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ADONAI On June - 18 - 2011

There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there.
Albert Einstein

How much do you know about how your brain works? How much does anyone know? How certain are you that your thoughts are yours? Would you believe your brain often intentionally deceives you to either promote or prevent a desired outcome? Think about that. “Process it”. Even when you are absolutely sure your thoughts and actions are your own, it may in fact just be your brain letting you believe you are in charge.

Have you ever said or done something and immediately wondered why? They say that people sometimes let slip what they really mean, what they really feel. But is it really what they feel or is it what their brain prompted them to do at that particular moment? Possibly to avoid danger or alleviate stress. People feel comfortable in their “routines”. When pulled out of them they become aggravated, maybe even disoriented or unable to momentarily grasp the basics of a simple task. Your brain is fighting you. Your brain dictated your “routine”, and regulates your day. Challenges to it’s control are not taken lightly. A good example of this is what we call “muscle memory”. Eventually, after repetition, your brain  may subconsciously assume control of a task. This is highly prevalent in athletes  who often perform actions without any sign of forethought. Once a channel is set, the brain handles it for them.

We can also look at people in high stress or dangerous situations who often speak of “time slowing down” or accomplishing incredible physical feats without fully realizing just what is going on. These are all instances of your brain shutting you down and taking over. There is little hard science on whether people exhibit a sense of time dilation in these moments but closed, regimented studies are rarely a substitute for the real thing. Most often no one ever feels like they are in real danger. It’s a scientific study after all. It’s that essential fear of danger that makes study so difficult. Who wants to intentionally panic people for a graduate thesis?

Some scientists go a little further and suggest that sometimes our brain tells us what to say. You may be wanting to tell someone something you know will be problematic. Perhaps an insult or a bit of bad news you have no business telling them. At the last moment you decide against it. Or did you? Perhaps YOU were going to say just what you wanted to say but your brain “persuaded” you not to. After all, it has access to all your thoughts since it is the one producing them. Remember that. It is a part of an old philosophy pertaining to the mind and human conciseness.Does human conciseness exist independently of the mind? Do you create your thoughts or does your brain? You may think “I create my thoughts WITH my brain”, but if the brain can push you aside in certain situations why can it not tailor the thoughts you think you have created? It’s like people who wonder if something doesn’t exist just because no one is there to see it. And even if you do see it is it really what you’re looking at or what your brain is saying you are looking at?

Of course your brain only operates with what you give it. And even then it may not be what you think. There are NO independent thinkers. Only independent reactions. Every thought or idea you will ever have is influenced by someone or something you experienced previously. A parent, a friend, Harry Potter, a guy on TV. This happens consciously and subconsciously. You may develop a conscious thought free of outside influence but there is still influence in your mind.  Your subconscious mind is still affecting everything you do and say. I’ve never put any thought into what my favorite color is. I just don’t care. Yet I am always drawn to red. This could be something subconscious. I was a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan as a kid. My favorite character, Raphael, had a red bandana. Maybe it’s that. My favorite stuffed animal as a toddler was a red dog. Maybe it’s that. All meaningless at the time but, when it comes time to choose a color for something,  perhaps my brain is subtly reminding me of that stuffed dog I loved so much.

Anyways, do you see what I’m trying to say? It’s not just you up there. Well, it is you but it’s two sides of you. Your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. So can you blame your subconscious mind for all your mistakes? Well, yes and no. True, our subconscious minds sometimes hold us back with vague fears and anxieties e can’t quite control, but our conscious mind also has a large say in this matter. Your subconscious mind overrides you sometimes but the conscious mind is the dominant state. It’s the state we “live” in. When you read  a story online and then go to comment, how much thought do you really put into the comment? How much of it is already keyed up in your mind just waiting for your fingers to hit the keyboard? Is it really you typing that comment or your brain?  Is there even a difference?

Let’s take a moment to address a myth about the mind. Have you ever heard the saying,  “Humans only use 10% of their brain”? That’s actually not true. People in comas are using more than 10% of their brain. You use all of your brain. Every nook and cranny.  maybe they mean we use only “10% of our brain’s potential”  but that’s not true either. Most everyone uses 100% of their potential everyday. It’s what they put those energies toward that defines their “wisdom”. Ah, wisdom. The state of knowing. The ability to actively use knowledge to create understanding. But wisdom is not free from the machinations of our subconscious either. Just look at the history of science and physics. Look at the trash bin of wisdom.  It’s quite full. If reality is perception and everyone perceives reality differently, then what is reality? I can touch my desk. I feel the wood, the density, the realness of it.  But I can’t doubt the possibility that it is just my brain telling me that. When I drop acid, this desk looks MUCH different.

