Mind vs. Enlightenment

I have a beautiful mind. It’s no longer an egotistical statement and just a fact, but this wasn’t always the case. The story may be more interesting when I talk about the relationship of mind to enlightenment.

I spoke early as a child. Standing in my crib, I babbled intensely – as if I were giving a passionate talk on my niche topic. As I grew up, I earned the nickname of “professor” in the hood. It was not a flattering name, but more of a putdown for knowing facts and reasoning logically – and not fitting in.

Because I grew up in an abusive environment, I frequently looked for ways to escape. My escape was learning new things and solving problems. To this day, I do puzzles or math and physics problems for fun, but the way I approach these puzzles is different than before.

My IQ was tested in my 20s and I scored very high. My mind was fluid and it felt fabulous to use it. But, my mind was useless for breaking through into enlightenment.

As with any go-to asset, I wrapped my ego around having my intelligence, and the result was a person who relied on intelligence to gain advantage and confirmation of being real. When I met my teacher, I had to face the true reality that I was unable to “think” into enlightenment. This frustrated me to no end.

My teacher was redirecting me to let go of using my ability to manipulate abstract concepts because enlightenment wasn’t a concept. Enlightenment wasn’t an experience, an induction, or a deduction. Whenever I thought that I had “figured it out,” I was inevitably wrong – and discouraged.

Mind is a poorly defined concept anyway. Is this a combination of our awareness and reasoning abilities? Even the latter is vague. When I view the various vehicles (or “bodies“) we use on multiple planes of existence, the mind can be viewed as one such vehicle, and the soul another – there are more. These vehicles are equipped with their own senses and processes and language, much like the physical body, and operate in parallel with the physical body.

However, no body is Spirit. In fact, all bodies are inseparable from Spirit and are its expressions. It amazes me when people talk about Spirit as something contained by and separate from any body when, in reality, Spirit is literally everything. Also, what people perceive as Spirit varies greatly from one person to the next. Currently, there is no way to calibrate what each of us is referring to. Nevertheless, we can say that there is something. This something is expressing through all forms but is itself formless and uncontained.

During the transformation process, I frequently confused perceptions by the various vehicles as enlightenment. For years, I had to go through the ups of feeling like I understood something to the downs of realizing that I was still incredibly confused. The struggle of wanting to quit at each down is real. The intense desire to have everything squared away and figured out is the reason why so many claim enlightenment without having actually broken through. Enlightenment must be tested. The tests are real. These test results are incontrovertible. Only someone who is enlightened can test enlightenment. Otherwise, an individual is biased by the interpretation of their own perceptions.

Letting go of everything that defines us is a lot trickier than we think. In fact, because the ego is the very process of defining ourselves, it won’t easily let go of the mechanisms that reinforce identity. Intelligent people will create an identity around intelligence, and similarly for any faculty or quality. The ego uses whatever is available and whatever we hold most dear. So, enlightenment is about letting go of whatever we feel we cannot let go, and the trap is set.

When we let go of something, there are typically more things to let go of underneath. Imagine letting go – surrendering – something you never thought you could, only to realize that there is yet more to surrender. The will required to continue is immense.

Again, the ego is a process – not a thing. As long as the process is running in the background, we are not free from it and we don’t know it, necessarily, until it gives itself away – it always does, eventually. The ego is obvious to those who no longer run this process, but is mostly hidden for those immersed in the trap. The ego is tricky – when we are identified with something, we cannot tell apart what is it versus our true nature. When ego is threatened, it will respond in less-than-obvious ways.

I feared that letting go of my mind would mean that I would become stupid, so I fought this tooth and nail. What did happen was that I stopped identifying with the mind and the mind became just a tool I use – or don’t use. It is possible to choose when the mind disengages, but this does not result in a lack of intelligence – counter to my previous concern. Interesting.

Popularized meditation techniques are explicit on allowing and observing thoughts without fighting to stop them. Well, imagine not having thoughts without any effort and still being intelligent. You want to reason logically? You can turn that switch on, and now you can allow thought to crank something out. I am amazed I used to think that the process of mind, which I could turn on or off, was me. The state of No Mind is the first level of enlightenment – a first real freedom. There are others.

