More than just mindfulness

Mental Models of The Mind

August 10, 2019 Season 2 Episode 37
More than just mindfulness
Mental Models of The Mind
Chapters
More than just mindfulness
Mental Models of The Mind
Aug 10, 2019 Season 2 Episode 37
Robert Mitchell
In which Robert explains some of the mental models of the mind he uses to teach.
Show Notes Transcript

#Mindfulness and #Meditation is all about the #Mind.
To work with the mind, it helps to have some models of our inner processes. 
These models need to model the mind in a way that helps our practices.
There is too much dogma associated with the mind. Most of it has historical roots and is part of the tangle of our broken cultural narrative that tries to explain our experience while remaining mainly in denial of some of the key elements of our experience such as the mind.
Where is the education about the mind? Where are the conversations that help us to express our inner experience with our peers, our families, our colleagues? Speaking about the mind has become taboo.
To break this taboo we must have a way of discussing the mind that is universal and that is helpful.
The Mental Models of The Mind that I teach are all of these things. We can notice and experience our inner processes without becoming mired in unhelpful religious or scientific dogma.
In this podcast, Robert describes the models he uses and we practice some techniques that enable us to see the mental models working as a way of describing our common experiences.
Meditations:
 - Following the breath
 - One of Robert's personal Pranayama exercises
 - Counting the Breaths
 - Labelling the Thoughts



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Speaker 1:
0:04
To tell you what I'm going to do is to go through some mental models. One of the things that I've done personally and that I do when I teach is to have a mental model of whatever it is I'm teaching. These are transferrable. It seems to be quite universal. And by mental model, all I really mean is when you start meditating, you notice the mind and you know, it's all of the behaviors of the mind, the patterns of the mind. You notice things about your mind that you weren't previously aware of. We've got mental models of the mind to work with other people's minds, but our culture, because it's in denial of the mind, you're not taught about the mind at school. When was the last time you sat down with your loved ones and discussed the nature of your minds just doesn't happen. So it's actually taboo and people are uncomfortable talking about their minds for a start.
Speaker 1:
1:08
Because if you're honest, you'll be exposing all of the rubbish that goes on your head to other people. Right? So that's one thing. And the other thing is nobody does it. So you know you're going to break the ice by telling people about the flip flops that it's been doing or whatever it happens to be for the last few days. And so what we've got is this big element of ally. It's in fact everything. It doesn't matter what you do, the mind is a key part of it. The first model is the monkey mind. So the monkey mind is the part of the mind that works against us. Having a concept like a monkey mind is a mental model. It starts realizing that there's a part of our mind that works against us. And the thing about monkeys is you don't feel like you're in the presence of an evil predator.
Speaker 1:
2:07
They're mischievous. They are actually can be frightening. And I very definitely want to get their own way and they're not on your side, whatever it is. You've got bananas, cameras, Wallets, and I sunny place to sit. I want it. So there's a competition there and the chances are they'll get it because they're very smart. And so there's this part of the mind that works against us. So that really, that's the first mental model. That's the mental model that gets us into meditation in the first place. Then what happens? You sit down and you notice your thoughts. One of the things about us not having a conversation in our culture about the nature of the mind is that we don't have useful ways to describe anything when it comes to thoughts, and this came through teaching children about meditation and mindfulness. A good way to view thoughts is like you're the driver of the bus and the thoughts of passengers.
Speaker 1:
3:21
Passengers get on when they want get off when I want some of the friendly, some of them are noxious for an introduction to the nature of thought. That really takes some beating. Yeah, so as the driver of the bus, what choice do you have? You have no choice about the thoughts that arise that over time. To be fair, the intensity and duration of the whole thinking process and especially the uncomfortable stuff diminishes, but you only really notice that by looking back. It's such so subtle and it takes so long. You notice your milestones, the mind becomes silent for the first time, that kind of thing. But overall four is just there. So that the bus driver analogy is a great mental model to introduce you to thoughts. Then you've got a working with the mind. How do we work with the mind? And so there's a mental model for that.
