When we train our intention to focus on our states of mind, we cultivate our residual awareness. Neuroscience would say this practice is about taking charge of directing our own neuroplasticity. We are intentionally deciding (literally) how our brains are shaped, and how our nervous systems function – as much as we as individuals can influence that.
To achieve this, we must be constantly attempting to master 3 things in our mind:
– Awareness of what’s happening in our minds
– Learning how to shape our minds
– Willingness to liberate ourselves from our mind’s tendencies to cling and grasp
There are many variations of the meaning of “mind” – but the most important meaning of mind is state of mind. Where is your mind right now? What state is your mind in?
To answer that we first must know what a state of mind is. A state of mind includes several things. It includes images of ourselves and images of our world; it includes emotional tones, like a mood; and it includes questions that inevitably come up in different states of mind, these questions change depending on what the state is. Two states of mind to be aware of are the high mind and the narrow mind.
When the highest mind is there (this can also be called an empowered state of mind or being), we feel happy, we feel open, we feel generous. But when the narrow (or disempowered) mind is in control, we feel the opposite.
One way to change your state of mind is called “changing the peg”. If the radio show playing in you’re mind right now is causing you pain and suffering, change the channel. It takes skill to change the peg because so many of our disempowered mental states are often seductive and encompassing. Create a list of things you know can help you change the channel or change the state of your mind. All of us need a list, a specific one – just like the subconscious checklist you use to get dressed every morning. Get dressed for your life. Get dressed to be awake. Make sure you have the tools you need so you don’t confuse the clouds with the blue sky, the birds with the trees. So you don’t confuse being the Inn Keeper with the guest. Change the peg.
States of mind aren’t permanent but consist of a flowing energy coming through. But it’s so easy to think it’s permanent. It’s so easy to latch on to a state of being, to have that define us, to see everything through that lens. Everything we see becomes amplified, larger than life – and drives us in a certain direction of thought, speech, and behavior.
A large part of being able to change our state of mind is being able to receive what life gives us – without pretending that’s not what we got. My peace is not because I don’t have suffering. Peace comes from attending to our suffering without pretending it’s not there, attending to the suffering of society without pretending it’s not there.
Think about what it means to be at home with your family, friends, and neighbors. If you cannot change your state of mind, you have to figure out how to embrace it. This means figuring out how to be bigger than our experiences. The calmer we are (like when we are at home with loved ones), the easier it is to hold our experience. This is cultivation. This is being a good internal gardener. By preparing yourself to receive different states of mind, even when they are low or disempowered.
And if you can’t shift out or “change the channel” – ask for help. Just that act may help you change the peg.
This content is an excerpt from Larry’s recorded Dharma Talk Cultivating Liberation and Awareness of the Mind, it has been condensed and edited for written format. Watch Larry’s entire Dharma Talk here.