“Thinking and consciousness are not synonymous. Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness. Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.” – Enlightenment: Rising Above Thought, Chapter 1. You Are Not Your Mind, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p19
In the previous article (Mind and Beyond Mind  – A Brief Introduction of The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle 1999): You Are Not Your Mind), we’ve briefly reviewed major themes of The Power of Now, as a first step to understand our mind in the spiritual context.
For Dalio, the only law, or principle, that is permanent is evolution. Under this law, everything changes and evolves through the process of birth and death or creation and dissolution in the cycle of life. What we can do then is contribute to the evolution of the whole by our own evolution or growth while we are here on earth. We’ve seen his contemplation on this matter from the previous article (Mind and Beyond Mind  – Principles and The Power of Now: On Higher Perspective).
In our journey to achieve this ultimate purpose – our own evolution -, what hinders our growth becomes an object to overcome and to rise beyond.
For Dalio, what stands in our way of becoming evolved existence – our full potential – is certainly our mind – the ego. Therefore, he suggests that we understand how our brain functions both to our benefit or detriment and rise over it by knowing and noticing how our mind works.
For readers, this knowledge can actually stop as a simple scientific understanding of our brain. But, in my opinion, that simple act of knowing or recognizing denotes more profound implications for us to learn and gain for our favor in a spiritual sense. Hence, the book, The Power of Now.
As Tolle states, we are not our mind. In fact, we are more than and greater than our mind.
“I think, therefore I am.” – Descartes
This simple yet profound phrase can be understood in various levels. But on a superficial level, this can be potentially interpreted as if my identity is defined by my thinking. – i.e. Thinking, or thought, is myself. My thinking and myself are inseparable.
To be sure, this philosophy represents our current civilization. Tolle interprets this in the spiritual context and calls it ‘mind energy’ that enabled and still runs our civilization today. (Tolle p177)
As quoted above, there is consciousness that exists beyond our thinking, consciousness where thinking is only a small aspect. Not that Descartes is wrong, but I believe that we are at a point of evolution where we start recognizing this higher level within us and rising beyond the level of our thinking mind. How specifically?
We started noticing and observing our thinking entity. In this stage of evolved consciousness, it becomes natural for us to ask this question in turn: ‘Who is this thinking entity and who is this that knows and recognizes this thinking entity?’
In this article, in relation with the above question posed, I would like to elaborate a bit more about our true nature in terms of consciousness: The mind-identified egoic state of consciousness and pure consciousness, based on The Power of Now. Through this discussion, I aim to facilitate easier understanding of my subsequent articles on fear and on emotion, which are deep subliminal defense mechanisms of our mind that may work to our detriment, according to Dalio.
- The Nature of the Thinker – Our Mind-Identified Egoic State of Consciousness
- Why Being Radically Open-Minded Is Difficult
- Being Close-Minded Represents This Level of Consciousness
- Typical Traits of the Egoic Mind Shown from Closed-Minded People
- The Act of Observing the Thinker: Activating Our Higher Consciousness
- Our True Nature ‘Being’: Pure Consciousness
- Closing: Rising Beyond Mind and the Significance of Realizing Pure Consciousness
1. The Nature of the Thinker – Our Mind-Identified Egoic State of Consciousness
In this egoic state of consciousness, our true self is derived from our mind. What we think – our values, judgments, belief systems, every label we identify with in the physical world we are in – is what we are. Being wrong, in this sense, equates death. When our values are denied or threatened in the form of arguments, our natural tendency is to feel threatened. Consequently, all sorts of emotional reactions unconsciously follow, creating conflicts or similar kinds as a result.
Why Being Radically Open-Minded Is Difficult
This is what obstructs us in having a ‘thoughtful disagreement’ with others to reach not only truth but also the best decision making, according to Dalio.
Being ‘radically open-minded’ to reach a ‘thoughtful disagreement’ requires this enlightening notion of ‘we are not our mind.’ What’s true for oneself doesn’t necessarily mean what’s true for the whole or in absolute sense. Being radically open-minded also means being humble: We open ourselves to learn from others and their viewpoints to find what’s true and to ultimately grow.
But surely there are people for whom being radically open-minded is difficult. Dalio describes a number of traits of closed-mindedness for us to recognize if they are within us and, if so, to get over and rise above.
Being Close-Minded Represents This Level of Consciousness
What I see from the traits of closed-mindedness is a typical illustration of the ‘mind-identified egoic state of consciousness.’
For our aim of growth, it helps to know what is closed-mindedness and compare with Tolle’s notion of the egoic mind.
One typical example, out of a few traits, is that our egoic mind carries emotional pain in the form of a deep-seated sense of lack or incompleteness, of not being whole. All cravings are in this sense are considered ego’s attempts to feel complete and to feel better about themselves.