Speaker 1:
4:34
And the mental model that I use when I teach is the kitten. So has anybody ever taken delivery of a new kitten? Got a new kitten? So first thing you have to do is how to train kitty. And the way your house trained kitty is she pees. You pick her up, you put her in the litter tray. If you come into a room and she's paid in this corner and she's guiltily skulking around in the other corner, what you do is you pick her up, you take her over to the pay, you show her the pay, you say, look, you did that. And then you take her to the litter tray. That gentle repetition, your repeating something over and over again. You're not aggressive about it. There's no conflict. You just repeat it. Repeat it, repeat it, repeat it. That's how we train the mind.
Speaker 1:
5:31
Gentle repetition, same thing over and over again. That's why we need to invest the time in meditation. We need to invest the time in mental practice to get the mind to a better place and there's another mental model and then after awhile we get to the mind itself and how do you model the mind and really it's so incredibly complex. There's no way that it's possible to impose a multiple of the mind that doesn't articulate all that complexity and the complexity can appear random, but there are patterns. The mental model that I use for the mind, if you'd want to understand, why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? Why do I feel this way? Why am I thinking this or somebody else? Why are they doing this? The way I look at it is it's like an ocean planet. We've all seen those photographs of earth from space. If you've got a photograph of the Pacific, it's almost all ocean, so it's easy for us to imagine that you've got all this ocean, right?
Speaker 1:
6:52
The mind is infinitely more complex than any ocean. Yeah. So Brian's got 80 billion neurons, and in between the neurons, there are axons, which are connections. So those 80 billion neurons, they have between one and 10,000 connections. And then the connections, the things called synapses, which are like tiny little switches. So if you multiply all the possible alternatives, states of the brain, this is just the brain we're talking about. It gives you a number that's bigger than the net sum of all the fundamental particles in the universe. And it's not just a little bit bigger either. I dug these numbers out and the number of possible permutations in the brain is twice as many digits as there are all the fundamental particles in the universe. So it's crazily complex. What we need is to model it in a helpful way. And you notice all of these models, they've got something about them, which is, there's no scary bits if the Victorians that are very dark concepts of the mind.
Speaker 1:
8:18
If you look at something like beauty and the beast and, and Jacqueline Hyde, and so Jacqueline hides the perfect example. The gothic novel was all about man's struggle. More mankind's they meant, but well maybe they just meant man man's struggle with who cares about women. I in the Victorian era, man's struggle with the beast within. This pops up all the time in all of these Gulf it novels and it was a kind of accepted reality that your overcame your animal instance or it didn't. And it's really unhelpful. False dichotomy. Black and white thinking not useful by culture has maintained a lot of that tragic flee. And one of the areas that does that really unhelpful is in the area of personality. So here's an unhelpful mental model. You have character deficits and you have character virtues. This is virtuous behavior, good character. This is bad behavior, bad character.
Speaker 1:
9:33
If you're indulging in something that you are weak. And the whole thing is about overcoming that weakness with discipline and discipline has to be hard for it to work. And so subsequently that, that's one of the reasons we're in the mess that we're in with the mind and why we don't even discuss it because this is built into the culture, right? Thinking wrong thinking to be fair exists in Buddhism as well, right? Thinking and wrong thinking. So it's better to have been all of that cause you're not going to help you work with your mind. You can believe it if you want. You can do these personality tests. You can look at the world like that if you want, but it's not helpful if you want to work with your mind. So then the mental model of the ocean planet, what you have on the surface, what you're aware of, weather, wind waves, rain clouds, that's there.
Speaker 1:
10:36
And so sometimes it's a sunny day, sometimes it's a cloudy day and that's it. And there are occurrence. These are the instincts. Instinctual behavior comes first. Every single time. If there's ever a conflict, the more extreme the conflict between your behavioral choices, the more likely instinct is to take over. And it's designed to do that is designed to shut down your thinking processes literally so that you just act based on emotion and emotion. Is your body telling you what to do? That's what emotion is. It's a message body telling you what to do and they're there all the time. And then habit is the next thing. There's a thing that they talk about a lot, which is intelligence. And I seriously doubt it actually exists. There is very little that human beings do that can't actually be seen as some sort of hive behavior. People in different cultures do completely different things. It's just about what we've learned. So all we've got is instinct and what we've learned and air intelligence is really, it's a measure of Arab ability to operate in the culture and the society that we've created.
