Freeing Your Mind

“The mind has a job. Its job is to find a home and a place to rest. It can, however, only rest in the truth. It thus frantically attempts to prove the things that we think so that it can finish its job and rest. But because the majority of our thoughts and beliefs are projections and rationalizations, it never rests.”
— Byron Katie


photo credit: kaptainkobold with digital manipulation by Philip

Creative Evolution in the personal/mental sphere is about freeing the mind from its incessant need to project and protect a particular identity or personal story. The human mind is one of the most beautiful, shocking miracles to emerge out of the relentless onslaught that characterizes the emergence of life on this planet, yet it manifests programmatic behavior in the same way that a heart pumping blood, a liver releasing bile, or a blinking eye do.

Quite simply it builds and fortifies a narrative fortress describing the person you desperately hope will offer  some advantage in the survival game. It is constantly writing and revising this story without ever abandoning a central theme: that you are in control of your actions, somehow beautiful and unique, and worthy of forming alliances with in the favor-trading economy.

Creative evolution in the mind addresses the reflexive nature of your personal story and and its “style,” or default disposition — especially when under duress. In the West this is known as psychology; in the East it is an aspect of Yoga. Both approaches are galvanized around an active principle called self-inquiry.

Inquiring into the personal/mental aspect of life means two essential things: 1) investigating the formation of self image in light of basic evolutionary theory (evolutionary psychology), and 2) actively cultivating a disposition that we call  — borrowing a term from G. Gurdjieff — self-remembering, through the practice of certain forms of meditation and contemplation. Evolutionary psychology provides a context within which the more unsavory parts of the human personality can be viewed with compassion, and the cultivation of the remembered disposition is the basis for an understanding of how we feel when we are awake and proceeding in the world consciously.

Natural Selection and the Formation of Identity

In The Moral Animal, Robert Wright begins chapter 17 by saying, “natural selection’s disdain for truth in advertising is widely evident.” (263) With this he notes that deception in nature is really the rule, not the exception. There are female fireflies of one genus (Photuris) that mimic the mating flash of females from another genus (Photinus), and who, after having attracted a male from the Photinus genus, kill and eat the poor guy. There are flowers that look like wasps, luring males of the mimicked species so pollen gets a free ride through the countryside to other flowers.  Some non-poisonous snakes evolve the colors of their poisonous cousins and garner easy respect. As Wright notes: “organisms may present themselves as whatever it is in their genetic interest to seem like.” (263)

The mechanical architecture of the man-machine developed in this situation, driven by the selective value of deception, and as wild as it might seem, there is good evidence that the psyche developed in lock step with these rules. The theory (link to wikipedia on Robert Trivers) predicts that the human eventually developed the ability to deceive itself about its own motives. In a nutshell: as a highly complex, emotionally driven, social animal, dogged by the impulse to reproduce its own DNA, humans are always immersed in a sense of conflict that derives from the need to act selfishly without being seen as selfish by the group. If it’s better to appear down on your luck (when you are really lazy) in order to get a handout, or share the blame for an indiscretion with others rather than take personal responsibility and risk being ostracized from the group, then you’ve got to twist the truth a bit. Because it is so difficult for humans to hide deception, the man-machine evolved the ability to self deceive and act decisively on premises that are  hidden from its own awareness. I mean, hey — If we don’t know what we’re up to, it’s more likely that they won’t either!

So in its mechanical mode, the personal/mental space is like a workshop where conscious and unconscious forces mingle with memory and real time experience to create an identity. This identity is projected outward as an image, and the image is equipped with an understanding that deception is part of the game, and self deception makes the game easier to play and win. Our image serves as a kind of “press agent,” deftly interfacing between the unconscious tyranny of the three drives, awareness of one’s self, and the reactions of the group. To understand this process better, we’ll briefly look at some specific examples of the mind’s handiwork: three modes of psychological pathology and how they are “styled” as personalities.

The Unholy Trinity

Let’s start this section with a caveat: none of what is being investigated or asserted here relegates the potential majesty of the human personality. The fact that there is uniqueness in the herd of sleeping humans is certain. In fact, that spark is the fuel that begins the fire that is the Creative Evolution process. However, if deception and self deception are two of the selective forces shaping mind and identity, then much of what is presented as “individual style” is a sham, designed to spin latent anger, fear, and emotional hysteria into something presentable to ourselves and the group.  When looking very closely, “individuality” collapses into a nearly amorphous lump of coping neuroses when we are stressed.