No Mind is what Buddhist call Sunyata, or emptiness. I guess this is also nirvana. It is a nice, restful state, but it is not complete. After the honeymoon, the transformation process continues and there are more hidden processes to discover and unwind.

If we are not careful, we can get stuck in nirvana – a kind of detachment. This is not the end of the road. Paradoxically, further freedom requires diving into life even deeper and engaging in relationships with others during practice. Having quieter emotional reactivity certainly helps. Eventually, even the entire emotional body (process) morphs into something else. Each subsequent identity is dismantled, circuit by circuit. However, this is not done by the mind. So, what catalyst is responsible?

The catalysts are living beings who are running freedom processes and modeling them for others. Those who are ready will engage, others won’t. Many undervalue life as it is and believe all are here to “become enlightened.” This is simply not true. There is more to life than that. The enlightenment state is not applicable to all people because something else is needed in their lives at this time.

Enlightenment leads to being in the world but not of it. It is a letting go of a large degree of involvement in this plane of existence, which most are not here to do. Why scoff at that? The ego is helping people engage with this level. And why just mechanically scoff at ego? Only in the last possible stage of enlightenment here on earth is the ego dissolved, but not before – the ego transforms with us but remains until we go all the way.

9 thoughts on “Mind vs. Enlightenment”

  1. Hi, InEx,
    The first part of your story you could have wtitten about me, right up to the part about the teacher. I never had a teacher, not a spiritual teacher, not one with an open mind. The following I discovered inside of me.
    When you start talking about egos, minds, and what l call spirit-beings, we start using different words, but I think our meanings are extremely close to each other, though I hesitate to use the word “enlightened.” But that is unimportant. We both see that “nirvana” is not the end of the line. I call it a trap, a dead-end. One must skip past it in order to continue on one’s way, wherever thay way lies.
    Meanwhile, we remain here on earth, taking part in life because that is the only choice we have, barring ending our own lives early, and for me life is too important to waste on death. But, there was a time
    I thought I had no more reason to live. I thought I had learned all there was to learn on earth, and I was convinced I would wake up dead in the mprning. I was 19 years old. I can remember the night as clear as day. I had arrived.
    But arriving was not the end. Arriving only opened more doors, asked more questions, demanded more answers. Here I sit, almost 50 years later–I turn 69 in 7 days–and I am still answering more questions, opening more doors, knowing I know almost nothing. As you hinted in your story, it is frightening for a genius to know almost nothing. But it happens.
    I don’t know about you, but when it comes to ego, I have never kicked my ego into the gutter. In the Buddha’s day that may have been possible, but I think it is a bad move in the world of today. We all need bus drivers to steer us through physical life, and ego is the best candidate for that job. It knows where to go, and how to get there. It knows short cuts we might miss, but it also knows scenics routes we can enjoy as we dtive past. The only prerequisite, as I understand ego, it must know it is only an employee. It’s salary is its continued existence, but it will know that when death arrives, it will be the first to go, having earned its eternal rest. Ego dies with the death of the brain.
    Next, in my experience, is what I call mind. If ego was the consciousness of the brain, mind is the consciousness of the body. If I see truly and clearly, here is a step most beings miss, or skip over. Our bodies are living beings in and of themselves. Our egos are so strong to us, that we tend to combine ego and mind into one level of consciousness, but I do not think they are. For me, as I came to know and understand ego, I encountered yet another part of me that I could only call mind. Mind has ideas, can create something out of nothing, and describes feelings that cannot be ascribed to egos. Two areas where mind excels are gut feelings, and emotions. Some emotions belong best to ego, lust, jealousy, anger, envy. But other emotions belong best to mind, love, compassoon, understanding, acceptance, and so on. This second set of emotions and feelings are beyond ego, and taste of spirit. I have till now mainly avoided spirit, and its turn is coming, but I am not quite there yet. First have to come gut feelings. Gut does not centre in the brain, but in the digestive area in the body. When my gut wants me to take notice, it grabs me in my digestive area. It is part emotion, but also part foreboding, or precognition, according to expecting bad or good feelings. The digestive system is very sensitive, not as in our 5 senses which belong to ego, but more of a sixth sense which belongs to mind. So too does exhileration, or loathing, beauty and devastation. Ego cannot sense these things, but mind does. And when mind senses these things, it starts to form ideas. If the feelings are foreboding, minds looks for ways to overcome, or avoid. When the feelings are precognitic, then the mind looks for acceptance, and and memory-creation. Painting, poetry, framing with photography, singing. Not everyone is creative, but I believe this is because we are not aware of our bodies, and through our bodies to our minds. Unfortunately, this is a very basic look at what I mean when I use the descriptor, mind. But I hope it gives you a feel for what I mean. The thing is, mind, being the product of our bodies, also dies as our body dies. It survives ego by a few minutes as our body uses up the oxygen in our blood, and those few minutes are the most important for our minds, because it transports our spirits back to the place spirits congregate after our earthly deaths.
    Finally, on this plane of consciousness, and with a metaphoric foot in the next plane of consciousness, comes spirit. Now, anyone who knows spirit will question why I have avoided spirit till now, because as you rightfully said, InEx, spirit is everywhere, in ego, in mind, and obviously in spirit. For the purposes of this comment, though, spirit reaches beyond death, and is the only part of existence that does, so to start with spirit would just have been wrong. But as I described this to someone in an email just the other day, when you realize ego is just a tool, and mind can be a being in and of itself, spirit has been with us from the start, and will still be with us after the end (of our present life on earth). Spirit is life, and spirit is the connection of life to life. The easiest way I can say it is: Spirit is everything. Matter, energy, force, life, and whatever has not yet been discovered yet, and maybe never will be, not in this dimension of existence. Spirit is that part of is which connects incarnation to incarnation, plane to plane, dimension to dimension. It is life at its most basic existence, it is life at its most incredible existence. Without spirit there would be no life, and without life there would be exactly nothing. That tries to show what life-spirit are, without them there would be no me.

