Completing our series on the Psychology of Transformation, we look at how the East saw the psychology of the mind and how the state of no-mind is where our True Self resides. We discuss:
- The different layers of the mind
- How the East looked at conditioning
- The ego and the discriminating intellect
- The concepts of Maya and Atman to view a complete picture of consciousness
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I’m Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We have another episode for you today on the psychology of transformation. Before we begin, I do want to remind you to please subscribe to our channel here, click on the button here in the corner if you’re watching us on YouTube. If you’re listening to us on Spotify, iTunes or other podcast services, don’t forget before you go to click subscribe, so you do not miss a single episode.
Robert Maldonado 00:59
It’s springtime, so I wanted to dedicate this podcast to our listeners in the UK. And of course our students in the UK and our mentors.
Debra Maldonado 01:09
The episode today is: Can you experience no-mind? Can you experience a state of no mind? If you’re in no-mind, how do you know you’re experiencing it? We talked about the psychology of Jung in the past few episodes.
Robert Maldonado 01:41
This is a good segue or next step to thinking deeper about what is in the deeper mind and what we call the mind, also what consciousness is. Eastern philosophy and Eastern psychology, a lot of people don’t understand that how we practice psychology in the modern world really comes from ancient sources. The Vedic philosophies already had an understanding of the ego, of sensory perception.
Debra Maldonado 02:21
Freud didn’t make it all up. He probably was reading Eastern philosophy, writers, literature.
Robert Maldonado 02:30
There is an interesting fact that Greeks actually had contact with some of the yogis and Buddhist monks of India through Alexander the Great. When Alexander conquered parts of India, they built cities and communities, there were Greek immigrants and some back and forth. They influenced each other, of course. Let’s look at the psychology of transformation from those ancient sources and see how they match up to what we know nowadays. This is an Eastern perspective. It comes from the Upanishads, from the Yoga Sutras, from the Bhagavad Gita. The way we’re presenting it is more from our understanding and how we see some of their terminology useful to our work we do in coaching. First of all, some of you who study yoga might be familiar with this term Manomaya Kosha. Mano means mind or an aspect of the mind. The way it’s described in certain philosophies, Mano is the faculty driven by the emotions, as well as our likes and dislikes. What does this remind us of in Western psychology? Conditioning, the like and dislike, what we’re attracted to and what we’re repulsed by through our senses. The power of conditioning is what conditions us. If you’ve ever seen how people train animals, dogs or tigers, when they perform an action the trainer wants them to do, they’re rewarded, they’re reinforcing with a like “I like that, here you go”, they like the food so that programming, that action is reinforced, they’re going to repeat it again. When you punish them, you give them a shock, or isolate them, or give them timeout, or whatever it is, anything that they do not like, that diminishes that behavior. The environment itself is performing this experiment continuously with all of us because we’re continuously running into situations that we like and dislike. On social media, how is it set up?
Debra Maldonado 05:30
Likes! Now, they even have an angry one now. When Facebook first came out, it was just “like”; that’s all you can do. Now you can like you can be angry, you can cry, you can say a prayer, send a hug. But that angry one is funny. If you agree or disagree with what someone posted, or agree that you’re angry along with the person that’s posting. There’s that conditioning element that’s driven by the senses. It’s more sensory, the senses come in. We have a prepackaged response from early life. We’re not even making a choice, we’re just reacting.
Robert Maldonado 06:17
The ancients understood this principle of conditioning thousands of years ago, they understood already that as human beings, we’re conditioned by our behaviors and the results of our behaviors. This term of Mana, the mind, receiving sensory information and being conditioned by it is an important one. The second principle is called ahamkara, which means ego or the ego maker, the I maker. This is where the ego comes from, or as used in Western psychology, the sense of “I”.
Debra Maldonado 07:03
Just like an amoeba has a conditioning response, this I is more self-conscious, or do you think even an amoeba has an I?
Robert Maldonado 07:16
Yes and no. It’s not an I like we experience it, obviously. But they definitely have this “I gotta look out for number one, I got to survive and move away from the heat, something that’s too hot or too cold, and move towards what’s pleasant and nourishing.”
Debra Maldonado 07:36
Even a plant will find its way to grow toward the sun, or lean in a different way, like the ivy leans to grow. It has that individual, but the way humans talk about the ego is a lot more intense because you not only have a sense of I, but you also have a lot of memory to your past, you’re forward-thinking, you have planning and all these other functions.
