We often assume that most of our experience is “set in stone” in some way—that it’s basically unchangeable. Yet realizing that a lot of our experience is manufactured by mind shows us that it actually is changeable; very fluid and malleable, indeed! Experience is as changeable as our mind is.
Again we have to distinguish “mind” from “awareness,” for only from the point of view of awareness, or silent witnessing, can we see clearly how thoughts trigger emotions, structure perceptions, and underlie the basic push-pull dynamics in our life.
“Mind” is not an entity. It’s not an entity because it’s nowhere to be found. You cannot point out your mind like you can point out your hand and say “there it is!” Rather, “mind” is more like water that flows in a space that is not-physical, or metaphysical. Thought-streams are the “water” that flows without necessarily affecting physical reality.
In other words, we can observe thought-streams and notice both that they do not affect physical reality and also that they are not graspable. You cannot hold onto a thought; the best you can do is write it down or think it over again.
Now when we believe thought-streams it’s as if they crystallize into ice; this ice may have an impact on reality. The process of “believing thought” is hard to describe but it can be felt. When a thought is being invested with our faith, our agreement, our “Yes,” then it is being believed; there’s a feeling of giving thought importance. “Yes that’s the way it is!”—followed by crystallization.
Depending on what the thought is saying, the consequences of this crystallizing will be different. In some cases an emotion is triggered. (“I shouldn’t have done that” triggers guilt or shame.) In a lot of cases perception is altered, however slightly. According to teachings of non-duality, perceptions in subject-object “format” itself are structured by thought. (“I am here; that [sound] is there.”) At the level of self-consciousness, thoughts form self-images and motivate behaviors. (“I am a mean person, trying to be a nice person.”) (“I am ‘not good enough’ trying to get people to like me.”) And on and on it goes.
In short: you believe it, you accept the consequences of believing it.
After all, when you think about it, believing in something is like granting reality within your private consciousness, within your “world.” It doesn’t make it into objective fact, but it’s like saying “this is real to me.” Believing or not believing, then, directly relates to the world you perceive and, in a sense, live within.
Once I attended a meditation retreat serving as a manager of students, and would sit in the back of the meditation room as students had their interviews with the meditation teacher. One student came into the room to interview as I sat in the back and listened. He talked to the teacher about all the things he was experiencing and problems he was encountering just sitting in meditation. There was discomfort, reaction to the discomfort; craving, aversion; imagination, projections—all of these things arising. And the teacher said to him, “It’s all the mind,” and she meant that all that phenomena was being generated by the mind and the mind reacting to its own creations. But of course she knew that she was not that mind, he was not that mind; no one is their mind and with practice we can step back from its incessant producing and just allow it to go by.
Paradoxically, that “permission to be,” which awareness gives to mind, is a gateway to peace and freedom. You could say experience changes when we do not try to change it.
“It’s all the mind” means that a lot of our experience is contingent on mind; it depends on our faith in, our investment in, our attachment to mental realities which become reflected on various levels of our experience (emotion, perception, self, body). IN THIS MOMENT the quality and depth of our experience is being created by our mind’s movements and our relationship, as awareness, to them.
Standing before all these movements, silent witnessing transpires without any effort or thought.
Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. – Walden