Mind. What is the mind?
According to Wikipedia, “The mind is the set of faculties responsible for all mental phenomena. Often the term is also identified with the phenomena themselves. These faculties include thought, imagination, memory, will and sensation. They are responsible for various mental phenomena, like perception, pain experience, belief, desire, intention, and emotion.”
That’s right, I cited Wikipedia. Take that, college. Anyway, that’s a dumb definition. What’s Webster got to say? “The element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills and especially reasons.”
That’s better. Oh, look. Down in definition nine we’ve got, “a conscious substratum or factor in the universe.” There we go. That’s the intuitively correct answer. Why was it so hard to find? We live in analytical times. Aren’t you always analyzing? Always thinking about things? I know I am. It never stops.
We think that that’s ordinary, but it hasn’t always been that way. People used to think differently. We know that because seldomly contacted tribes think differently.
Their minds are more intuitive than ours. They rely on empathy and emotion more than we do. This is important because we can’t answer, “What the fuck is mind?” by analyzing the mind.
Can a flame shine on itself? Can a shadow cast a light? No. Mind and analysis are like that. Thought, will, imagination, all the things that that Wiki said are functions of mind. They’re not mind itself. They’re the flame’s light and shadow. The flame itself, in itself, is invisible and indivisible.
A conscious substratum in the universe is the intuitive answer. Some people think the cosmos is conscious, but that’s not necessarily what that definition means. We’re in the universe right now, and we’re conscious right now. So, we’re conscious in the universe of the universe. Nifty.
Mind is that which minds. Bam, we got it. It’s not memory, it’s what remembers. It’s not analysis, it’s that which analyzes.
How the hell do we figure out what it is?
Meditation. Meditation is the art of exhausting analysis until only intuition remains. You’ll know what the mind is, but you’ll never be able to put it into words. You can only point at it, and encourage others to know it too.
This experience unlocks an intuitive life. You’ll just do, you won’t need to overthink. Since there’s no analysis, there’s no anxiety. No anxiety means no penultimate depression. No anxiety and depression means no suffering. All suffering can be categorized as anxious or depressed. But, ironically, without analysis there aren’t any categories.
Sit, breathe, let your mind tucker itself out. Feel your way through the silence that ultimately heads back home.
What is mind? You tell me. I’m still walking through the dark.
Anshi is the pen-name for a Buddhist writer. If you know who Anshi is, please don’t tell anyone since these posts often have sensitive autobiographical info in them. Anshi is a Chan teacher and mentor at the Oxhead Zen Community.