If you are like me, and I assume we are essentially similar in having a conscious awareness, exploring the inner workings of our own mind requires concentrated effort. We mostly think, think, think, think, and think some more as we go about our daily lives. How often do we pause to examine “what” we are thinking? Or even deeper, “who” is thinking?
In my own life, I remember a distinct stage of asking: “Is this thought my mind speaking? Is this thought my inner self speaking? Or Is this a randomly generated thought from brain matter?” For a consciously driven life, the answer matters. Welcome to my life’s essential search and ultimately my life’s work.
We all contain the ability to distinguish between these various parts of ourselves: brain, mind, and inner self; a skill that simply needs repeated practice. Yogic philosophy breaks these up nicely into the three states of “mind”:
Manomaya Kosha — brain/mental layer with activity like calculations, thoughts, etc.
Vijnanamaya kosha — the “wisdom layer” where conscience, discrimination, discernment, and other higher reasoning occurs.
Anandamaya kosha, or “bliss layer,” — where the inner self interacts with the physical human mind.
Hopefully this basic theory clarifies the differences. To help speed your journey along, I thought to share my favorite practical method to gain awareness within yourself of these different aspects of “mind.” The fastest, simplest method I know? Watch the mind, watch the thoughts. The act of observation eventually teases out these differences, and rather effortlessly.
Oodles of techniques, schools of philosophy, teachers exist to help if one prefers a formalized training or technique. After my more than thirty years on this path, I can unequivocally declare these techniques and trainings definitely help AND are not required. Whew… I said it! Certainly not a popular stance and I might receive push-back, but seriously, I stand by my conviction. If you are willing to step back from 24/7 busyness determined to slow down for even 10 or 20 minutes on a regular basis to simply observe with no other expectation, your inner world will unfold itself to you like a delicate rose.
Once I gained the ability to distinguish these three aspects of my conscious awareness, it dawned on me what a fantastic, ever-available guide I had waiting inside at a moments notice. Empowering. Every time I listened and acted upon the advice or direction, I soared, and avoided untold suffering from ignoring the advice. Trust me, seriously, not kidding nor spouting out cheap words. I saved myself from heart wrenching suffering.
Please ignore any ideas that attempt to stratify these layers into “better and worse”, “higher and lower”, “good and bad.” All three layers are helpful, necessary, and irreplaceable. I found the voice of the “inner self” the most difficult voice to distinguish. This voice speaks softly, almost in a whisper, and never repeats itself. If you miss it, well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you will need to wait until next time, next message. Fear not, your inner self voice will speak again and if you happen to listen and act on the advice, believe me, your inner self, delighted, repeatedly tries again and again!
Remember, never give up, try again, claim moments of stillness, quietness, to discover the fountain of wisdom always bubbling up within you. My promise to you: time well spent and worthy of your attention!