Robert Maldonado 08:06
It’s tied to identity. If you think what are memories, they’re a collection of previous thoughts, recordings of those thoughts that gave us a sense of identity. Like the shelves where we put pictures of where we have been on vacations. You have the little Buddha. That’s part of your identity. You’re saying “I identify with meditation, with these eastern thoughts.” So there is the ego, the ahamkara, the I-making function of the mind, it’s a very powerful part of our psychology. It was seen as a hindrance to liberation because of that over-identification that happens that we start to get comfortable and think, “I know who I am, I am this I, this personality, this individual perspective that I experience every day.” The Eastern philosophy says, “That’s not who you are at all. That’s simply a function of your mind. If you get stuck there, you’re limiting yourself to a very narrow bandwidth of existence and reality.” The third one really opens up the vista for us. We’re going deeper into the mind, from the senses inward. Deeper than the ego, than the I is bodhi mind. The bodhi mind is the route for Buddha, meaning awakening. It’s the awakening mind. In Western psychology, unfortunately, this is neglected. We need it, it’s not really well understood, maybe a little bit of what they mean by mindset, or what they mean by metacognition, the ability to learn how to learn. But in the East, they really saw this as the key to self-awakening, the bodhi mind, the awakening mind had to be cultivated. It wasn’t just there, you weren’t automatically awake just because you have it, you have to cultivate it. How do you cultivate it? Meditation.
Debra Maldonado 10:44
When we’re meditating, we’re actually allowing ourselves to start that self-inquiry. That’s where we’re looking at our thoughts and examining ourselves, having reflectiveness.
Robert Maldonado 10:59
But it wasn’t a passive meditation, the body mind is this discriminatory function that allows us to discriminate what is real, what is true and what is unreal and false.
Debra Maldonado 11:15
Is it like the executive functioning, a little bit like rationale?
Robert Maldonado 11:21
Yes, pure reason, where you can detach yourself, you can remove your ego.
Debra Maldonado 11:30
You’re not in reaction mode. We often see this after something happened, you’re weighing the options for the next decision, you’re looking at the past you reacted to, “How can I approach this differently?”
Robert Maldonado 11:45
We can look at the scientific method as an attempt to use this process. But often, they still get entangled with the ego.
Debra Maldonado 11:56
But don’t scientists usually stumble upon the answer? A lot of times when they have something new they discover, it’s stumble.
Robert Maldonado 12:04
True scientists or artists always use this bodhi mind because they’re allowing the unconscious to provide the answers. That’s part of it, it’s closer to what we call gut feelings, intuition, that sense of knowing something without having to test it out logically.
Debra Maldonado 13:16
We have the condition part of the mind, Mano, we have the ego, I, ahamkara, then we have bodhi, which is the intellect, the discriminating mind. We’re not in reactive mode, let me weigh my options, let me make a more logical decision instead of just reactive. But there’s this other stage where it’s no mind.
Robert Maldonado 13:50
Deeper than the bodhi mind, we start to enter this realm of no thoughts. Different schools use it in different ways. In some schools, it’s called the bliss mind, where you reach this state of openness, no thoughts, you’re starting to be free from the conditioning of your individual mind.
Debra Maldonado 14:28
Would it be this feeling when you first wake up in the morning, before your mind starts kicking in, there’s just an awareness that you’re awake. Then your mind starts tracking. Would that be pure awareness?
Robert Maldonado 14:44
We enter that state every 24 hours during deep sleep. In dreaming, of course, we’re very active and we’re living another experience in our dreams, but in deep sleep, we enter that blissful mind, which is very restorative. This tells you something about meditation as well. When you consciously enter this meditative state, very deep, restorative energy bubbles up from the ground of our being, which is pure consciousness. In the Upanishads, it’s called sipping the nectar of immortality, we’re restored because we’re touching the ground of our being, the essence of our being. Now that deeper essence, that’s what is called no mind, that deeper essence is pure awareness, no hint of individuality, no hint of thought, no hint of any division of awareness.
Debra Maldonado 15:57
The place when you’re awake is not that state. The example I just gave you, that’s not it.