Hallucinogenic drugs, for all their bad press, have been a great doorway into the mind. A window to the subconscious and a chance to merge it with “reality”. Like a vivid dream. I had a dream once that my house was on fire. I could “feel” the heat of the flames. “Hear” the shouts of bystanders. But none of it was there. I KNOW it was a dream and my mind was “playing tricks on me” but I can’t discount the fact that I would have thought it all very real if I didn’t know it was a dream. My mind is telling me it is real. The only difference when I’m awake is that I KNOW I’m awake. My mind is still telling me what is real and what isn’t.

So, next time you engage in a “thoughtful discussion” or promote “your views”, ask yourself; “Is this me or my image of me?”. Are these my words or the words of others coming through without thought? Remember, no matter how certain you are, you can’t be certain. That is the mystery of the mind and why you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Written by ADONAI

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

36 Responses so far.

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  1. Several disciplines in eastern thought have long referred to “muscle memory,” as “doing without doing.” As your example of the athlete. Much of martial arts training is aimed at achieving “doing without doing.”
    I do question how we can ever be separated from our minds. What is “the self?” Is it not a combination of the subconscious and the conscious mind?

    • ADONAI says:

      KT -- That is pretty much it in a nutshell right now. The brain is weird though and we hardly know anything about it.

      The “mind’s eye” fascinates me more than it does some people. The fact you can not only project thought but also images that you can “see” but aren’t really seeing.I think people take it for granted, thinking:”of course the brain can do that.”. But that’s such a blase attitude to have about something like that.

      We use to think the brain couldn’t fix itself. Once damage was done it was permanent. Now we think that might not be the case. We use to think the brain was incapable of higher functions without our consciousness present. Now we’re not so sure.

      It prompts us to flee when we’re in danger. Eat when we are hungry. The “feeling” of hunger? Caused by the brain. It causes pain to tell us we are hurt and can even suppress it to keep us going. You are obviously familiar with the Buddhist monks. They have achieved a relationship with the mind few people have. Instead of the brain telling them when to feel pain, they tell it. Quite an accomplishment. One mastered through years of discipline. Pain is a safety function though and, in high alert situations, even the monks are overridden.

      Can we separate ourselves from our brains? Probably. But it’d be difficult. Your mind is constantly creating new pathways and rerouting others. We all have basically the same brain but unique wiring. Whatever “vessel” I transferred myself to would have to be just as unique and tailored as me. We just don’t have any computers right now that are this complex.

      The mind recognizes and influences time. The very real perception that time speeds up the older you get is caused by your brain. If you were immortal, time would continue to speed up to a point that you couldn’t recognize the world. And your memories. The brain can only store so much. It’s a lot, but it still has a limit. Once you reach your capacity, the mind simply overwrites old info with new info. You don’t “forget” things because forgotten memories can be recovered. There are gone forever. Overwritten and no longer in your brain.

      And I’m seriously rambling now. Sorry. But yeah I think I agree with you. It’s two parts that make a whole. It’s just disturbing how little we really know about either. It’s a lump of sugar and protein sitting in your skull and we have very few answers about it.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Totally agree, KT. There is a sense of “I” that is NOT the personality. My personality has changed in huge ways between when I was, say, eight, and now. Any random suburban eight year old probably has more in common with “me” when I was then than the present me does. Yet I can remember a few episodes from that period of my life as if they happened a few weeks ago.

      That “I” includes all the things that Adonai mentions, I feel, and perhaps a lot more. The brain can be altered through chemistry, for example. When antidepressants work (and they don’t for everybody), they actually enable a person to be more cheerful and optimistic. They don’t just deaden pain; they adjust the personality, nudge it away from pessimism and low self esteem. But the “I” is still the same.

      Our brains can best be compared with modern day computers that are equipped to handle the internet. The internet is not contained in the computers, but through the computers individuals can make their own contribution to the internet, as I am doing now. Some computers move faster than others, some have problems, some break down completely. But the internet is not affected at all. It just keeps on being. Our “I” is like that.

      • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, wts. You’ve made a very good analogy. I take anti-depressants, and they what it called Seratonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, or SSIs. Seratonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for “feeling good.” The better one feels, physically, the better one’s mood will be. I had to try 2 different anti-depressants before I found the the right one for me.
        I used to take a lot of LSD. Probably over two hundred times in a span of about 20 years. Sometimes I think it actually altered the structure of my brain. (to a degree)

  2. Caru says:

    As I understand it, humans are not free agents nor are they beings of predetermined action. The brain takes in information from the environment and draws from its biological nature and then either takes action or sends the information to the conscious mind for thought.