Speaker 1:
12:04
So the, this whole thing is an extension of some visual models that we can use to help us to work with the mind and help, help us to get comfortable with it. It's all about getting comfortable with it because that's the purpose of meditation, to become familiar, uncomfortable with the mind. And you notice all of these models, they're quite fuzzy because the mind is fuzzy. We want it to be clear, black and white. You do this, then this happens. You do that, then that happens and it's not. So we're working with something that's quite fuzzy. The purpose of all of these is to get comfortable, familiar and comfortable with it. There's another model that I've devised, which is imagine you've got a tree in a pot. The mind is the tree
Speaker 2:
13:11
[inaudible]
Speaker 1:
13:13
above the ground. That's everything you're aware of. Below the ground is the roots effectively in the mowing. The roots of the mind are beliefs. What you believe is true, and we need that in order to be able to navigate our reality. But unfortunately they were all pot bound. So have you ever seen a a pop bound plot? You pull it out and you think, well, where's all the soil gun? It's just roots everywhere and that pot that our cultural beliefs, what you're doing by meditation is you're, you broken the pot, you broken the part, the cultural beliefs of the mind in our culture, which is very, very limited and in fact there's a big element of just don't go there, don't talk about it. You break the pot and then you plant that tree in the ground and then the the roots are going to go wherever they're going to go.
Speaker 1:
14:16
That's actually a difficult process. The other way to, to get the plant out of the pot is by cutting the roots. You either break the pot and you think yourself, okay, I need to start from a place where I don't believe anything until I actually know it's true personally in my personal experience and to hell with all the rest of it. Or you work on those beliefs one by one and you'll find yourself doing that whether you like it or not, and what you're doing is not what I believe. It's wrong. I need to adjust it. What you're discovering is what isn't absolutely true. So says if it gets clear to why all together and you'll discover that in your practice you'll get recognitions, realizations, things will arise in your mind and you become the lighter, the burden of all the things you believe diminishes.
Speaker 1:
15:10
It isn't about changing beliefs so that they are good beliefs instead of bad beliefs. Think about that. The false dichotomy. Instead, do I absolutely know this is true? [inaudible] here's the first one you need to start off with. I'm not good enough. Which is an almost universal perception. Is that absolutely true? And the answer is no. Why f your create in a comparison in your head to deny your worth and value and that is, that's almost universal in our culture. We compare ourselves. We're comparing ourselves based on what we've learned, which is everything within that pot. Break the pot. Ask yourself that question though. Who am I comparing myself with? And you know nothing about contents of somebody else's mind. Zilch. Zero. You can work with somebody, you can help them, but you still don't know. They're not going to tell you. Yeah. So you just, you get comfortable with the mind. Use these models. I'll put this on a podcast.
Speaker 1:
16:26
It can be a scary thing until you get comfortable with it. As slight a new neighbor, you need to get familiar, comfortable with a neighbor when you get to know them, it's all right. Actually say might seem very difficult at first. So getting to know the mind. Really the best way to start is by sitting and focusing on the breath. So what we'll do is we'll start off with following the breath today. And all you need to do with those men or models is now forget them because the ones that are irrelevant to you, that'll be tracked into your memory anyway. So you just forget everything I just said. If it's useful for you, it will stick. And you can notice the breath. The main places are nostrils or the belly. If you relax, help to relax your body by putting your elbows
Speaker 3:
17:50
by your side. And Joel had balanced as comfortably as you can on top of your shoulders. It'll help if you've had a busy week, which is what most of us have most of the time. It will help if you place your thumb and forefinger in contact, Jealous Jen in contact, and allow yourself to be aware of the breath. And the reason we're doing this is because we want, so learn about the current state of the mind. So let's say you are trying to map a new ocean and will you have as a boat, the only way to do so is by going out on it. And then what you'll do is you will learn where the current saw you will learn about the wind and the waves. You'll become more and more. Oh about [inaudible] navigating the ocean, hoping with the weather and the currents
Speaker 2:
19:59
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
19:59
all you do is keep coming back to the breath over and over again. So that's the only thing you need to do. Coming back to the breath and the mind will do whatever the mind does in the back pile. [inaudible] cool breath in. Warm breath out.