“Another aspect of the emotional pain that is an intrinsic part of the egoic mind is a deep-seated sense of lack or incompleteness, of not being whole. In some people, this is conscious, in others unconscious. If it is conscious, it manifests as the unsettling and constant feeling of not being worthy or good enough. If it is unconscious, it will only be felt indirectly as an intense craving, wanting, and needing. In either case, people will often enter into a compulsive pursuit of ego-gratification and things to identify with in order to fill this hole they feel within. So they strive after possessions, money, success, power, recognition, or a special relationship, basically so that they can feel better about themselves, feel more complete. But even when they attain all these things, they soon find that the hole is still there, that it is bottomless. Then they are really in trouble, because they cannot delude themselves anymore. Well, they can and do, but it gets more difficult.” – The Ego’s Search for Wholeness, Chapter 2. Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p37
Another trait is our ego as a derived sense of self – which means, not our true self but a phantom self – tries to identify with external things and needs to be fed and defended constantly.
“Since the ego is a derived sense of self, it needs to identify with external things. It needs to be both defended and fed constantly. The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often also political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” – The Ego’s Search for Wholeness, Chapter 2. Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p37
Dalio states that it’s easy to tell an open-minded person from a closed-minded person because they act very differently. As you may notice from below descriptions, the majority of us might be residing habitually or unconsciously in the state of closed-mindedness, an egoic mind state, if not an exaggeration.
Typical Traits of the Egoic Mind Shown from Closed-Minded People
So, from a few descriptions of closed-minded people illustrated by Dalio below, we can observe the typical traits of the egoic mind working within them continuously needing to be fed and defended.
“1. Closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees. They feel bad about getting something wrong and are more interested in being proven right than in asking questions and learning others’ perspectives.
Open-minded people are more curious about why there is disagreement. They are not angry when someone disagrees. They understand that there is always the possibility that they might be wrong and that it’s worth the little bit of time it takes to consider the other person’s view in order to be sure they aren’t missing something or making a mistake.
3. Closed-minded people focus much more on being understood than on understanding others. When people disagree, they tend to be quicker to assume that they aren’t being understood than to consider whether they’re the ones who are not understanding the other person’s perspective.
Open-minded people always feel compelled to see things through others’ eyes.
5. Closed-minded people have trouble holding two thoughts simultaneously in their minds. They allow their own view to crowd out those of others.
Open-minded people can take in the thoughts of others without losing their ability to think well – they can hold two or more conflicting concepts in their mind and go back and forth between them to assess their relative merits.
7. Closed-minded people lack a deep sense of humility. Humility typically comes from an experience of crashing, which leads to an enlightened focus on knowing what one doesn’t know.
Open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear that they may be wrong.” – 3.6. Understand how you can become radically open-minded, Chapter 3. Be Radically Open-Minded, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p198
2. The Act of Observing the Thinker: Activating Our Higher Consciousness
It appears that, the more closed-minded one is, the more likely one’s emotional charge or unconscious emotional reaction can be, once they feel they are wrong or their value or mental position is threatened.
Is there any way not to get swayed by our ego’s defense mechanisms so that we can reach a thoughtful disagreement? Dalio’s suggestion is ‘rely solely on higher- level you.’ This comes only after we recognize ‘how lower-level you functions’ (in the form of Amygdala Hijackings that tend to disappear shortly) and rise beyond.
Dalio’s description of 1) Amygdala Hijacking as a typical example of lower-level you’s manipulation and of 2) our recognizing it, is exactly what Tolle describes as ‘watching the thought and emotion.’ What’s more significant is this watching opens a door to the higher consciousness level that normally is hidden beneath our mind activity: Upon observing, our mind-identified egoic state of consciousness subsides and gives way to our true nature.
“It’s almost as if you were possessed without knowing it, and so you take the possessing entity to be yourself. The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity – the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.” – The Greatest Obstacle to Enlightenment, Chapter 1. You Are Not Your Mind, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p14
“Identification with the mind gives it more energy; observation of the mind withdraws energy from it. Identification with the mind creates more time; observation of the mind opens up the dimension of the timeless. The energy that is withdrawn from the mind turns into presence. Once you can feel what it means to be present, it becomes much easier to simply choose to step out of the time dimension whenever time is not needed for practical purpose and move more deeply into the Now. This does not impair your ability to use time – past or future – when you need to refer to it for practical matters. Nor does it impair your ability to use your mind. In fact, it enhances it. When you do use your mind, it will be sharper, more focused.” – Accessing the Power of the Now, Chapter 3. Moving Deeply Into the Now, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p46
Tolle calls it the witnessing presence, consciousness in a higher realm that is not of the mind. It is the way to free ourselves from mind state and to access the power of Now.
“The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.” – Accessing the Power of the Now, Chapter 3. Moving Deeply Into the Now, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p46
3. Our True Nature ‘Being’: Pure Consciousness
What is this witnessing presence that is not of mind? Tolle states this state, our true nature, – Being – is never to be understood mentally and only felt when the mind is still. It is essence not only ‘beyond’ but also ‘deep within’ every form of life.
“Being is the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. However, Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. … You can know it only when the mind is still. When you are present, when your attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally. To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of “feeling-realization” is enlightenment.” – The Greatest Obstacle to Enlightenment, Chapter 1. You Are Not Your Mind, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p10
“The word enlightenment … is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form.” – The Greatest Obstacle to Enlightenment, Chapter 1. You Are Not Your Mind, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p10
4. Closing: Rising Beyond Mind and the Significance of Realizing Pure Consciousness
What are the significant implications of watching our ‘mind’ – our thought and emotion, and their unconscious reaction patterns?