    When you walk, you usually don’t think about walking, that would be a waste of time for such a normally mundane action. However, when you are confronted with a life changing fork in the road, you usually take time to think about it and then make a choice.

    Ultimately, humans are not free agents nor automatons, they are managers whose secretaries keep the boring stuff off their desks.

  3. PocketWatch says:

    ADONAI --

    As a practitioner of martial arts, I can relate to this idea. It has been a centuries-long idea in the martial arts that, as a beginning student, you already have everything you need to perform any of the movements or “moves” in whatever martial art you are studying. Failure is your consciousness convincing you that you cannot ‘break the board.’ So, it takes years of training to remove your consciousness from the equation.

    I can attest to the fact that when I am sparring for real with an opponent that is very skilled, I have a real out-of-body experience. I more or less watch myself move through the 4 dimensions (three physical and then there’s time) involved without any intervention of conscious thought. It’s a strange feeling the first time it happens. You see everything coming and react without reacting. Weird.

    Anyway, regardless of what that is or how it comes about, it is a real thing, and I’m happy that it’s saved me a few split lips, some bruises, and more than one or two broken bones.

    I think I read somewhere that really good major league batters can actually count the laces on a fast ball as it comes into the plate from the same phenomenon. I believe it.

  4. jjgravitas says:

    Can one understand an entire forest by identifying a few of its trees?

  5. msbadger says:

    Wow, El! Fantastic- great write. Love the subject; it’s always fascinated me. 🙂

  6. choicelady says:

    Adonai- I have long thought that the issue of “intuition” is quite explainable along some of the same lines. From what I’ve read about the brain and memory, we take in absolutely EVERYTHING around us, but we don’t process it -- the brain filters necessary-right-now from the gosh-that’s-interesting-but-who-cares. The latter goes into parts of memory that are not active.

    When you get a “feeling” or “hunch”, it is NON verbal logic pulling those subconscious bits more toward the surface. We remember so many thing but not consciously, so when they begin to come together before the logic part of the brain is fully ready, we get that “hunch” about something. Good detectives, doctors, researchers etc. all know this is a valid starting point for inquiry. Ignoring those quiet and non-verbal “directions” is a huge mistake. It’s also a huge mistake not to follow them with good research! That’s what takes a hunch into tin foil hat territory. Hunches are the beginning and NOT the end of the inquiry!

    We “read” people’s body language -- and we get good or bad reactions based on many past experiences. Gavin deBecker’s work, “The Gift of Fear” is so important for especially women -- we “read” other people’s behavior all the time. But we’re taught not to make a scene or be rude so we brush off that sense that something is NOT RIGHT. Women’s self defense courses teach women how to listen to that sensation because it is NOT wrong. The pastiche of civilized behavior in ignoring the signs is what is wrong.

    Thanks for the crash course in the brain. It’s a fascinating are of research, and you gave us a lot to mull over. Consciously.

    • choice, I’m glad to see you mention a brain “filter.” This used to be called “sensory gating.” The process of the brain letting in certain external stimuli necessary for our survival and daily activity, and keeping out the stimuli we don’t need, stimuli that would interrupt our survival mechanisms. This is why, when someone takes LSD, they sometimes report seeing music, or hearing light. The sensory gating process breaks down and no longer “knows,” what stimuli to let in and what to keep out. This often gives people the impression that they have “gone insane.”
      Eastern thought has long upheld a firm belief in “intuition.” Western thought believes more in object related thought. Or empirical proof. It’s the old object/subject split between eastern thought and western thought. Although now, in modern times, that split is not as distinctive as it used to be.

  7. SallyT says:

    I read this to my husband and told him, “See honey, all those drugs you did when you were young, in the band and on the road aren’t making you do weird things. It’s your brain.” He said, “Damn, I wish we had something to smoke so I could see what my brain could come up with now!”

    • ADONAI says:

      HA! Good stuff Sally. The idea to write this came to me yesterday while I was stoned out of my mind, contemplating an episode of The Simpsons. I shit you not.

      • SallyT says:

        Good for you. I could probably get “stuff” with my condition through Medical but my husband can’t be around it because of his job and those spot drug tests they throw on him now and then. But, when he retires in a few years, we will be going back to those “band days” once in awhile.