Speaker 2:
21:33
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
21:33
so it's not a competition. You're not trying to remain focused on the breath. All you're doing is coming back to it. When your mind has wandered.
Speaker 2:
22:44
[inaudible] [inaudible]
Speaker 3:
22:44
just noticing the sensation of the breath arising and folding. If your mind is challenging today, you can use the mantra on repeat in your mind as you breathe in and breathe out. You're saying your mind rising, folding
Speaker 2:
23:31
[inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible]
Speaker 3:
24:06
check in with your shoulders. Head on face. Is there any tension there? If there is, you're breathing in. Breathing out, relaxing, starting at the eyebrows, face, cheeks, shoulders down, two fingers, down sheets. I was letting out the tension on the out-breath.
Speaker 2:
24:35
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
24:35
and then back to noticing the breath.
Speaker 2:
24:53
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
25:04
okay.
Speaker 2:
25:25
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
25:25
cool. And breath. Warm out breath.
Speaker 2:
25:33
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
25:37
relationships are, the breath is like you're sitting on a beach. You're watching the waves.
Speaker 2:
25:45
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
25:46
no. Seeing the why he's rolling up, washing away.
Speaker 2:
26:01
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
26:01
and the tension in the body that you go with an out press. Well, let me just back to noticing the breath.
Speaker 2:
26:44
[inaudible]
Speaker 1:
27:15
breathing in, noticing what you can smell and taste.
Speaker 1:
27:23
Maybe wiggling your toes. Gently return your attention to the room. So there's the first two mental models, right? It's the thoughts. The other bus driver thoughts pop up that air for a while. They go away, they're there for a while, they go away. That is the, the kitten gently returning the kitten to the litter tray. Your mind wanders, you're gently returning your attention to the breath. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And, and then what will happen is over time you'll become more aware of being unaware. So there's a great definition of mindfulness, which is it's awareness of unawareness. It's the moment of recognition, that moment that you realize that your mind's been wandering and that you weren't actually here, you're able to bring your attention back to now. So that's what we're repeating in that meditation. We want to repeat the moment of recognition over and over again until it becomes a habit.
Speaker 1:
28:35
And so then that happens in our day. And what that means is when we lose focus in our day, or when our mind draws us into somewhere that's unhelpful, we become aware of that and we can bring our attention back to now. So there's no competition really. It's just that we, there's a habit, there's an ocean current that draws the minds to the place that it tends to be drawn to. Pete's path dependence is how most of the most of our reality is. Things happen because they happen. People do things because they do things and it just kept over and over and over and over again. This is the hive mentality at work and our mind is a little reflection of that. Our mind does things over and over and over again. Gets often gets to the point where we forgotten why we do it and the habits that the mind gets into. They're fairly similar. I speak to people about their inner experiences. What I get back is fairly similar. What? So what we're doing is we're working in the areas where it's universal. The moment of recognition is universal mind wandering is universal, thought is universal, emotion is universal and to an extent the way they interact is universal. So not all emotions initiate thoughts, but all four has an emotional element.
Speaker 1:
30:14
Knowing that you can then be aware of why you can be thinking about one thing when you're actually feeling differently. And this is also explains why having happy thoughts doesn't resolve how you feel. It has to have an effect. It can have an effect, but the emotion is like a, it's a current and it's repeated, repeated, repeated. So what will happen once you've meditated like that, often enough that your mind becomes calm. Meditation then just becomes an experience of allowing yourself to be aware of all of your inner experience, the thoughts, the emotions, the sense of experiences, intuition, choice, memories, scenarios where were constructing some imaginary future scenario in our head, these are all the inner experience. Best Way to look at it is like an ocean and what you're looking for is the current on the ocean. In your practice. What you're looking for is the practices that will help you move you from one current to another. So here's one that I, if I taught this last week, this is a personal practice. It's my personal Prana Yama. Don't do it now. I'll explain it first and then you can try it. See if it works for you. What you do is you breathe in through the nostrils, you're breathing into top of the head, the area behind the eyes, the top of the nostrils, whatever it happens to be. And that takes me about three seconds to do that.
