THINKING, THE BODY-MIND, & SELF-PERCEPTION
Although humans are conscious that they are conscious, most of us never think about our thinking; it just happens. We awaken in the morning and think about what we are going to eat, what we are going to wear, where we are going for the day; and then we try to figure out where we left our car keys. Most of our thinking revolves around the activities of our physical body: feeding it, clothing it, protecting it, moving it, and satisfying its many needs and desires. We seldom stop to consider how it is we are conscious or for that matter, what consciousness actually is. Consciousness is something we just take for granted like life itself.
We are born into life and conscious awareness much like we awaken from a deep night’s sleep; initially, we wonder where we are; we have no idea where we came from, or where we were prior to our births. We gradually emerge into life from an unconscious state in our infancy to a slowly expanding conscious awareness of ourselves in the world at large. Over time, our natural minds adapt to the world, and we identify with the body, family, culture, and life into which we were born. When we are awake, with a sense of growing permanence, we think of ourselves in terms of “my body” and “my mind” as we busy ourselves with our daily activities. We conveniently forget that we did not create the body we are using nor do we know how it is that we are conscious.
The Natural Mind
It is through the physical body that conscious intelligence meets unintelligent nature. The elemental matter of this universe is nature-matter, which includes our physical bodies; in and of itself nature-matter has no self-awareness. Nature is not conscious. Nature is conscious of its function only. Our physical body is conscious of its function only; it cannot be conscious as itself. It is only when conscious light, a.k.a. conscious intelligence, is integrated into a physical body that the body appears to be alive and conscious.
The conscious intelligence we experience as “our consciousness” is so dispersed in the nerves and blood of our body that we are unable to formulate an awareness which allows for us to distinguish “who we are” separately from the body and senses. As we become more oriented to our physical form, we become conscious of the impressions of the senses as well as the sensations of the body, and gradually, we become more and more conscious of the natural world in which we live. After a time, we are unwilling to disengage from the natural world long enough to realize that we are a conscious being separate from the body. There is the constant bombardment of physical sensations in the body which holds captive a person’s attention to the things of the natural world, and it is this experience of sensation that dominates our thinking.
It is only because of conscious intelligence being integrated into the nature body that we are able to formulate an understanding of the natural world. After years of experiencing physical sensation, thinking becomes completely identified with this world and the physical body. Conscious “thinking” becomes the “body-mind” which is the “collective psychic consciousness” comprised of the body’s instincts, cravings, impulses, feelings, desires, and physical sensations. Thus, the body-mind facilitates and identifies with the ego/personality so the thinking is thoroughly and completely identified with the physical body and the natural world.
The Personal Self
The simplest way to describe how people manifest their thinking in the world would be to divide this diagram in half at the level of the heart. The forces at play below the heart, which include the rationalizing mind, are dedicated to thinking about the world and its affairs, the ego/personality, and the cravings of the physical body (psychic thinking). The forces at play above the heart, which include the reasoning mind and intuition, are dedicated to spiritual perceptions, values, and quality of character of the divine-human Self (spiritual thinking). Generally speaking, these forces tend to manifest in the persona of an individual in terms of selfishness and selflessness respectively. Thus, the heart functions as the center for reconciling these opposing forces of the sacred and the profane.
All humans determine which of these forces come into play in their lives simply by how and where they direct their thinking. With the exceptions of focusing on work, study, or some creative endeavor, our conscious thinking will be working through or identifying with these 7 levels of self-perception. In order to examine the different levels of perception, it is necessary to realize and understand the miraculous qualities of the human body because the physical body means something different to each person. At one end of the spectrum, a person thinks the body is a burden filled with cravings, fears, and dark impulses which need to be satisfied. Life for this person primarily revolves around fulfilling the body’s desires for: food, sex, rest, addictions, and entertainment.
At the other end of the spectrum, we are told that the body is the temple of God with miraculous capabilities and potentials that we are unable to even imagine. We know that 2000 years ago Jesus Christ performed numerous miracles while in a human body and lived a selfless life of unconditional love. He came to show us a way to live and a way to be; he manifested for us the full potential of the divine-human. He sanctified all human flesh meaning that what Jesus Christ did in the physical body and the life He lived opened a door to the divine for all human beings who embrace the Christ light and the Way of Life.
The quality and character of a person is determined by the level on which his or her thinking takes place. The problem is that most people have absolutely no control of their thinking; what they think of as their thinking is actually the “chattering-mind” of the ego yakking about physical sensations and cravings in the body as well as the objects of the material world. Here is an analogous story to explain the chattering-mind of the ego. Imagine standing next to a natural pool of water and you are gazing at the surface of the pond. Every second, a friend standing next to you tosses a pebble into the pond. The water is always filled with ripples and splashes and this is the way you have always seen the pond. Suddenly, your friend stops throwing pebbles into the water, and as you gaze at the pool, it becomes still. For the first time, you notice another world reflected on the surface of the water and then you notice the bottom of the pond. This pool represents our world; there are other realities right in front of us if we could stop the chattering mind and learn how to look and perceive with higher consciousness.
If the “chattering” of the ego rules our lives, we will be self-absorbed in the lower 3 regions of perception trying to survive, trying to gratify the desires of the body, and constantly trying to validate and bolster our self-image. In the Gnostic teachings, the ego/personality is referred to as the “counterfeit spirit.” The ego/personality borrows its “sense of identity” from the divine-human Self. With this false identity and the experiences and sensations garnered from being in a body, the ego/personality “feels” that it is real; but it is not because it is not conscious intelligence. The ego exists solely as an “illusory notion” of itself.