Who do you become when you can’t have what you really want?


The first class of pathology revolves around making anger into an acceptable style. In each case, anger is either internalized or externalized — meaning embraced or denied — and manifests in various forms and degrees of obsessive compulsion. Here we find the surgeon or preacher whose hair (and opinion) never moves in the breeze.  Laboring under the deep fear of making mistakes,  they often tell others what “should have been done”, or how they “should have known better”. When being right is an obsession, life is a Sisyphean imitation of perfection, played out in a starched uniform of sarcasm. Or, meet the blatantly angry who live exclusively by their own rules. Quick to let you know it’s “not their problem” (read: always your fault), latent rage is spun into the mystique of the lone outlaw.  And finally the passive aggressive, who rarely appear angry at all. Having managed to repress any sense of it for fear of its power, they are asleep to their own deepest feelings. They’re the quiet one’s who make us vaguely uneasy for reasons that we can’t seem to put our fingers on.


The second class of character imitations revolve around spinning fear into an acceptable style. Here we meet the second in command, or the fist lady, who, despairing of being in the spotlight, can quickly find the most powerful person in the room and move quickly to establish a relationship in order to exert influence behind the scenes. Appearing easily at home in diverse situations and groups, they are actually paralyzed internally by an incessant need to divine what others feel, and project hidden meaning onto every one and every thing. Then there are the observers,  who often hide behind thick beards or glasses. In groups they are rarely noticed. The true hermits and eccentric collectors of the human race, their fear is mitigated by amassing one-of-a-kind artifacts, or volumes of knowledge on an arcane subject. Lastly we meet the inverse of the hermit, an expression of what is called the “Peter Pan” syndrome. Happy-go-lucky, they flit into our lives for a few months and brighten things up, only to retreat on a new adventure at the first sign of real struggle, or the need for deep commitment. Keeping it light all the time, fear is mitigated here by idealization — “you know, I’m ok and so are you!” — and an attempt to live life (especially “spiritual life”) as a never ending party.

Emotional Hysteria

The final class of character imitations revolve around spinning an addiction to intense emotional experience into a seductive image. In the first group we meet the captains of industry or the CEOs of the corporation. With the latest and most expensive technology at hand, a second home in Boca, and a lease deal on the private plane pending, they wear material possessions like the latest fashion. Here the nagging dread of worthlessness is mitigated by a tacit sales pitch that underlies everything: “I’m great and you need me! Just look at what I’ve produced.” Next meet the helper, the ever attentive and apparently selfless caretaker of others. Quick to divine what others need before they even know what’s needed, helpers dole out advice on well being with every breath. The nagging fear of abandonment is mitigated here by being absorbed into another in a grand imitation of kindness and service. Last but not least the tragic romantic: meticulously sculpting an exterior of profound uniqueness and beauty out of a deep sense of imperfection. Hooked on the delicious intensity of melancholy, they fuel their addiction by never fully committing to the relationship they have, pining in secret for the perfect one who will come — some day — to finally love them for their flaws. When the beloved is always just around the corner, life becomes the sweet lament of an endless Rilke poem.

Remembering Your True Self

Okay, so the programmatic script in the personal/mental realm begs you to spend time in the “image workshop” of your mind, constructing an admirable, attractive, consistent personality and the best pitch with which to sell it to others. We call the friction that slows this remembering your original face. This might sound like an unusual task — like something totally ethereal that “normal” human beings don’t have time for, but it isn’t as impractical as you might think.

Let’s do it now: as you are reading the words on the page, keep part of your awareness focused on your own felt presence so that attention includes you and the screen, and the words, and our thoughts and whatever else arises – – just see how long you can continue  to feel you along with everything else. In mechanical mode this rarely happens. But when you remember yourself, the opportunity to meet anything that comes into awareness directly is present, and this is especially important when it comes to learning from emotion. When you try it, you’ll notice the difference in affect between being awake — remembering — and sleepwalking.  Knowing the difference between sleepwalking and authentic consciousness is the beginning of everything, the unifying force that drives and solidifies lasting change. Without it, no physical training reaches its potential depth; no contemplative technique is authentic; and the power of relationship with our fellows is never truly accessed. Accordingly, the techniques we will present in the personal/mental arena will be related to self-inquiry and the act of remembering your original face. Please subscribe to the blog and check out the personal/mental archives for more practical techniques. As always, use the form below to shoot us an e-mail if you have something specific you’d like us to address.