The Brain, The Ego & The Mind : Do you know how intimately connected we are to our body and mind? The energy that keeps us alive, where does it come from? When it leaves the body, the body dies. Where does this energy go?
Most of us are involved in our daily routine of living and surviving on this planet earth. Despite all the technical knowledge and advances we have made through science, we have plenty of evidence that our mental health is deteriorating. It is because most people have no idea how the mind works. Here I will try to help you understand my understanding of the mind. You do not have to believe what I say, but please try to disprove it in your mind and see if what I write makes sense.
It is evident there is a greater intelligence beyond our thinking process at work. If we looked at our body, we think it is our brain where all our brilliance lies. It is because the brain is the physical part we use for thinking and reasoning. If we are unable to use our brain for any reason, we would feel handicapped. The brain protects us from our environment and helps us take evasive action if any danger threatens us. Without the brain, we would not survive or understand our world and our mind. Life would become challenging if we could not use our brains.
Thus the brain plays a crucial role in our perception of reality. It is the organ we use to understand our mind. It is the organ that helps us perceive reality. If we did not use it properly, it is the organ that can lead to physical and mental ill-health. It is the organ the mind uses to express our talents and personality. Without the brain, the mind cannot function fully. So what is the mind? As I see it, the mind is the energy source (the current) that keeps us alive.
For convenience, we can divide it into two parts, the conscious and the subconscious. But in reality, we have one mind. The self or ego operates in the conscious part of the mind. It is a concentration of our desire to survive on this planet. It is territorial and possessive and wants to control everything. It builds itself (ego-boost) on the knowledge and experiences in life to become a well-defined entity and hides behind beliefs. It wants to continue to live forever and is tied to time. It has an immense capacity to delude itself. We need the ego to interpret reality in front of us. We also need the brain to develop our egos. Without the ego, we cannot function as individuals. The brain allows the ego to experience consciousness and awareness, which are the property of the mind. So one can see how intimately the brain and the ego are connected.
However, our subconscious mind is also connected to the brain. It controls all our vital functions and systems in our body, such as the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system etc. People take the subconscious mind for granted and show very little understanding of how the ego influences the subconscious mind. It is the subconscious mind that makes us happy or sad, depending on how we stimulate it. It has no discriminating power. It does not recognize right from wrong, the good from the bad. Whatever we do in life, we are always trying to appease our subconscious mind. For instance, when we pray to God or some other entity, we try to appease our subconscious mind. We are doing the same thing when we are playing music, dancing, singing etc. Our subconscious mind is the piano we use to play the tune we want. The keys of the piano are the words we use to produce a specific sound. We can play a happy tune or a sad tune, depending on how we use the words. Therefore, shouldn’t we try to understand how our subconscious mind works?
If we looked at our body, intelligence permeates right through, from the central (the brain) to the individual cellular level. Yes, there is perception taking place even at the cellular level. Every cell in our body knows its function and how to replace itself. The skin cells know their function of protecting us from the outside environment, the lung cells know how to transfer oxygen from the air, the kidney cells know how to purify our blood, the digestive cells in the gastrointestinal system know how to digest food etc., and so it goes on. All this is under subconscious control. Even our immune system, which involves the healing process, is under subconscious control. The conscious mind, where the ego operates, has very little control but indirectly influences all these areas. Hence, ignoring the subconscious mind and taking it for granted would be a stupid thing to do. Yet, it is what we have been doing and are doing today.
So what happens when we incur some damage to our brain? One can have a stroke or have a head injury from a fall. One can suffer from some degenerative brain disease like Alzheimer’s or a motor neuron disease, etc. The symptoms and signs we will suffer from will depend on the area of the affected brain. We can lose our consciousness, lose our memory, or we can become paralyzed, etc. When this happens, our ego or self cannot function correctly. We will feel handicapped. When a person becomes brain dead, the conscious mind or the ego cannot function at all. Yet, the subconscious mind can keep the vital functions going, and the person can continue to live. When we switch off the life support system, the body dies as the mind separates from the body. Yes, our brain is like the hardware of the computer system. If it malfunctions for any reason, the software (the mind) will crash.
A perfect example of a mind trapped in a crippled body is the case of Dr Stephen Hawkins. He was a British scientist who suffered for 55 years from motor neuron disease, which only affected the motor areas of his brain. Since other areas of his brain were unaffected, his ego (the conscious mind) could function normally; that is, he could think and reason. Therefore, it is clear that specific areas of our brain are involved in maintaining our consciousness and awareness, without which the ego cannot operate.
In the Brisbane Courier-Mail Qweekend Magazine of 24/4/2021, there was a story about three young adults aged 20,21 and 22 from different backgrounds dying in their sleep. They went to sleep and never woke up. They suffered from epilepsy and died from SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). This tragedy shows that any defect in our brain can cause it to malfunction, and our life can be at risk.
Our mental and physical health depends on our ability to use our brain not just for ego-building exercise but also to understand how our mind works. We should learn how the ego influences the subconscious mind. We should become aware of how our perceptions influence our thinking and how our thinking affects our actions. Our perception of time that we have created makes us time-travellers. We are caught in this net of time and always travelling between the past, present and future. But in reality, there is no such thing as time.
There is a timeless dimension all around us. It is just as real as the time dimension of our creation. The only thing that separates the two is our perception. Everyone experiences this timeless dimension from time to time when the observer in mind and what is being observed become one phenomenon. But because the ego is so dependent on thinking and fearful of disappearing into the timeless that it cannot recognize it.
To experience the timeless dimension, one should go to the mountain top or out in the bush away from any man-made structures. Here the pull of nature is so powerful that it is easy to observe the phenomenon of the observer in your mind, and what is being observed become one. But one can experience this anywhere. When this happens, you will discover that we have only one mind. Your mind is experiencing eternity in this state, and you are fully alert and aware of both your inner and outer worlds. The ego is there, and you are not in a trance. You will realize that you are not separate but one with the universe. You will realize that you are also part of this timeless dimension. There is no thinking but just awareness. But once the ego uses words to describe what you see, you will revert to our familiar time zone.
From the above observations, one can see that we have only one mind, and the ego is not the whole mind. The ego cannot operate effectively without a healthy brain. The brain allows the ego to think and reason. The brain allows us to perceive reality. The ego ties itself to time without realizing that it is a part of the timeless dimension.
What the ego is creating is an escapist world today. The more one tries to escape from reality, the more out of touch with reality one becomes. It is distorting our perceptions, and we will suffer from more mental health problems.
It is, therefore, time to understand our ego better and become aware of our perceptions and thinking. We have to use our brains to understand the timeless dimension and lose the fear of death before our mind separates from the body. Without self-knowledge, you are like a ship without an engine on the ocean of life. The rough seas will buffet you. You will be worse for wear when you arrive at your destination. However, if you want to be a ship that can plough through the rough seas without much effort, empower yourself with the engine of self-knowledge.