We are all laboring under the false impression that we are single minded. That we have a single driving force motivating us, thinking for us (with us?), watching out for us.
In truth we are a collective of minds with different goals and rules.
The old mind, is the seat of impulsive reaction and addiction. The place of animal instinct and gut feelings. It is often referred to as the Reptile Brain. This part of our mind can respond immediately to threats or temptations.
When we experience good things, winning a game of chance or catching the eye of a potential mate, dopamine is released into the brain causing the experience of pleasure. The resulting desire for more pleasure can lead to addictive behaviors.
Similarly, negative occurrences lead the old brain to try to avoid situations. The reptile brain recognizes when a bad situation is approaching and seeks to help us scurry away, to avoid recurrence of the bad thing. Always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. This mind often has a mind of it’s own and we find ourselves subconsciously guided by it. When we do become consciously aware of its actions our attempt to override its desires can turn into a negotiation. This can be seen as an effort of will when the logical mind attempts to out maneuver the reptile through negotiation or subterfuge.
There is also the autonomic mind. The autonomic mind could be argued to be part of the old mind. This part of the mind keeps things running without you needing to think about it, automatically as it were. While you are reading this, the autonomic system is keeping your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your stomach digesting. This mind can run everything from the immune system to your digestive tract. It knows what needs to be done and does it. It is often difficult to even override the autonomic mind and decide to do something manually.
It is difficult to alter what the autonomic mind is doing. But it has a relatively easy time altering what you do. When your heart starts to fail, you don’t just get to override, it gets the attention of all your minds. When these automatic systems do interfere, it is usually in a big way. Suddenly nothing else gets done, while you work out how to resolve the problem with these systems, that we normally take for granted.
The new mind is the seat of logic and reason. It also encompasses pattern recognition and memory of things past. The new mind is the creator of ideas. Higher level emotions and reasoning come from the new mind. A combination of ideas from the past and imagination of what our future will hold, these are the constructs of the new mind.
Creativity is a benefit of the new mind, the ability to adapt and improvise. Coming up with a novel solution to a problem is where the new mind shines. This is where we most often analyze problems and think through moral issues and debates.
The observer mind could be argued to be simply a part of the ‘new mind’. However, when witnessing as the observer, it feels like a separate mind entirely. When in meditation, or simply practicing awareness, this observer is able to observe what is occurring in each of the aforementioned minds.
You can witness the transactions of the logical mind.
You can observe the reptile instincts as they jump into a defensive stance.
You can observe the autonomic mind as your breath flows stealthily in and out.
Our motivations, actions and influences aren’t always obvious. We frequently are not single minded. It can be very helpful, to take time each day, to learn to observe and note the subtle interplay of yourself with your self.
Remember to be graceful with your judgment and interplay as you observe your self.
When you just can’t seem to calm your monkey mind down, cut yourself some slack. Remember you have got a lot on your minds. Learn to relax and watch the show.