Mind is a theatre and our thoughts run like a movie
Undoubtedly, the mind is the most complex and mysterious thing in the universe. It’s the product of interaction among trillions of neurons (extremely tiny brain cells) in the brain.
Brain scientists are still struggling to answer where the mind is located, inside the brain or outside of it? Is mind more than the brain, or is the brain the real player, and mind merely an illusion?
From antiquity, when man began to think deeply about life’s mysteries, the mind has held center stage. Earliest recorded views about the mind and its relationship with the soul and divine forces were put forward by the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, Adi Shankara, and many other ancient Indian, Greek, and later Islamic scholars and philosophers.
So then, again —
Whence come thoughts? What we know is that thoughts are the product of unconscious neurological processes in different parts of the brain. The human brain is comprised of about 100 billion neurons, interconnected by trillions of synaptic connections, each transmitting signal.
On average, each synaptic connection between neurons transmits about one signal per second. Some specialized connections send hundreds of signals per second.
According to researchers, in some extremely complex process, trillions of connections and billions of simultaneous transmissions coalesce inside our brain to form a thought.
One study has found that human beings have an average of nearly 60,000 thoughts every day. Most of these thoughts that pass through the mind are unstructured, random, and largely incoherent.
Mind is a theatre and our thoughts run like a movie…
David Hume (1711-1776), a Scottish philosopher, historian, and important figure in the history of Western philosophy, has explained mind very appropriately in the following words:
“Mind is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in a perpetual flux and movement. The mind is a kind of theatre where several perceptions successively make their appearance, pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different times.”
Hume suggests that our mind is just a bundle of perceptions, like links in a chain. We then construct highly subjective mental models of the outer reality we perceive through our senses.
These internal representations are based on s experiences, perceptions, and interpretations of the world. This is why each of us perceives outer reality in his or her own unique way. Billions of people on this planet carry their own internal models of the external world inside their minds. No two individuals, therefore, think in exactly the same manner.
Mental models serve to represent real as well as imaginary situations. Whenever we imagine something, we construct an internal model based on our previous experiences. Let’s say we’re going to a new mall to do some shopping. Never having seen it before, en route in the car we find ourselves constructing an imaginative model of that mall in our mind.
Imagine we are watching a movie in a theatre
We are completely engrossed in the storyline. As the story proceeds, we feel happy, joyful, sorrowful – amused — a wide range of emotions.
The movie to us becomes a real-life happening. Though the events in the movie are not happening to us, we empathetically feel that we ourselves are playing one or more of the roles. We forget that we are merely watching. Similarly, our thoughts are like a movie, running in our minds.
Completely identifying with its thoughts and feelings, we feel that this drama is real, and part of “I” We lose our ability to watch our thoughts as simple observers.
Rather than witnessing our thoughts, we become an integral part of the thoughts themselves. We are not mindful. We must learn the art of mindfulness in order to observe our own thoughts. If we are able to do this, we can sit in the driver’s seat and direct our own course.
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