Updated: Aug 13
Just as the life energy of the universe registers in the heart knowing center as emotion, so the same energy registers in the mind through thoughts and images. Our minds have a kind of voice which speaks through verbal and image driven ideas. We are always thinking or imagining something in our minds. We often think our mind is the originator of this image/word driven data, but it's not.
The mind is just the organ which registers the data, like a speaker outputting sound. But the source of the sound comes from elsewhere. The source of our thoughts and ideas is our spirit, and the soul is the sound system which directs it to the speakers of the mind for us to hear. Why is it important to make these distinctions?
When we can distinguish the source from its output, we can better sort through what is coming to us and what it means.
When I experienced my three-day panic attacks, the following months were consumed by dealing with a mind out of control. My inner thoughts were overloaded with too much data. It was a sudden widening of awareness, like the lens of a camera being opened to full exposure. It was like all my filters were swept away, and I was suddenly experiencing everything at full volume. It was more than I could handle. I had all this thought data pouring in, like the breaking of a dam, and I didn’t know what to do or how to manage it. How I used to manage my thoughts, when they were just a babbly brook, no longer worked after they became raging river. I had to relearn how to manage my thoughts.
My old process was relative selection through personal preference. It was a way of filtering the data through arbitrary discrimination by building an ego around what I love and hate. That ego driven selection process is a way of dividing the world into boxes in order to make it more easily manageable. But, in the process, enter swaths of data get lumped into over simplified categories in order to dismiss them as irrelevant and unnecessary to process further. In the way, we make the world more manageable, but more flat. This is how it works.
If I am a Democrat, I can hate every Republican and dismiss everything they say. While that may be the extreme example of these categories, it illustrates the point. In order to make an overwhelming world more manageable, we eliminate large chunks of data through the process of personal bias. But in the process, we also often fail to read the data correctly. So, how should we approach the data of the world coming to us through the mind?
The first step is learning to encounter the data free from any such filtration system. The system itself is flawed. There is no good or bad data, no right or wrong input. There is only data, raw and unfiltered. Once we do that, we can begin to see that learning how to handle the data is much simpler and more streamlined. Instead of asking the question, is this data right or wrong, we can then ask,
1. Where is it coming from
2. What does it mean
3. What should I do about it.
The knowledge of good and evil is a false paradigm. We were not created for evil, or to know evil. Evil is not anything. It is simply the absence of good. However, when we expect evil, we create it and become it. Evil exists as the absence of good because we create it through our though patterns of delineating anything as good or evil. What is evil is cutting things off in our hearts and minds as something unnecessary, as something which we deem unfit for reality. As Jesus said, that not only murdering your brother is evil, but cursing him in your heart (Matthew 5:21-22). Hate is the essence of evil, because it puts us in the position off deciding what data to value, and what to dismiss. That is the essence of becoming our own gods and attempting to evaluate reality for ourselves. As we are able to transcend this broken and arbitrary thought process, we can free our minds from endless over processing in order to leave it to do what it’s meant for. And what is the mind meant for? It is meant for discerning love.
The main question the mind should be consumed with answering is, “how can I love the world around me,” which often gets simplified in any moment to, “how can I love this person or thing in front of me right now.” The mind focused on reinforcing arbitrary systems of value will never get to this question. It will always be attempting to cycle through a series of questions to which there is no real answer. The whole system is an illusion, and only creates illusive answers. This kind of thinking is wrapped up in questions like, “how should I value this or that,” or “why should I value this or that,” and never gets to the real question, which is “what is the value this or that has.”
When we ask that question, we understand that we have no real way of knowing the answer. We do not have the ability to determine the value of something. A system based on my own ability to value anything eventually ends in hate. A system based on attempting to discern the value something has, completely independent of me, will lead to love.
That self-referential system of value doesn’t work because it seeks to create meaning out of nothing, based on whatever I want it to be. A system of value that comes from outside of me, based on something other than anything I think or prefer, demands that I look to something outside of me for that understanding. And that action will inevitably lead me to value all things, and love them as they are, because all things become lovely and loveable when we understand them as things created by the energy of Love.
