Week Three: Unconscious Mind
The unconscious mind is the most intricate and fascinating layer of the human mind. This layer has intrigued humans for millennia, sparking the creation of profound expression, art, and culture. The human desire to establish a direct relationship with the unconscious mind has inspired the development of countless spiritual disciplines, mystical practices, and esoteric scientific pursuits. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, introduced us to the soft science of our powerful unconscious mind and its influence on behavior and human interaction with the world. We’re now aware of the existence of this layer of the mind that could be defined as the “conditioned foundation” of our psyche. Carl Jung’s cognitive psychology provides the basic knowledge of the functionality of the unconscious mind. Through this level of analysis, we have gained a general understanding of the layers of human mind as well as the mind’s relation to social perception (archetypes, persona, etc.).
Recently, technology has allowed study of the unconscious mind to evolve into the hard science of neuroscience, granting us the ability to observe and measure the communication of human brainwaves and mental activities. Observation of the information collected by our subconscious mind and conscious mind (riding communication pathways through the unconscious mind) explains the way our mind programs our desires, behaviors, and perception. Consider the chart below, showing a high-level overview of the waveforms generated by different states of mind.
It is no longer a myth that your perception (a byproduct of your unconscious and subconscious mind) shapes your reality, as neuroscience provides us an objective view on this phenomenon.
For instance, computer scientists at Google have partnered with neuroscientists to create an artificial neural network, named Deep Dream, that can understand the subtle characteristics and artistic style of images well enough to recreate any other image using the same style. Fascinatingly, if you train this network with 100 pictures of different breeds of dog then provide it your family portrait, it will return the portrait as a family of dogs, one of which looks suspiciously like your uncle. Alternatively, if you initially input 100 works by Picasso, your family portrait would be returned as a beautiful cubist masterpiece. The neural network can identify and recreate only what it has been trained to see, whether that identification is objectively valid or not. With all human experience existing as a neural construct, who can state definitively whether your family is a collection of dogs or a masterpiece? How will you define this for yourself?
We see now that these three layers of the mind affect perception. Your unconscious mind is responsible for the formation of a perception-based reality. It connects, processes, and unifies information collected from the subconscious mind. Through this process, the unconscious mind creates a conscious behavior based on your experiences, expectations, desires, and belief system.
While all layers of the mind operate together to present us with our normal state of awareness, the unconscious mind alone connects us to intuition and dreams, both of which are highly valued in ancient cultures and spiritual practices. This week, we will work with these phenomena to explore the mystery of the deeper self.
Observation and Action:
This exercise empowers your unconscious mind by working with your intuition and acknowledging the content of your dreams.
To begin this practice, you’re expected to have a daily exercise of reducing compulsive thinking. To get through to a deeper layer of the mind, you must quiet the other layers first. To accomplish this, dedicate 20 to 30 minutes daily to spend time in nature. After choosing a peaceful location, simply walk or sit and observe the world around you (including the sight of flowers and trees, the sound of wind, birds, rain, and more). No judgment or classification by the mind is required, only pure awareness of the sound, sight, and sensation provided by nature to you.
This week, start a dream/intuition journal and write down any dreams you can remember immediately after waking up. Furthermore, for the daily decisions you make throughout this week, try to let yourself be guided more by your inner voice rather than by hard logic and reason. If you are already involved with any other form of practice to connect with your intuition, now is a good time to enhance or record your daily practice.
Duration and Frequency:
Begin your day with your dream journal, writing your dream descriptions as thoroughly as possible. Then at some point during the day spend at least twenty minutes and up to two hours in nature.
Repeat these exercises every day, without judgment, for one to two weeks.