  8. Kalima says:

    I’m not really sure if this is actually disagreeing, but I find that I do have control over my mind just by simply dividing my right from my wrong before I go off on a tangent and try to insult other people. I know how to put into boxes things I know will inflame others because I don’t seek to inflame. I will speak to a close friend about things that disturb me most, rather than run off at the mouth on the internet. We have that choice in our lives, our communication with other people which differentiates us from animals implies we have the time to think before we speak. Hail to the humans!!

    We all have a choice to think about our words unless we are, drunk, high or indifferent. Should this be the case, why speak?

    Listening to others can sometimes enrich our own lives, but who the fuck has the time to listen when they come across people who believe they are always right and know it all?

    • jkkFL says:

      Kalima, I totally agree- but what about the recalcitrant brain that speaks before you think??
      I have one- and would like to leash-train it!! 😉

      • Kalima says:

        Hi jkk, missed you on MB today, have you moved already and did you count the cats?

        About that leash, I suppose that depends on who you are with. I have something I keep on one, hubby calls it my “sharp tongue” although it looks perfectly normal to me. 😉 It must be being around people growing up, who would never let me have the last word. Now I just mumble under my breath a lot.

      • SallyT says:

        jkkFL, well, if you have to put a leash on it, get one of those retractable ones. Let it get way out there and think it is getting away. Then you can roll it back in and control it. It is always good to let your brain have a run once in awhile and bark at the moon. Many wonderful things have come from people letting their brain have a run. And, sometimes it takes a loud bark to get attention and quick barks are sometimes more honest.

    • ADONAI says:

      Kalima, Indeed we do have time to think before we speak. But, during this time, while your compiling what you want to say, how much control does your subconscious mind have over it? Yes, they’re your words, but who gets credit for them? You, or the other you? It is hard to tell. Remember, you THINK you know it’s you. But what controls that thought?

      • I don’t believe in an “other” me. Thoughts are composed from what we “learn,” from the external world. Sure, there are nearly countless thoughts that other people have had, way before I have had them. But we place our thoughts in a certain order according to our individual selves. R.W. Emerson once wrote that truly, there have been only a handful of original books. Books composed of original thought. All others borrow, in one way or another, from this “handful” of original books.

      • jkkFL says:

        Damned if I know, but ifya find that turkey- email me!!

      • Kalima says:

        I believe I control my thoughts ADONAI, that’s why I still have my many friends and rarely have to have a battle with myself. Most of what you call “the other self” has already said their their piece at one time or another in my life, it doesn’t scare me anymore, and as for my subconscious mind, it has little control over me during my waking hours.

        Funny thing about putting thoughts into words, once you have said them out loud, you can never take them back in, they just hang there for eternity. Hence my grandmother’s wise words to me as a kid still to this day ring in my ears, “Think before you speak child or say nothing at all”.

        Reading above, if what you told Sally is true, I don’t do drugs, so obviously we are talking about two different things. Never mind.

        • ADONAI says:

          Kalima, We are discussing the same thing. You just seem to miss the point I’m making.

          You say you KNOW it’s you. You say you CONTROL your thoughts. Modern science seems to disagree with you. Now, granted, most of the time your conscious mind is in control. You OWN you. But, until we learn a little more about what is going on up there, you can’t ALWAYS be sure. You don’t really know how much control your subconscious mind really has. No one does. There are many theories but they are still being studied.

          It’s a complex system. When I say no one knows exactly how the brain works, I mean just that. Human consciousness is still a mystery with riddles to be solved. True you are a product of your environment and your “upbringing” but how much does that influence what we think and feel? We’re still answering those questions.

          When I say “you don’t know what you are talking about” I don’t mean you are stupid or ignorant, just that you may not “know” what you’re talking about. Knowledge. What that means, what it is.

          It has nothing to do with what is said. More about why it is said. The “other self” isn’t a product or some psychosis, it’s you. You are many different parts that make a whole.

          • Kalima says:

            I know exactly what you meant and I said that as far as I’m concerned I’m not aware of any battle going on in my head between what I think and what I say. Once something is in my head I have the control over it and whether to voice it or shelve it. and I don’t think that anyone will ever understand the full workings of the human brain, it’s not exactly something that if I don’t know, would ever cause me any sleepless nights.

            On that note, I’ll be off to feed my hungry tribes. Have a good weekend.

            • Kalima says:

              I have had severe health issues since I was 27, not life threatening but life changing, everyday life that is. I like to keep my life as simple as I can, maybe this might explain my thoughts on this subject better, then again, maybe not, but it makes sense to me and of course to the “other” mes too. 😉

            • ADONAI says:

              You too Kalima. Enjoy. I believe I get where you’re coming from. Sorry it took me so long to spot it.

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