The Recreating mind

simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

said Leonardo da Vinci

The trouble is the mind likes to make things complex. Layers and  layers of psychology, ego, neurosis, fears …

The mind has the job of recreating things that are observed. So that for instance, you see a chair complete with your perceptions of how it should be, what it is used for etc.. You see the idea of a chair more than the chair itself. In fact, what ever you sense through your senses, the mind starts to make into mental objects, and constructs. For most people, existence is all about living in this tower of constructs.

Zen Master Huang Po described this tower as a mansion of vines. Vines, you might observe, grow over an existing structure, but remain hanging there in the air long after the structure has gone. You can see it along the canals in Bangkok, where they once covered a tree or wooden house, but now somehow hold themselves up.  Huang Po was observing a slight cut at the right point, and the whole structure comes down.

So people live in a tower of their own ideas. It becomes hard to be in the present moment properly, as you are always in the thought or idea about what is happening. If you feel bodily pain, you generally are locked into the idea of it (still hurts!). If you are observing a sunrise, you tend to be in the idea of the experience, rather than the experience itself.

Regular people don’t see this. They are awed by the  sunrise, and revolted by the pain. But the meditator ever seeks to get back to the present moment, in its raw experience.  This is what mindfulness training is all about. Putting aside your ideas of things, and trying to see experience directly.

But even this gets recreated by the mind. Sometimes you are sitting, mindful, attentive … and then some noise distracts you and you realise that you weren’t being mindful – you were thinking you were being mindful. The mind creates a mental image of whatever it is experiencing, and then relates to the image, even after the original experience has changed or ceased.

Thus you see and relate to your image of your husband/wife/partner rather than the direct experience. It is necessary to do this – otherwise there would be too much information to process. You live in a set of constructs so that you can produce a consistent behaviour, and get by in the world.

But what is the actual experience when your constructed world comes down and you find yourself slap bang in the present moment?

An ultimately sophisticated simplicity!

4 replies on “The Recreating mind”

  1. Just saw “Inception” and reading this was like taking a nice antidote…thanks!

  2. “The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see.”

    “Only awake to the One Mind and there is nothing whatever to be attained.”

    “The One Mind alone is the Buddha and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood.”

    – Zen Master Huang Po

  3. Inception I just saw at the almost absurdly posh Paragon Nokia theater. Really fantastic film, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to convey about the mind’s ability to construct its own reality(s) via the pop film format. I’ve seen plenty of films that make one wonder, “was it all a dream?”; but this one goes even further. (I don’t wish to spoil the plot for anyone, so I shan’t say more about that.)

    Inception’s central thesis is that, at our cores, we are irrational, emotion-driven creatures that produce elaborate illusions to either hide or justify these feelings. One really effective plot device the filmmaker employs to effect the feeling of peril is the idea that what happens within each level of dream reality actually matters a great deal in waking reality. The stakes, therefore, are quite high. Bad choices (or bad luck) can leave you in a subjective state of limbo practically forever; but on the other hand, by directly confronting one’s deepest fears–and prevailing–a profoundly therapeutic healing can take place.

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