MINDFULNESS: HAMLET VICTORIOUS
In other postings, I’ve discussed our world as being divided between post and pre-Freudian peoples, between those who still act and feel like bushmen 20 centuries ago might have and those who live in the modern world with a modern consciousness of the implications of the unconscious. I don’t mean to imply that Freudian psychology is the answer, but I mean to separate people who really do get it (like Jung) that the human animal lives in an ambiguous reality, complicated by the split between conscious life and an unconscious, more animal, life and the bushmen who don’t get it and who still judge behavior as moral or immoral. These last only vent their animal emotions and get us no closer to truly improving human life than sparrows dropping guano from a Hemlock. That’s all I give Freud credit for is the awareness of the unconscious. So much more flows from that first insight, so much that the bushmen know nothing about because they are still locked away from the light and still responding to their animal, evolutionary impulses.
The canyon between bushmen and modern peoples is real and is at the root of all our problems and political divisions. I believe the black and white pre-Freudian peoples are losing ground, but they still have enough control to bring us to the brink of destruction and to lead us in the path of violence. They see their world entirely through fearful moral lenses, and morality has nothing to do with how the human animal acts and reacts to his environment. Not that people don’t do terribly destructive things to one another, but what they do is not EVIL. To call an act evil is to remain blind to its real causes. The causes of self- and other-destructive acts lie in the mostly unconscious behavior patterns of the human animal.
The answer to our troubling human behavior which I hope will prevail over our destructive behaviors is a growing acceptance of the idea of “mindfulness” which is the process of becoming ever more aware of the real impulses that drive human behavior. Jung had it right when he told us that the chief aim of humans ought to be to become ever more conscious. All around us in the world, in Buddhism and in self help meetings, group therapy meetings and in psychologists’ offices, individuals are working toward uncovering the hidden drives for their actions both good and bad. I find little of this hard honest emotional work going on in the churches who still want to blame forces outside themselves for their troubles, rather than confronting the beast within.
In a very old issue of a magazine called “The Sun” (July 2002), Eckhart Tolle makes very clear the process of achieving mindfulness, “If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so if there is an apparent conflict between the two, look at the emotion—or rather feel it in your body. The thought will be the lie, the emotion will be the truth: not the ultimate truth of who you are, but the relative truth of your state of mind.
“You may not yet be able to bring your unconscious mind activity into awareness as thoughts, but it will always be reflected in the body as an emotion, of this you can become aware. To watch an emotion in this way is basically the same as listening to or watching a thought. The only difference is that, while a thought is in your head, an emotion has a strong physical component and so is primarily felt in the body. You can then allow the emotion to be there without being controlled by it. You no longer are the emotion; you are the watcher, the observing presence. If you practice this, all that is unconscious in you will be brought into the light of consciousness.”