Mental Activity

Mental Activity

Samara by quapan
Samara by quapan

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.

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  1. Jean

    This is certainly my experience, after the first awakening the mind went silent in the sense that the self referential narrator disappeared. I still work in the same job as before awakening and it is amazing how little thought is required even if it is a job that requires a good amount of intellectual knowledge and reasoning. It is like I sit still and my body knows what to do without engaging in thought. Sometimes I am really surprised what came out of my mouth in a conversation for example. Now it is easy to just sit still and rest with no mind activity at all. In the intense phase of the awakening I could not bring myself to think a thought even when I tried. It was like I was sitting in a black hole that would swallow everything immediately when something started to arise.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been surprised by what comes out of my mouth too. (laughs)
      It can continue to evolve. As the liveliness in the silence comes online, things may seem less “quiet” but its really just more awareness of the movements in the world around us. Collective mind can become like a background drone even though your local mind is settled. More challenging events or shadows can stir things up and so forth.
      Life changes and the experience can change with it. But once established, that ground of freedom and peace remains.

    1. Actually, No, Rob.
      Some are simply built that way. It’s not the mental activity, it’s the attachment thats the barrier. When the attachment softens, we can shift. For some, the mind gets very silent after awakening. For others it takes longer to subside.
      I have a strong and active mind. My teacher said I was going to analyze my way to enlightenment. But that wasn’t a barrier to awakening or profound experiences – it simply came along for the ride. 🙂

  2. Lynette

    How does one know if one is awake? or if one is about to be awake? This is a good post about mind activity. I can’t assume that people see or interpret the way I do.

    1. It’s pretty distinct. One shifts from being a person experiencing consciousness to consciousness experiencing a person. It is moksha, liberation from the smallness of a me.
      Some people do have a “softer” shift but its still distinctive.
      About to is very hard to tell as it happens when its right for the totality. People can be very ripe for awhile or they can seem completely unprepared and shift clearly. 🙂
      This is not something we control. We just prepare the ground as best we can and let go.
      No, you can’t assume at all. Everyone has their own perspective- thats why they’re here…

  3. K

    I have a monkey mind. The only thing I would say I have noticed is that I recognize my thoughts as thoughts and not as something to be believed or even acted upon. I am less attached to them. I hope that is progress. I think it is desirable to settle the monkey mind and breath focused meditation does settle it. However, given my schedule and proclivities, prayer/chanting is effortless and a habit. Meditation is not yet a habit. I keep intending to make it a habit – but have not yet.

    1. Hi K
      Thats very, very common. And thats a very important insight. It’s a huge step to step out of the cage of the mind and see the train for what it is.
      Settling the mind can help us feel more settled. But you want to avoid trying to force or control the mind. That makes the ego stronger and can be an impediment.
      And yes, establishing a good routine in normal life, in a world of chaos is never easy. But again, don’t force. Have the intention and went the time is right, it will come together. Or an upgrade will show up for a better routine. 🙂

  4. Reggie

    This is an interesting post I’ve noticed over the years a silence that has become ever more present throughout all activity. I still have thoughts but they get swallowed up in this silence. I noticed when it first happened when I was meditating in a chapel at work. For the first time in my life I had not a single clinging to thought just an open space. I drove home with no music on and it was wonderful. Ever since that day that silence has never truly left even in the worst of circumstances.

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