Our minds work exactly the same when we meditate as when we’re doing other things. The only difference is that it’s much easier to learn how our mind works when we’re paying attention to it, as opposed to paying attention to other things.
The human mind operates by making choices, and as it turns out, these choices are the only things in life that we can control. Although it can seem like we make an endless number of choices, we really only ever make the same two choices over and over again.
- We choose how to interpret a situation, and then
- choose how to react to our own interpretation.
This process of constantly making these same two choices over and over again is what we usually call thinking.
Our thinking process of making these two choices relies upon:
- Memories. We draw upon what we’ve learned through our past experiences in order relate to others and the world we live in. In the form of muscle memory, we can remember how to do things like run without thinking about every single muscle movement, or use our habitual mental patterns for basic interactions.
- Emotions. Our mood, or how we feel emotionally, plays a key roll in our interpretations and reactions. Under the exact same circumstances, we may take exception to something, or be perfectly fine with it, depending on our emotional state at any given moment.
- Our ability to Speculate. Using placeholders for missing information. Some other words we use to describe this are our personal judgments, beliefs, guesswork, assumptions, etc., all of which we use in place of missing or unknown facts.
All of our human interactions are made possible by these two simple choices using these same three basic mental assets. So the key to a better, more aware, life is getting out of our habitual auto-pilot mode of thinking, and learning to take control of the choices we make.
On the spiritual side of the human condition are the two basic life traits of awareness and intent which are present throughout everything we do, and exists in all forms of life. Awareness allows us to pay attention to what our mind is doing even when we’re caught up in our thoughts, and is sometimes called intuition. Intent refers to the action itself, not planning. A very simple meditation to demonstrate this is to hold up one finger, plan to move it, and then move it. Intent is what’s behind the actual movement, and is behind everything we do. Without intent, we would be incapable of doing anything. If there is anything which we could point to as being our human spirit or soul, it would be this combination of awareness and intent.