Consciousness has many potentials and internal realities, but before we can perceive and understand them, we must “stop the pebbles” and we must stop believing that the “rippling water of the pond” is the only reality. To understand reality “beyond the pond,” we must understand the 7 levels of self-perception and how they are synthesized in the body-mind. Being in a body, and perceiving and thinking through the body-mind, causes us to think about ourselves a lot; take note that all of these “minds” of the body begin with “self,” as in self-absorbed.
Duality, Thinking, and Self Perception
We are all trapped in the realm of duality and don’t even know it. It is like the story I tell young people about the fish and the water. Imagine that we go up to a fish swimming in the ocean and say to him, “How is the water, Mr. Fish?” And he says, “What water?” We lift him up out of the water into the air and drop him back in and he says, “Oh, the water is fine.” We are stuck in third dimensional reality like the fish is stuck in water until we have an experience that shows us otherwise.
We experience life in a third dimensional reality of time/space which has up-down, near-far, and slow-fast. We also occupy an elemental body of nature and decipher our experiences with conscious thinking that explains life in terms of good-bad, right-wrong, profit-loss, like-dislike, and favorable-unfavorable. It is primarily our desire for various things in life that makes us feel good or bad. We are happy when we get what we desire and feel disappointed when we don’t get our way. There is also a tendency for us to explain and orient the experiences of life in terms of feeling and desire as they relate to our body. We frequently monitor our well-being in terms of how we are feeling or we gauge our success in life by how well we are getting what we desire. In addition, the process of orienting our experiences based on feeling and desire is different for men and women.
The body-mind experiences the physical body through instinct and a variety of tactile sensations, but also through the 4 vital systems, the senses, and the blood. Feeling/desire in the body-mind experiences sensation and stimulation of the body through the 7 centers of perception in the nervous system. Sensation and stimulation can arouse the body/body-mind on the animalistic level instinctually, or it can stir feeling/desire on a psychic level with emotions, sentiments, or cravings. In a similar manner, when sensation and stimulus are experienced on the psychic level, there is a different orientation for male (+) and female (-) in regard to desire (+) and feeling (-). For the male, life is oriented and motivated primarily by desire and secondarily by feeling. Whereas, for women, life is oriented primarily by feeling and secondarily by desire. A man sees something and measures it by how much he desires to have it. A woman experiences something and measures it by the way it makes her feel. A conscious awareness of this dual polarity is important in order to recognize spiritual balance. All humans with a properly balanced polarity in the body should be able to recognize the difference between the expressions of desire and feeling.
Although experience in a human body can be explained in terms of elemental sensation and stimulation from nature, there are variations on the overall experience which are represented by several diagrams on this website. On the very base level, we need to be aware of how our bodies feel in order to know that we are hungry, thirsty, lonely, or satisfied. But when we add intellect and sentiment to this base equation, we begin to delve into the infinite variations of human beings. Some of us are smart and others are not; some of us are compassionate and others are not; some of us are perceptive and others are not; some of us are analytical and others are not; some of us are optimistic and others are pessimistic; some of us are peaceful and others are violent; some of us are caring and others are loveless, some of us are spiritual-minded and others are material-minded, and the list goes on.
The difference in the quality of life of an individual human being is directly proportional to how the aspects of higher intelligence operate in a person’s life. These aspects of higher consciousness are reason, conscience, inspiration, empathy, intuition, selflessness, compassion, integrity, persistence, and courage. Some people incorporate these characteristics into their lives and strive to become a “quality person.” Other people ignore these higher characteristics because they are focused on satisfying the desires of the body/body-mind/ego (personal self) which is the realm of duality: like-dislike, profit-loss, happy-sad, satisfied-dissatisfied. These people serve their egos and leave the truly important thing undone.
The quality of thinking has a great deal to do with the way we explain to ourselves the experiences we go through in life. Are these experiences thought of in terms of higher values or are they thought of in terms of satisfying the personal desires? The synthesis of the body/body-mind, feeling/desire, and the ego/personality has oriented each of us to a unique perception of our individual life experiences. The “chattering mind” of the ego/personality has a running commentary going on about what is happening with our world, our body, and our lives; it chatters about who the ego likes and who it doesn’t like, what it wants and what doesn’t want, how the body looks, and how we should act and react. With the exception of when we are sleep, this “chattering of the ego” takes place 24/7; this is what we think of as thinking. Although it is not real thinking, it influences and configures our worldview, our feelings, our desires, and how we deal with life and the people around us. The chattering of the ego is the means by which the ego/personality keeps a person’s attention trapped in the body/body-mind and in this third dimensional world of duality. In order for us to truly be free, the ego/personality of each of us must “die” to “who it thinks it is” so we can become who we truly are.
This earthly life is temporary, the body is temporary, and the opportunities we have are temporary; but there is an important purpose to this journey – life experience. Life experience is the only thing we take with us when we leave this world. Depending on the quality of the person, the life experiences either serve the body and personal self or they serve the soul and spiritual Self. If the life experiences revolve around the personal self, they are serving the desires of the nature body. If the life experiences revolve around the spiritual Self, they are serving the conscious light which nourishes and educates the soul. Cause and effect is the law of life; we reap (in the future) what we sow (in the present). So which would be better to serve, spirit and soul or form and dust?