence means something comes into existence. So, it is a creative act where something new is experienced. It feels fresh and alive. You might experience this as excitement when you think about the holidays or Christmas. Or when you notice the first leaves in spring.
Our experience of mind includes awareness and subjective experiences. The mind can be said to be embodied. This simply means it is experienced in the body. It is also relational, which means that it is emerging from relationships. Our mind is not just ‘housed’ in our body, but is formed and develops through interactions with the world.
The mind also regulates the flow of energy and information that moves through it. To regulate something is to monitor it and to modify it. Monitor means to observe or check something. While modify means to make small changes to something.
To do this we must be able to sense the mind. We must notice it. We can observe all the different contents that flow through like leaves on a stream. This can be referred to as ‘intuitive seeing’, or ‘pure seeing’ because it is an immediate type of knowing, where we make direct contact with something. When we sense that movement of the mind then we can direct, shape or channel that movement over time. This applies to our emotions, moving our bodies or changing our posture, or how we communicate and interact with others.
For a moment see if you can employ this ‘intuitive seeing’ to notice the mind as it manifests in each moment. How do you experience the stream of energy and information flow through your awareness in this moment? Try notice the different elements: Thoughts, sensations, emotions. Notice the emergent quality of mind in each moment. Monitor (track, observe) the movement of your mind; then see if you can modify the flow by consciously doing something – like thinking of something, moving, stretching, breathing etc