Writing from Deep Mind


Traditionally Westerners have sought happiness and solutions to problems outside the self, focusing on the material and physical universe. The mind goes out to make sense of the world and has gotten extremely good at it. In the East, there is more of a tendency to look inward to see how the mind works, to investigate the deeper levels of consciousness to uncover what we can do or stop doing that will allow us to live a happier and more productive life.


 Buddhist psychology describes sem or ordinary mind as being like the choppy waves on the surface of the ocean. Our minds are constantly busy with thoughts incessantly tumbling over thoughts, always coming and going, always changing. Below sem is a different type of awareness and intelligence although it is all part of the same ocean. This deep mind is called by many names such as pristine awareness and natural mind, and is seen as the source of creativity, insight and  wisdom. These deeper levels are traditionally  accessed through meditation.


Meditation is one of those words like cooking that covers many different activities from baking to braising to frying to boiling. There are meditations to produce relaxation, to focus attention, to develop compassion, or to develop clarity and awareness, to mention just a few. As in cooking, meditation is designed to create some sort of change through its processes.


In the most basic meditations, we simply learn to turn the mind that usually goes outward to look inward instead. Through Shamatha or calm abiding meditation, we are able to  get under the hood of our own minds, so to speak, to glimpse its inner workings. By taking up meditation, we don’t lose the ability to navigate and understand the outside world. Far from it, as we withdraw our projections from the outer sphere, it comes into clearer focus revealing what is actually there.


In calm abiding meditation one follows the breath, in and out, in and out. Since you can’t breathe in the past or the future, this teaches you to keep returning to the present moment. In turn, one  develops relaxation, stability and clarity. Once these qualities have been established through sustained calm abiding meditation, small gaps begin to appear in the layer of obsessive thoughts,  fearfulness, and compulsive ideation that we take as normal reality. As we learn to rest in these gaps for longer periods of time, our fears, grasping, and aversions begin to become more and more transparent and relax their grip on us. In time, our mind learns to relax into what is often called its natural state, which is open, luminous, and spontaneously present. In the resultant open space, positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion arise spontaneously, and begin to gradually crowd out negative or counterproductive ones. The luminous aspect of the natural state brings cognitive insight “like a flash of lightening on a dark night.” Once the jabbering brain with its constant planning and worrying is silenced, true wisdom can begin to emerge.