Speaker 1:
32:15
And what happens is it fills your lungs just before you go and dive in the water. You know, you fill your lungs and your, your rib cages is full of air. And then what I do is I just relaxed my shoulders. I don't breathe out. So breathing in, tightening the chest, filling the lungs, and then just relax my shoulders and the breath tumbles out on its own. Give it a go. It's felt reasonable amount of approval. And the other places that I teach, so you breathe in, fill your lungs, you can hold it or you can just do it straight away and then you just relax your shoulders
Speaker 1:
33:08
and what you'll notice is the, a lot of tension goes out of the body. The out-breath tumbles out on, on its own, but you don't feel need to breathe in straight away. There's a little pause in tight chest, full lungs, and then just relax your shoulders. And most people do that three or four times and they're changing their state. What you're doing is you're moving from one current, which is whatever stress there is in your life right now and that's expressed as tension in the body. And then you'll just hopping over onto another current, which is relaxation. All the Prana, yamas work like this before six breaths, box breaths, this practice, anything. We are extending the out breath. You're moving your physiology from stress to relaxation.
Speaker 1:
34:23
We'll do the four, six breaths. Pranayama, move over to relaxation. The way to do it is for you to count the in breaths in your head. You Count One 1002 1003 1004 1000 and then you count the out breath. One 1002 1003 1004 1005 1006 1000 for it to be effective, you really need to be in a relaxed posture. Ideally elbows by the side, head balanced on top of the spine, probably the same for four seconds. One 1002 1003 1004 1000 breathing out for six seconds. One 1002 1003 1004 1005 1006 1000 then straight back into the in breath.
Speaker 2:
36:23
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
36:23
the thing to focus on is for the price to be as smooth as possible. So you're not looking to completely fill your lungs or completely empty them and or any search. All you're looking at is making breath as smooth as you can.
Speaker 2:
38:14
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
38:14
well now what we're gonna do is focus our attention on the sensation in the forehead. If you can't feel anything in your forehead, what you do, she just play share, calm, very, very close to the forehead without actually touching it. And you get a feeling of [inaudible] and a tingling. And so for this meditation, the best posture is sitting comfortably as you can. Comfort comes first before you do any of these, then elbowed is part of the side, skull balance comfortably on top of the spine, tongue up against the back of the top teeth. So it's in contact with the sharp part of the bottom teeth. If you're comfortable with it, thumb and forefinger, very gently and contact and you're allowing yourself to notice whatever sensations there are in your forehead and becoming aware of the space between your eyes. Breathing in normally breathing out, relaxing in the forehead, eyebrows, eyes and cheeks.
Speaker 2:
39:58
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
39:58
just being aware of the space between your eyes when you do this. Breathing in normally breathing out forehead, eyebrows, eyes and cheeks.
Speaker 2:
40:35
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
40:36
just like successive waves of relaxation leaving down your face. Breathing in. Normally it's hung up against the sharp part of the teeth. Breathing out, relaxing mouth and nips. Jewel on throat, all on the out breath. John Costa and the tension and tightness. Pressure and stress out
Speaker 2:
41:26
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
41:27
and then moving your attention. Breathing in normally breathing out, relaxing the and sides of the neck and shoulders.
Speaker 2:
41:53
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
41:55
last night. Slang the tension and tightness out on successive out breaths. Breathing in normally, breathing out, gently relaxing your hands. Same with the eyes. Jaw, shoulder, downward down from the wrists down to the tips of the fingers. Just lay and all the tension out the hands. Breathing in normally breathing out, relaxing the eyes. Chal shoulders
Speaker 2:
43:17
down to the tips of your fingers, down to your feet and into the floor.