    1. Happy early birthday! I have also had bouts of wanting to end it all. My life has been such an intense nothing-or-all journey for me. I now rest in an appreciation of life, which has only been available for some few years.
      I see similar trends about ego dissolving at death, then higher mind, and then entrance into spirit of our consciousness. I also see the ability to navigate all these states while alive. Certainly, intuition – higher mind – is a critical gateway to deeper awareness, and then something else takes hold. I experience/see/understand spirit as being expressed through different aspects – body, mind, and soul are such aspects or “vehicles.” These vehicles, in turn, reflect and sparkle with spirit through and through 🔆

  2. This is so fascinating, and it speaks directly to my journey! I, too, rely/relied on intellect to see me through some trying times. So much of the narrative you share of your history could be plucked from my own current timeline (my version of ego as identity).

    And there are moments, like now, when intellect is useless in deciphering my experiences. Like reading messages in my native tongue, where I understand all the words, but still cannot grasp what is actually being said. (I am especially intrigued by this idea you mention of the languages associated with different states of being.)

    So I sit back and observe. Bear witness. Trusting that, at some point, in some place, epiphany will occur. I call it a “cascade,” when all the disparate pieces suddenly merge into something whole, significant and meaningful…

    Thank you for planting seeds in my path. The plants here are dense, rich with nutrients, though I cannot yet tell one from an’other. Still, they are beautiful to behold, and they smell wonderful!

      1. Indeed, it is the only word I’ve found that remotely captures the experience. It often leaves me stunned, unable to move, hardly able to breathe, as so, so many seemingly unrelated pieces suddenly (almost miraculously) fall into place, creating a totality that defies description or explanation in words, but redefines EVERY thing around and within me…

        That image of the wave approaching in my vision accurately captures the tension, (even a little anxiety, maybe?) of that energy building, preparing to topple my worldview once more. But I welcome its arrival with open arms… 😀

  3. Where do my comments go, InEx? I wrote what I thought was a beautiful reply to this post last night, one I would like to edit for a post on my own blog, but now I cannot find it on yours to copy and paste. This has happened before a number of times on your website. Are they not coming to you? I do not understand…

    1. Hi RG, I post any comments I receive. I am not sure why I didn’t receive last night’s comment…. That is strange. I very much appreciate your thoughts…
      I’ll email WordPress.

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