After being a psychologist and practicing psychotherapy for over forty years if there is one thing I have learned it is that no one does anything one hundred percent of the time. Even the most anxious person feels calm sometimes, the saddest feels happy, and the coldest acts friendly. Everyone shifts across different states of mind, sometimes out of one’s awareness and sometimes through conscious volition. The latter done through being mindful about the content of one’s mind, and present to one’s choices and actions in any given moment. Everyone has three states of mind to monitor and manage, and if done well will foster personal and spiritual growth. These states of mind may be labeled as wrong mind, right mind, and spiritual mind. And by attending to them one is able to strengthen or weaken them by shifting from one to another as one chooses.
The method being proposed is simple to describe but challenging to do consistently and to master to the point of it being natural. Yet, if one has developed some basic mindfulness and presence skills it is possible to learn and use. The method requires being mindful of these states of mind, what are actually one’s various personae, and shifting from an undesired to desired one: from wrong mind to right mind or from right mind to spiritual mind. One must shift the whole mindset, the gestalt, not only some of the qualities. And when successful one experiences a change in one’s being, feeling that one’s “me” has been altered. Effort is then focused on maintaining the chosen mindset.
The following descriptions of the mindsets are given only to serve one in generating one’s own personal list. One may label them what one likes, but one should avoid being pejorative: maladaptive mind, wellbeing mind, spiritual mind; or, poor mind, thriving mind, waking mind. The three minds are distinguished by their mental, emotional, subjective, and action characteristics. Wrong mind is: mentally self-loathing and negative; emotionally fearful, sad, or angry; subjectively down, feeling inferior, weak, a failure, and a victim. It involves: poor concentration or being spaced out; confusion regarding self and one’s goals; and, aggressive action toward self and others. Right mind is: mentally self-accepting and objective or positive; emotionally neutral, calm, or joyful; subjectively feeling confident, strong, equal, and capable. It involves good concentration and focus; clarity regarding self and one’s goals; and assertion in one’s action for self and/or toward others. Spiritual mind is: mentally accepting self and others, nonattached to outcome and open to what happens next; emotionally neutral, peaceful, and/or loving; subjectively feeling equanimous, expansive and deep, and in union with “other”. It involves: focused presence with higher intuition or direct knowing, clarity regarding truth, and “action without action” assertion that is beneficial and naturally positive regarding self and others.
In many ways this method is one of retrieval. One retrieves knowledge and wisdom, bodily experience, and transcendent experience to either maintain or shift one’s state of mind: whether one is drawing from personal learning or healing, or from one’s spiritual practices one is using what one has already experienced and knows. One rejects the wrong mind, chooses not to focus on it, and volitionally embodies the desired subjective feeling while remembering the valid mental content associated with the right mind. And if one desires spiritual mind, one adds the transcendent qualities of that mind, essentially shifting right mind to spiritual mind.
Embodying the subjective feeling means one maintains or assumes the body posture, breathing, and movement of the desired mindset qualities, for example calm, strength, and/or confidence for right mind. Strength training, yoga, competitive sports, stretching, actually any body postures and movements one assumes throughout one’s day, can provide this if one has already recognized the qualities in them that are being described. Doing this first can provide a mental clarity and objectivity that enables one to either correct cognitive distortions or falsehoods, and/or repeat the positive and useful knowledge one has previously learned. These two steps then move one more fluidly into right action. As mentioned previously, the separate aspects of this process need to occur as one gestalt, practically simultaneously. Of course this is where practice is required.
Spiritual mind is always best achieved from right mind. One does this by remembering one’s formal practice experience. For instance, one can recall and relive in the moment what meditation is like mentally (e.g. not thinking), emotionally (e.g. emotions rise up and pass), and subjectively (e.g. boundary of self feels expanded beyond usual limits). Breathing as if in meditation, praying as one engages in other activities, or even reflecting on spiritual aphorisms are means to move to spiritual mind. One might also recall times when one’s mind was altered into transcendence unexpectedly or without formal practice. This might include remembering a morning sunrise, a peaceful walk in nature, or even aspects of a paranormal experience.
This is not necessarily an easy means to improve one’s mind. However with practice it is a viable means to do so. Mindfulness and presence skills cultivated through practice enable the volitional control of one’s mind as described in this method.
Perhaps most importantly, formal practice on its own will not result in improving one’s ego-existential psychospiritual condition or achieve the transpersonal one. What one does in formal practice must be employed while living in the world; actively controlling one’s mind being the sin qua non of this application if one is to develop spiritually.