Sunday, October 23, 2016

Have some respect!

Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual thinker, leader and author that Oprah Winfrey was sufficiently impressed by that she arranged for him to give a free course to others on TV and the internet.  Tolle is interesting because he uses secular language to focus on ways we can lead better, fuller lives.  One of his main themes is that we tend to think too much.

Being conscious, knowing that we are alive and knowing (more or less) who we are, is a great gift.  Our thinking is our main tool and allows for analysis of problems, mindfulness of our thoughts and feeling.  Our thinking brains handle language, form sentences to express ourselves, decode the utterances and writings of others.  Very fine tools, indeed!

However, there is far more to us than just our conscious minds.  Much of the work of speaking, listening to others speak, writing and reading takes place outside of our direct awareness.  But all sorts of processes move along in addition to communication with other people.  Breathing, healing, balancing, varying heart rate, hormones, metabolism, digestion, cell repair and death and creation and many other aspects of our bodies happen all the time.  Mostly, we don't notice.  We are still thinking about our tax bill or dinner menu or how much fun it is going to be to see cousin Milt.

It is not easy to notice that there is more to ourselves than our thinking, conscious minds.  The mind is so powerful, flexible and fun that we can engage it on any topic, use it to focus on any problem or theme.  No wonder that we tend to think that our thinking brain is all there is.  Books like "You Are Not Your Brain" by Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding, two MD's who use both medicine and psychological/Buddhist insights in their practices, often expand from looking at the conscious mind to looking at the whole brain.  That makes sense since aspects of our ongoing lives are affected by our habits too.  Habits can be transferred from the conscious to the unconscious.  I can develop habitual emotional states as well as perform habitual steps in a physical or mental process such as cooking or driving or long division.

So, common advice today is: Have some respect for all the parts of you and not just the mind you work with all day.

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