One of the curious features of being human is that we assume others experience the world the same way we do. We may expect people to see things the same way also, considering them mistaken if they don’t.
We do typically run from the same collective experience of the world around us. But the variations in how we process and interpret that can vary significantly.
For example, do you experience the world as dangerous and fearful? Or full of opportunities? Do you have any colour blindness? What about hearing range? Do you have a large social life or live like a hermit? The possibilities are endless.
What about within? Do you have an inner monologue? The mind chats away to itself, rehearsing upcoming meetings, running a commentary or judgment, and debating what we should do.
In the Four Levels of Speech, this inner chatter is called Madhyama, the “middle one.”
But not everyone has this. In fact, they may find it hard to imagine having such an inner dialogue. Such people would typically operate from a more abstract, non-verbal level of the mind. They have to work to verbalize what they think about something because the mind isn’t automatically labelling everything. Linear thinking may feel like an uncomfortable constraint. They may not recognize any thoughts are there.
This partly relates to our sensory orientation. Research has found a correlation between visual people and verbal thinking. Someone more somatic would be more in touch with their body and “gut feelings.” They may have less chatter, depending on stress levels. But again, there are many variations.
Some people have the idea that the mind goes silent after a clear awakening. They may even consider this a symptom of enlightenment. However, I would say it varies. Certainly, the monkey mind will die down. We’ll have periods when the mind goes quiet. And we can settle into this very easily.
However, there can still be experiences to process and further purification arising that create mental activity. Resting in consciousness, we’re not caught in the mind the same way. But thoughts arise nonetheless. Not to mention, there are some activities that require more mind. Like editing this article. (laughs)
Some people do report the mind going silent after awakening. This indicates the settling of stress and the mind shifting gears to operate at a more abstract level. The more subtle impulses are less common and quieter, so the subjective experience would be the quieting of the mind.
If someone spends their time meditating in a cave and lets go of all worldly activity, the mind would certainly be very quiet. But most people live in the world with some responsibilities.
In the average case, to say there is no activity is to miss what is still going on. Like the little memory that pops up as you head out the door without your event ticket. Or the intuitive feeling to turn early. Certainly this is not “thinking” in the old way of it, but it’s not an absence of mind. Not the roaring crowds, but the still, small voice.
I suspect for some, thinking becomes less conscious as it’s more subtle. Like the people who can’t imagine an inner dialogue. This may lead to the idea they have no thoughts. But what do they consider “thoughts?”
It’s a little like those who insist they have no person when they still have talents, preferences, and other qualities of a person. If someone is clearly awake, they know they are not that person. But they still have it, just as they still have a body. It’s not “mine” but remains the vehicle for experience.
If there is enough refinement, some settle into thinking more from Pashyanti, the first impulse or faint feeling level. This is the level of resolute intellect and of ritam & cognition. This opens up the fulfilment of desires and the intelligence of the universe. When we’re awake to the intelligence, experiences come with their own understanding.
This is why it’s valuable to recognize the movements still going on when the monkey mind settles. A lot of potential can open up in those quiet flows.