Speaker 3:
43:25
So each out breath is like a wave of relaxation. Moving down the body,
Speaker 2:
43:32
all eyes, Joel, Charlotte, and fate, and then a little full
Speaker 3:
44:04
breathing in. Normally noticing what you can smell and taste the sensation of sitting to gently return your attention. So the room, it's all these currents in the ocean of the body and the mind that layered on top of each other deep piste layer is instinct. The reason
Speaker 1:
44:32
that you feel better now is because there was tension and the tension comes from an instinctual response. It's the stress response. We respond to a perceived threat or a difficulty with the stress response. And that builds musculoskeletal intention. You didn't even notice it happening, but when you came into this room, you had this stress and probably over the week, maybe the day or in a month, maybe the year, there it is. And, and so there is, there's this currence of physiological stress and that's under underwriting everything. So what we've done is we've hopped onto another current, which is a relaxation current and we're, we're unwinding a lot of the work that's been done by the stress. So you've got your physiology, that's the deepest level emotion. That's the next thing. And then thought on top of that on this habit. Yeah. So have it can work all of those levels so you can get a habit of having an emotional response to something. Yeah. Break that pot. Don't need it. You don't need it. Cause it's called a trigger, you know, as I million and them walking around London right now.
Speaker 1:
46:06
And the only need to ask yourself the question. Yeah. And the question is, what's happening right now that is difficult. What's happening right now that's difficult right now? What's happening right now? There's nothing difficult happening now. Right. But you don't have to answer it just to keep asking yourself that the repetition from the mindfulness meditations bring you to an awareness of your psychological and physiological state at times during the day. And then you need to use those times wisely to intervene in, especially in the currents that are unhelpful for your happiness and in a habit, an emotion or a couple of them. I mean, one of the interesting things is about, I have it, is you notice that you're repeating the habit and you know that it's unhelpful and you don't need another cookie glass of wine and you do need to go to the gym and so on and so forth and you'd carry on anyway.
Speaker 1:
47:12
Okay. So don't worry about that. That's yes, all work at work itself out in time. But the other, the other things is, is like what's the emotion that, what emotion is there when we're on autopilot, we can be going with a load of resentment, for example, or anger or whatever it happens to be and not even be aware of it. And then that's affecting our physiology. It's affecting our thoughts, it colors the thoughts, the thoughts aren't necessarily angry thoughts cause something angry out in this morning could be thoughts about other things, but at all they're all interlinked, all at different layers in the ocean of the mind. So the easiest way to intervene quickly is with the deepest layer, which is your physiology, which is generally speaking, tipped over into the stress mode and you want to get back to the relaxation mode. Also calms your mind calling the body calms the mind.
Speaker 1:
48:21
Also the emotions, lower duration, less insensitive. Okay? So what we'll do now is we will do a couple of the meditations that people find the most useful for calming their mind. So if your mind's not calm, relax your body. When you've relaxed your body, you want your mind to be as calm as you can. And the best one is called counting the breaths. This works for 50% of meditators. If you find this uncomfortable, you can just do following the breath. So if you one of the 50% that it makes your mind busy, others not yet to that stay true to following the breath or you do labeling the thoughts, whatever works for you. But if you haven't done it for a while, give it a go. Counting the breaths. We're waiting for the next breath, waiting for a breath, sore eyes, breath arises. We count one on the m breath, two on the out breath, three on the in-breath, four on the out-breath, up to 10 get to 10 began at one lose count, begin at one. So that's one on the in breath, two on the out-breath, three on the in-breath, four on the out breath up to 10 gets a 10 begin at one. If you lose count, begin at one and the relationship to the breath is you're just waiting for it, waiting for it. And when it happens, you count it. We have a tendency to cause the breath to happen. Feel waiting for the breath. Last lobby happen.
Speaker 2:
51:09
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
51:22
okay, now we move straight into labeling the thoughts.
Speaker 2:
51:27
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
51:27
waiting for a thought. Same way we were waiting for the breath, waiting for a thought to arise. And when a thought arises, just label it in our mind thinking and went back to waiting for the next thought thought arises are they let using the inner voice. So thinking back for the next thought, rotate if this is uncomfortable for you, if you prefer counting the breath seat and continue with that
Speaker 2:
52:16
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
52:16
or if you prefer following the breath, you can do that.
Speaker 2:
53:03
[inaudible] [inaudible]
Speaker 3:
53:03
and then you'll very on time say, there you go. So there's some mental models.
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