First, in practical sense, we find ourselves rise from our unconscious ‘identification with our mind,’ which not only causes thought to become compulsive but also causes emotional pain that accompanies. (Tolle p12)
By being present and moving more deeply into the Now, we can find that it’s much easier to simply choose to step out of the time dimension whenever time is not needed for practical purpose. Unconscious mind identification with either past or future will be reduced this way.
Also, our vital energy that is normally depleted under incessant and compulsive thinking will be restored and reserved for proper usage when required. Therefore, our ability to use your mind will be not only enhanced, but also will be more focused when we do use our mind.
Second, in spiritual sense, as we withdraw consciousness from mind forms, the watcher – pure consciousness beyond form – becomes stronger, while the mental formations become weaker as a result. Pure consciousness that has been obscured by our mind state for a long time is realized. Tolle compares this as consciousness waking up from its dream of identification with form.
“Can you now see the deeper and wider significance of becoming present as the watcher of your mind? Whenever you watch the mind, you withdraw consciousness from mind forms, which then becomes what we call the watcher or the witness. Consequently, the watcher – pure consciousness beyond form – becomes stronger, and the mental formations become weaker. When we talk about watching the mind we are personalizing an event that is truly of cosmic significance: through you, consciousness is awakening out of its dream of identification with form and withdrawing from form. – Realizing Pure Consciousness, Chapter 5. The State of Presence, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p84
Last, in the context of personal enlightenment as a way of our evolution, by our raised level of consciousness, we get to deal with life’s challenges wisely. Our level of consciousness, once awakened, cannot go back to the sleeping state of unconsciousness.
Tolle’s wisdom on this matter:
“The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come. Through those challenges, an already unconscious person tends to become more deeply unconscious, and a conscious person more intensely conscious. You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep. The dream of ordinary unconsciousness then turns into a nightmare. – Ordinary Unconsciousness and Deep Unconsciousness, Chapter 4. Mind Strategies for Avoiding Now, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p62
“If you cannot be present in normal circumstances, such as when you are sitting alone in a room, walking in the woods, or listening to someone, then you certainly won’t be able to stay conscious when something “goes wrong” or you are faced with difficult people or situations, with loss or the threat of loss. You will be taken over by a reaction, which ultimately is always some form of fear, and pulled into deep unconsciousness. Those challenges are your tests. Only the way in which you deal with them will show you and others where you are at as far as your state of consciousness is concerned, not how long you can sit with your eyes closed or what visions you see.” – Ordinary Unconsciousness and Deep Unconsciousness, Chapter 4. Mind Strategies for Avoiding Now, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p62
How do you deal with life’s challenges when they come? What’s Dalio’s insight on this matter? From his belief on how to deal with challenges, we can observe his own level of consciousness.
“The challenge you face will test and strengthen you. If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximizing your potential. Though this process of pushing your limits, of sometimes failing and sometimes breaking through-and deriving benefits from both your failures and your successes – is not for everyone, if it is for you, it can be so thrilling that is becomes addictive. Life will inevitably bring you such moments, and it’ll be up to you to decide whether you want to go back for more. If you choose to push through this often painful process of personal evolution, you will naturally “ascend” to higher and higher levels. As you climb above the blizzard of things that surrounds you, you will realize that they seem bigger than they really are when you seeing them up close; that most things in life are just “another one of those.” The higher you ascend, the more effective you become at working with reality to shape outcomes toward your goals. What once seemed impossibly complex becomes simple.” – 1.7. Pain + Reflection = Progress, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p153
“This evolutionary process of productive adaptation and ascent – the process of seeking, obtaining, and pursuing more and more ambitious goals – does not just pertain to how individuals and society move forward. It is equally relevant when dealing with setbacks, which are inevitable. At some point in your life you will crash in a big way. You might fail at your job or with your family, lose a loved one, suffer a serious accident or illness, or discover the life you imagined is out of reach forever. … At such times, you will be in pain and might think that you don’t have the strength to go on. You almost always do, however; your ultimate success will depend on you realizing that fact, even though it might not seem that way at the moment. This is why many people who have endured setbacks that seemed devastating at the time ended up as happy as (or even happier than) they originally were after they successfully adapted to them. The quality of your life will depend on the choices you make at those painful moments. The faster one appropriately adapts, the better. No matter what you want out of life, your ability to adapt and move quickly and efficiently through the process of personal evolution will determine your success and your happiness. If you do it well, you can change your psychological reaction to it so that what was painful can become something you crave.” – b. Embrace tough love, 1.7. Pain + Reflection = Progress, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p155
Don’t we feel relieved hearing from Dalio that we almost always do have the strength to go on when we are in pain and may think we don’t have one?
By using our challenges, presented to us in every form, as our stepping stone to evolve, we strengthen our level of consciousness and we ascend higher and higher. There’s no way going backward then.
I believe this ascension process is addictive just as success is! How’s your thought about this? What’s your personal experience of ascension in every area including your inner world – your level of consciousness?