Only God can give anything value. When we replace God with ourselves, as the makers of meaning and value, we lose the reality of what everything is and the intrinsic value it has. When I determine that I can give something value, I take away the value of all things. Then I get caught up in an endless attempt to give them back some kind of value, based on very limited data. The end result of this process is not meaning, but meaninglessness. We have seen the full culmination of this faulty meaning system the post-modern era. We are currently in a state that can be properly called nihilism, where nothing has any value, and everything is meaningless. But since we cannot accept meaninglessness, we get stuck in this endless cycle where our attemtp to create meaning creates the opposite. How do we get out of this meaningless cycle?
The simple answer is learning to listen instead of talk. In our minds there is a constant dialog, perpetrating upon the world our own self-referential meaning. It mostly sounds like this, “I don’t like that shirt, that skin color, that song, this flavor, that look, that person, this neighborhood,” and so on. It is a constant critiquing of all things based on how they please or displease me. We might dress it up in more educated ways, but it all boils down to personal, petty preference. We might say that classical music really is better than pop-rock, and we may site facts and data to affirm our view, but it is still just self-referential truth.
The truth about reality is the frame we use to determine what has value, and what kind of value it has. This is truth that can only come to us from God. This is why Jesus told us to stop judging. It is this constant judging that puts us at odds with God’s perspective of the world. To see the world properly we need to stop trying to tell it what it should be and start listening to what God says it is. We do this by learning how to silence our thoughts, and once they have been silenced enough, for long enough, we will begin to hear the deeper, quiet voice of God.
We will know we are beginning to hear this deeper voice when we find ourselves falling in love with the world, because the voice of God is always heard through love.
God always affirms the energy of him/herself flowing to and through all things. And likewise, always resists the opposing energy of hate. God’s energy is always affirming the value of all things, because all things come from God. Any energy which differentiates between better or worse, more or less, higher or lower when it comes to the value of things, is an energy flow in opposition to God. We can say different things have different purpose and function. We cannot say God creates an order of value based on more or less. God’s value of things is always affirming. As we learn to stop pressing our own value upon things, and let our minds become quiet from this maddening mob of words and opinions, we can then begin to hear God’s quiet, loving voice in our minds.
Ever heard the phrase, “over-analysis leads to paralysis?” The better truth is that “self-analysis leads to paralysis.” When we’re functioning in our minds through our own operating system, it’s bound to get overloaded. It’s just a matter of time. What we need is a better operating system that can handle all of the data, and by doing so give us a better picture of reality. True reality is a God who loves everything. God is that better operating system. Our own operating system reverses the flow of energy by trying to control all things according to our purpose and meaning instead of simply receiving those things from the energy flow of God.
Anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, hatred and the like are all symptoms of the ego-centric self trying to control what it cannot, what it is not meant to. Our system of meaning and understanding is simply too small, and to inadequate to give the whole world meaning. It puts us at the center of the universe instead of God.
Though we start out programed to operate out of our own mind, is natural for us to flow in our mind with the mind of God leading. The tension between these two paradigms creates mental dissidence. It puts us in a place to be operating in contradiction to how we were intended to.
When we begin to live out of the flow of God’s mind instead of our own, it puts us in a place where understanding comes to us effortlessly, instead of having to work hard to work out our understanding of anything. The understanding we need in every moment begins to be sourced by God instead of us, which means that, instead of the constant dialog of what we think and how we must think through everything, we experience the mental quiet of simply waiting to be told.
The contemplative life is a listening life.
We are ever waiting in the expectation that God will give us the understanding we need for every moment. After my breakdown, when all my thoughts were chaotic and out of control, I suddenly had the most excruciating desire for my mind to get quiet. It’s been a long journey, but here on the other side, I’ve come to experience a whole lot more of God’s voice in my mind, because I’ve been able to let go of a lot of my mental talking and get more quiet. The quiet is a double blessing. It brings peace to my mind and gives me the inner stillness to hear the voice of God speaking to me in so many ways. I’m also better able to really hear the heart and mind of others too. What that looks like, in every moment of needing understanding, is that I resist the knee jerk to come up with my own ideas, stay quiet, and let God answer in his/her way and time. What that looks like is the kind of shalom-peace-rest God promised in scripture coming to inhabit our minds as a part of our whole person. Amen!