Sunday, March 23, 2008

The unconscious iceberg – intention and the muse

George G Clark, 23 March 2008

The mind is a iceberg with consciousness as the little bit poking above the surface and the unconscious as the massive underwater bit. Both bits are programmed by similar causes and conditions and some of these are hard wired (nature) while other are programmed by culture (nurture).

These days I am inclined to 're-consider how my light is spent'. I arrange for time-out from busy-ness and I sit quietly for extended periods. I get in the small boat (see diagram) where (a) 'I' can be 'witness' to what is happening in consciousness and (b) I can be aware of what is going into and coming out of the unconscious. It becomes obvious that 'I' am in at least two minds.

I find that I am no longer willing to engage with many of the old 'shoulds' and 'oughts'. There are habits, stereotypes and viewpoints that no longer correspond to 'reality'. I now grudge stuff for which I once had a healthy appetite. There is conflict between conscious and unconscious promptings. Patterns of attraction and aversion are now for different topics of thought and ways of thinking.

Where once I was content to pay rational and objective attention to externals there is now a strong intention to pay heed to internal and subjective intuitions. Note that the latter have always been present and influential; but, in the days before I became mindful, their influence was rarely apparent and acknowledged. Given the iceberg, this was obviously less than ideal.

In reconsidering how my life is spent I now pay particular attention to my motivation ie to what enthuses me and to what I grudge doing. I play down the promptings to busy-ness which are the habitual 'shoulds'. The new pattern is to wait till the mood captures attention and then to spontaneously go with the flow.

Flow often begins as an 'Aha' moment. There is then effortless, non-egoic action. Control is self-less. Stuff just happens. The mind has a mind of its own – or so it seems in retrospect when ego consciousness has kicked back in. Note that the conscious mind can usually see ways to edit the outpourings of the unconscious! (Aha: if the 'muse' is speaking then why is it not word perfect? Beware magical thinking and reification!)

For me, at the present time, the muse is mainly attending to meta issues such as thinking about thinking (and feeling) and noticing what is being noticed. There is a heightened awareness of the multiple and subtle causes and conditions which drive the flow of thoughts and feelings, and also of the many subtle interactions between mind and body.

"If we begin to listen to the stream of thought as thought, to attend to thoughts as events in the field of awareness, and if we develop a certain calmness and quiet outwardly, we come to see our thinking much more clearly. We are able to listen to it and see exactly what is on our minds, and how much of it is just mental noise." (p405)
Jon Kabat-Zinn (2005) Coming to our senses – healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness; ISBN

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