Robert Maldonado 16:09
That’s not it. Because anytime you’re discriminating, you’re working with objects, either mental or perceptual objects, there’s a split. There’s the perceived object, there’s the perceiving, the action of perceiving, and then there’s a perceiver.
Debra Maldonado 16:33
When you’re in meditation, there’s no way to reach that pure awareness because you’re saying that we’re not awake when we experience it, only in deep sleep.
Robert Maldonado 16:43
No, no, meditation is precisely the art and practice of reaching this no-mind state.
Debra Maldonado 16:52
But can’t you have that when you first awake before your thoughts happen? There is this emptiness you feel, it doesn’t last very long, but it’s a meditative state. When you wake up, your I isn’t going “I’m Debi back in my body”. Would that be like you’re aware?
Robert Maldonado 17:15
If you’re aware of objects, there’s objects in the perception, therefore, there’s a thought.
Debra Maldonado 17:22
Even in meditation, you can be aware of objects, so you’re not really in that state?
Robert Maldonado 17:29
That’s not real meditation, though. It’s reparation for meditation.
Debra Maldonado 17:34
In real meditation, how can someone experience that no objects in a conscious meditation because you’re conscious of your body? Or is it like an advanced Samadhi type of experience?
Robert Maldonado 17:46
That’s it, Samadhi. In the Yoga Sutras, it begins with this idea that yoga is the stilling of thoughts. If we can think of an ocean, the waves on the ocean are our thoughts. It’s moving, there’s movement. If we allow those waves to become still, then the ocean becomes clear, it reflects everything perfectly like a mirror. There is no abstraction and distraction from the waves. Our thoughts are the modifications of our mind created like a static, or those waveforms that disturb our ability to experience its true essence, which is pure awareness. Yoga meditation is the art of practicing stilling the mind so that we can experience that true essence, which is pure awareness.
Debra Maldonado 18:59
What’s the transformational element of that besides not having stressful thoughts? What’s the purpose besides “I feel good.” A lot of therapists working with people in psychology or coaches recommend meditation, but a lot of times, it’s more stress relief, maybe for intuition and things like that. This is different than developing your intuition. What would be the benefit that someone would get?
Robert Maldonado 19:34
There’s two concepts we need to understand for that. One is Maya, a simple way of translating it into our world would be apparent reality. It appears to us as a reality, we can see it, we can touch it, taste it, smell it, so it appears to us as a reality. But in this philosophy, it’s saying Maya is like a dance, a movement that appears real to us but it’s not. It’s more like a dream. Maya is an important term to understand. What the Upanishads and the Vedic philosophy say is that the world for us is Maya. It’s not saying we’re not experiencing it. It’s not saying it doesn’t exist. It’s simply saying the way it exists for us is dreamlike. It’s an appearance, it appears to our mind in this incredibly realistic way. The other term is Atman, or Brahman, which means pure awareness untainted, unmoved by the experience of Maya. What happens in Maya, stays in Maya, very much like Vegas. It will not taint the pure awareness, the pure awareness remains pure. If you think about these yoga systems and meditation systems, what they were aiming at is for you to realize that you are the pure awareness, not the experience of Maya. Who experiences the Maya? The ego. How do we experience it? As conditioning, as this this powerful desire to possess objects or repulsion to get away from the things we don’t like. The aim is to dissuade ourselves of the illusion that we are the individual ego.
Debra Maldonado 21:55
If I can say it in layman’s terms, simplifying it, the pure awareness, understanding that it is truly our true nature, if we can understand that within ourselves there’s these thoughts and conditioning, an ego and even intellect and decisions you can make that make Maya, we’re trying to see Maya less seriously, we do not get caught up in it as much. By us not getting caught up in the Maya of the world, we’re also not getting caught up with our own life, our own thoughts, our own emotions, we’re able to stand that nectar of immortality that we go to each night for sleep and have more conscious experience of that. But you said that we can’t experience no-mind if we perceive objects. I want to be a devil’s advocate here and say: how does that work?
Robert Maldonado 22:58
Most of you have heard the idea that meditation is about stilling the mind. Let’s take the premise that the mind can be stilled, which means we sit down and start to pay attention to our inner world. We close our eyes and start to see that our mind is always thinking, always doing something. It’s always thinking about what happened yesterday. Where am I sitting? How do I feel? Am I comfortable? Is it hot in the room? Is it cold? It’s its nature to move, to generate thought. Meditation was an idea that if we’re not necessarily these things, there’s an awareness that transcends the mind. Can we access it? Because then we can experience no mind by transcending the mind. We’re not necessarily trying to force the mind to be still.
