The mind at our service
What is it about the mind that troubles us so much? This question has been on our Western lips for several decades now, as we have discovered that disordered, uncontrolled activity of the mind provokes anxiety, insomnia, and depression. More and more citizens of Western and Westernised countries are taking medication to ease the mind. Pills to reduce anxiety, induce sleep and fight depression are a daily need for a large section of the population. Consumption of alcohol and drugs to serve the same purpose has entered our culture to such an extent that we are forced to legalise them. Last but not least, television is babysitting our restless minds too, in some cases for more than 25 hours a week. Intense sports are practiced to calm the overactive mind at the cost of problems with our joints later in life.
This should not come as a surprise. Many charts on Western health conditions put mental health disorders at the top of their list, before cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Our brain is an insanely active organ that works even when we sleep. The brain is, contrary to what we believe, a big consumer of highly purified energy such as glucose. It can consume up to 20% of our energy. If you want to lose weight, just think more!
Our path to happiness in life is determined by our soul's purpose and executed by the body. Our soul is truly who we are and is our connection to the Universal energy. The mind can be considered as the practical intelligence that connects us with our actions. While it is assumed that the soul is a “blueprint” and remains constant throughout our life, the mind is known to be highly versatile and constantly influenced by external triggers. The location of the mind, whether inside or outside of the body, is currently under investigation.
So, what is the role of the mind?
The mind’s task is to connect us with the reality of daily life. It keeps us alive by steering us away from danger, ensuring we don’t get cut off from the group and preparing us for future dangers. The mind is a judgemental, critical, problem solver. A bit like an overanxious, nagging parent with good intentions. Not the companion you’d choose to take to a party with you. We often have to neutralise it to be happy.
The mind can think, memorise, imagine and provide us with the consciousness needed for action. It concludes the past and is constantly planning the future It can adapt to circumstances with great flexibility through learning, to protect us.
Without our minds, our lives are in danger. From birth, we rely on a caring mother and a protective father. Historically, our mother provides us with milk and tends to all our needs, while our father protects the newly formed family from danger and brings food to the table. This situation was not always present, although some consider it ideal even now. Mothers did not always survive birth and fathers sometimes lost their lives while hunting. But, the mind is a problem solver and strategies were developed to try and help such babies survive.
In modern hospitals, parents of premature babies can count on a great number of strategies that the mind has created for the survival of unwell, newborn babies. Implementing these immediately after birth produces amazing survival rates for these extremely vulnerable babies. Without the mind’s pre-emptive actions and capacity for learning, these babies would simply not survive. Many of our modern developments to prolong and enhance life can be attributed to the capacity of the mind to provide solutions to practical problems.
The planning abilities of the mind are so amazing that it is easy to forget what the mind stands for and who it should be serving. “Cogito ergo sum” meaning, “I think; therefore I am”, is the words of René Descartes, the famous French philosopher, mathematician and scientist of the seventeenth century. He is considered the father of Western philosophy. We associate the mind, and what we can achieve with it, with who we are. It’s only lately that we have come to understand that our possessions and our accomplishments are not necessarily who we are, but rather what our mind is capable of. Underneath the mind, we have the quiet voice of our soul that whispers its needs. It is very tempting to glorify our mind and to forget our soul. The “Ego” is sometimes bigger than the “Self”. But, our ever-busy mind is concerned about how we’re going to fulfil the task determined by our core, the soul. The mind is thus a beautiful servant, but a dangerous master.
“The mind is a beautiful servant, but a dangerous master.”