Understanding the subconscious mind
When we think of subconscious, the first thing that comes across our mind is “memory storage area”. But to put it shortly, the subconscious mind is a reactive mind. Every reaction which happen without putting much thought or effort (like reflex) is the subconscious mind at work. This subconscious mind is always alert and works without a break. At night, when we see a person scratching his hand in sleep, that’s the subconscious mind reacting to a bug bite or some irritation on that part of the body. These reactions occur naturally and we may not even be aware of what happened while we slept once we wake up.
The subconscious mind also keeps learning from its conscious cousin. Over the years it has learn’t to understands only 2 things, which simply put are: Likes and Dislikes.
Anything we want or want to happen or feel should happen is a like. This is decided by our conscious mind. The touch of a lover which send goosebumps throughout the body or the sweet smell of a fragrance or the taste of a well cooked food which makes us forget the world. Sometimes it could be a movie other times it could be a persons face. It could be anything and everything that we desire. We constantly keep telling ourselves “We love it!” or “we want it” and the subconscious mind never questions our judgment. The religion of the subconscious mind is to obey.
Similar to how we train our mind to like, we also do the same with what we dislike. A person’s face that we cannot stand, an unpalatable food, waiting for a cab or a bus, some offensive words etc. The subconscious keeps doing its job. It keeps segregating the likes from dislikes and stores them away safely.
What does it do?
Besides storing it up, this subconscious mind reacts accordingly when the situation presents itself again. Also, when the conscious mind digs up some incident from the storage space of the mind, this subconscious mind reacts to it even though that incident is not actually taking place at the present moment. So when you recollect about a fight which must have taken place 2 weeks ago or when you recollect an intimate episode with your lover, you will see that your body reacts as if the incident is happening right now. The subconscious mind has only one job to do i.e. to react, and it does that without discriminating. By giving the conscious mind the power to control our mind we end up unwillingly accumulating misery.
When the conscious and the subconscious mind is connected or rather made aware of each other, we immediately notice how much we dwell in the past or the future instead of living in the present. We must start living in the present and understand that neither the past can be corrected nor the future be predicted. It is what we do today which determines how we live tomorrow.
“It is easy to say but in modern lifestyle we have to be calculative.”
Indeed the modern lifestyle is too demanding. Every person is planning for the future. These are times when a person could hardly recollect what they ate in the morning and sometimes they really don’t eat anything at all. So much energy is channeled for that envisioned brighter days to come that hardly any is left to enjoy the pleasures of the present. Such are the pressures of lifestyle that people’s ‘need’ and ‘want’ have combined into a one big “Super-need“. Unrealistic goals are set as “life needs” or as “essentials“in many cases leading to various health issues in people.
People who despise the life they are living at present are constantly worrying about the future whereas a person who has achieved the goal of reaching the heights of power are worried about holding on it. The poor is worried about the next meal, the middle class wants a better meal and the rich demands a special meal. This want is never ending. The mind constantly increases it demands over the years. As soon as one demand is met, it shifts to another. It refuses to dwell in the present. It has been trained to demand for more and we do everything to meet it. This takes a lot of time. We have succumbed to the demands thereby becoming slaves of our very own minds.
Why focusing on present is important for the mind.
To put it simply, we will feel instantly at peace as soon as we train the conscious mind to focus on the present. It is important for the mind to stop concentrating its energy on things that we do not need or have no control of. The mind will start understanding the meaning of impermanence i.e., nothing lasts forever. No matter how much you try, you cannot hold the inhaled air inside your lungs for more than a certain period of time; you will have to let it go eventually. Everything which arises also passes away. All the aversions and all our desires cannot change the fact that one day even we have to pass away. This is the ultimate truth. This is what we need our mind to understand. It is therefore essential to keep it focused on the present.
First, you must train yourself to pinpoint each time the mind wanders. This might seem like a big task initially, but with practice, all things are possible. Whenever your mind starts daydreaming about a beautiful girl, or a house that you would like to buy or a pretty dress you saw at the store; bring it back to the present. Similarly, when your mind goes back in time to a conflict, a lost pet, a lost cause, a break-up etc., bring it back to the present. Gently help your mind to stop wandering and focus on the present.
What to do?
For the start, focus on the naturally occurring breathing. You can find the method here. Do this for at least 10 minutes each day initially and gradually increase it to 1 hour. Also, note for how long your mind concentrates on the breathing. In the beginning stages, you will notice that the mind will wander away within seconds. This is perfectly alright. Gently tell yourself “my mind has wandered away” and soon it will bring the focus back to the nostrils. Your aim is to gradually increase the amount of time the mind concentrates on your natural breathing. It is important to never feel disheartened or discouraged when your mind wanders away. Stay positive throughout.
What are we doing here and will it help?
By focusing on the naturally occurring breathing, we are distracting the conscious thinking mind from wandering and thinking of what we cannot control and thereby helping ourselves in stopping the flow of misery. The amount of energy and time it spends daily on pointless thinking will certainly be saved. This will help us attain peace in the long run paving way for the ultimate freedom which is “liberation from misery“. A peaceful mind is a healthy mind which in-turn helps in keeping the body healthy.