Debra Maldonado 24:07
Identifying with a part that isn’t thought, we’re not identifying with the thought.
Robert Maldonado 24:11
We’re not identifying with the thoughts and feelings, therefore, we’re able to experience what is the foundational ground that we’re standing on as human beings. We’re aware and able to think, once we get past the thoughts and emotions we start to see that awareness itself is the foundation of the mind. It’s what allows the mind to think and to perceive.
Debra Maldonado 24:44
By letting go of everything, even our feelings being us, or the body being us, our identity, we start to move toward that higher principle.
Robert Maldonado 24:59
If we think of this house, the space around it which it occupies, what would happen to that space if we burn down the house? Would the space be burnt? It’d be impeccable, still pure space. It’s a metaphor, we’re not saying consciousness is space. But in the mind and thinking about the mind, our individual mind is the house. Awareness, consciousness is the space in which the mind exists.
Debra Maldonado 25:41
Outside and inside, the awareness of beyond just the house, the house is like your personal ego in the body. Then there’s a space that fills everything, even in between, at the microscopic level. But we tend to not look at the empty space, we tend to look at the walls and at furniture and say, “We need a bigger television, I need a new car in the front yard, a new tree or new flowers in the front, the landscaping to make it beautiful.” What we’re really not looking at or being conscious of is that emptiness, that space.
Robert Maldonado 26:23
It’s often referred to as emptiness. But what they mean is that this living space is untainted. Even if the house is burnt down, the body is subject to illness, aging, and death, it doesn’t matter. The true you, the real essence of who you are is untouched by those elements.
Debra Maldonado 26:49
Obviously, one podcast episode isn’t gonna get you to pure awareness, but understanding this has helped me not get caught up in life. Even if I am conscious of objects and situations in my life, I understand it being Maya. For some reason, that has given me so much peace. It’s not that it’s not real, it’s an apparent reality, which means it’s a changing reality. When you see someone cut you in the line at Starbucks, you can label them as a bad person, but you don’t know if they cut because they were running home because their spouse was sick or somewhere they needed to go to. They’re not a bad person from that one act. But we tend to take things at face value in that moment, in that snapshot and make a lot of assumptions of things. Seeing everything as Maya helps you drop the judgment of what you’re seeing and help you see something maybe more universal, maybe even more potential and more possibility in other people and in your current reality and what you’re creating in your life.
Robert Maldonado 28:02
It certainly gives us a bigger perspective on our life. If we’re identifying with a body-mind, we’re going to be in trouble sooner or later. The things we value and use to prop our life up are going to change. If nothing else, at least they’re going to be changing, which means we’re always going to be having to reassess and reevaluate our life. But if you understand that you’re this deeper awareness, that that’s the real you, the apparent reality of your ego and your body are subject to change, that’s their nature, then you can accept it on better terms, in a more sane way. It won’t cause you as much suffering. There is always a little bit of course because we’re compassionate beings, we care for other people. We’re always going to experience some suffering, but not that deeper suffering of being attached to things that are impermanent and apparent. They’re not real, they’re not the absolute reality. They’re part of that apparent Maya.
Debra Maldonado 29:22
Just to close, that’s why Jung’s work was so groundbreaking. It was bringing in the spiritual element, that no mind element, this idea that self is the idea, that transpersonal psychology versus just focusing on your conditioning and breaking through fears, which are great for you to make some change but this idea of bringing in these other elements of your no mind can help you transform in a more dramatic and lasting way. You stop chasing shadows and mirages in the world and see what’s true. Then you’re able to deal with the world in a more profound, meaningful way.
Robert Maldonado 30:06
Fortunately, more and more people are interested in this deeper psychology.
Debra Maldonado 30:13
That’s it for today’s episode. Again, if you are listening to us and watching us on YouTube, there’s a little button in the corner, click it to subscribe. Also a reminder for those who are listening to our podcast each week, make sure you subscribe. If you’d like to leave us your honest review, we’d love to hear what you think of the show. Tell us what you’re interested in and maybe suggestions for new topics, we would love to hear that. Hope you have a great week.