Layers of the Mind 3: The Subtle Mind

  • Namaskar, welcome to Session 3 of the Layers of the Mind course.

    The next layer of mind is called the Subtle Mind, otherwise known as the Subconscious Mind. It’s this layer which gives the experience of pleasure and pain through thought, memory and dreams.

    • Thought means the process of analysis and computation. This is what’s usually tested by the IQ test. So “intelligence” according to the IQ test is only based on this part of the mind: it only measures the capacity for reasoning and problem-solving — the intellect — and doesn’t take into account the development of the deeper layers.

    • Memory is the recollection in the mind of past events. Everything we perceive is stored in the mind, although we may not be conscious of it. Hence the term “subconscious”: it’s there but we’re not consciously aware of it. For example, while walking down the road you pass a number of lampposts but you don’t remember consciously how many. If you can access the information in your subconscious mind you will be able to recall the exact number of lampposts. It’s the same with reading or studying: everything is there — it’s just a matter of accessing it. When you need to buy some obscure product that you don’t usually use, you suddenly remember a shop that sells that kind of product and its exact location, even though you’ve never consciously registered that shop in your mind before.

    • Dreams are of two types, normal and intuitive. More about intuitive dreams in the next session. Normal dreams are the reassembly of subconscious impressions during sleep. Because there’s no direct connection with the outside world in this state (the crude mind is inactive), dreams are accepted as “real” by the subtle mind.

    Although dreams fulfill the role of expressing desires that can’t be expressed in the waking state, they’re also caused by physical factors such as weakness of the nerves due to illness, heat in the brain due to too much thinking, or gas caused by weak digestion, constipation, over-eating or eating just before sleeping. Dreaming is different to dreamless sleep in that it uses energy rather than replenishing it. In dreamless sleep the nerve cells (which have become fatigued due to physical or mental labor) get the chance to rest completely. You feel more rested if the amount of dreamless sleep compared to dreaming sleep is increased. This can be achieved through regular meditation, good health and dietary restraint.

    This layer of mind is developed naturally through physical clash, and in yoga by special breathing exercises that are part of the more advanced lessons of meditation. The process of thought is linked to the breath. The more calm and relaxed the breathing is, the more calm and relaxed the mind will be. When you’re out of breath, you can hardly read the time on your watch. Conversely, when you concentrate the mind your breathing slows down and can sometimes even stop completely, like when you’re watching a captivating movie. When the suspense is over you take a deep breath again because your concentration is broken. So control of the breath leads to control over this layer of mind.

    There’s a story that a man was imprisoned in a high tower. When his wife came to visit him at the foot of the tower, he asked her to bring a beetle, cotton thread, string and a sturdy rope. Well, needless to say she thought he’d completely lost it! Anyway, she brought the stuff and according to his instructions tied the end of the cotton thread to the beetle and placed it on the wall of the tower facing up. The beetle climbed up the tower trailing the thread behind it and when it got to the window at the top he took the end of the thread. Then his wife tied the end of the string to the other end and he pulled up the string. Finally she tied the end of the string to the rope and he pulled up the rope, and after securing it to the top of the tower he was able to escape.

    The cotton thread is like the breath and the mind like the rope. Although the thread may outwardly seem inconsequential, control of it gives control of the mind. Whenever you do meditation, make sure your breath is calm and relaxed before starting to repeat the mantra.

    “The attainment of one’s inner self is only possible through love for the Infinite… Fill your heart with love of the Infinite, and your soul will be transformed into the Supreme Soul. No worldly happiness is limitless. Dedicate yourself completely to the blissful ocean of the Supreme Soul. Then alone will you realize what happiness really is.”

    Shrii Shrii Anandamurti


    When you’re ready, go to the next session…

    Contact us if you have any questions

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