How the mind interferes with Consciousness

In a previous post – Future becomes Past without being Present – I shared how the only way to move through a time of intense suffering had been to live two hours at a time – that is, be fully and uncompromisingly present.

This eventually led to an insight that my suffering was rooted in my concept of linear, sequential time – represented by the past or the future – in the form of memories and projections, which I turned into stories about myself, identified with myself, and then suffered from them. These memories, projections and stories, if unguarded and unobserved eventually add up to so much noise that it can become impossible to be present, to access the power of now.  So, once I was given this insight, the question arose: If I have observed this incessant noise-making tendency in myself, which am I? Am I the observer or the generator of noise? Who is the observer, who is conscious of, and present to my incessant identification with past memories and future projections? And who is then, the generator of this noise, these identifications, these attachments? Which is me?

Over time I began experiencing and recognizing two forces in action with greater and greater clarity and awareness. The force that was observing and present felt … soulful. It was joyous and peaceful in spite of everything external – all the chaos, endangerment, pain and suffering I experienced. It was presence itself. And whenever I could invoke this presence, suffering seemed to dissolve … if only for fleeting moments. The other force is best described as … thoughtful, that is, full of thoughts – most of the time, obsessively, incessantly, and clingingly so. 

The first force, the observer, appeared to receive instantaneous strokes of genius, insight, and wisdom, given to it like streaks of light, free gifts from a direct connection with a bigger, more infinite entity with no intermediaries. Because of its quality of presence, I experienced it as timeless and formless. I began referring to this as my soul.

The second force, which I gradually recognized to be my mind, is capable of learning and holding amazing amounts of information, conducting incredible analyses, and identification with theories, concepts and beliefs, which it generates as a part of its process. I realized, rather aghast, that in our culture of academic excellence, this is what was labeled intelligence! This by-product of mental gymnastics! Now I saw that what my Indian middle-class, academic values labeled as intelligence, was merely a tool for clever operations. It was informed, sophisticated and polished, but not wise. It seemed thoroughly stuck in its learned and clever theoretical frameworks for what is or isn’t real, what is or isn’t possible.  My soul, however, was liberated and free to venture into the undefined, the uncertain, the impossible.

So, I realized that it is my mind that is attached to the concept of linear, sequential time, and is thus creating suffering.  It does so in two dimensions in the concept of linear time. In the first, which is “before” the present moment in linear time, through its incredible capacity for memory the mind continuously recalls past events. It then repeats to itself its accounts of these events, and with every repetition, it gives the story a firmer and firmer stronghold in itself. By doing so it becomes attached to the idea that its story about me is synonymous with the essence of me (a process of identification). This creates the biggest escape from taking responsibility, through a persistent narrative that my past is the cause for my present. In the other dimension, which is “after” the present moment in linear time, my mind makes desperate bids to predict and project what will happen in the future, based on information it thinks it has on hand. It aspires to manipulate the future*, and is completely gripped by this endeavor, making stories about the future as well. This creates the other side of escaping responsibility; through an obsession with fictitious scenarios in the future, one avoids appropriate action for the actual situation at hand in the present moment. The means begins to justify some imagined end – in the future. Left unobserved and to its own devices, my mind would be addicted to this process of analyzing the past and controlling the future, and in its most extreme state, this would be nothing short of insanity!

As this awareness unfolded in me, I began to automatically and effortlessly draw into my awareness, other people’s work, writings and speeches about the same insight. It was magical – everything that was already in existence just began to come into sharp focus now, and become aligned. I found the writings of Neal Donald Walsch, Eckhart Tolle, and most recently, Jiddu Krishnamurti. I also began to see new layers of meaning, received not by analysis but by unexpected strokes of light, in the messages of the Bhagvad Gita, the teachings of Buddha and Jesus Christ. I began using the term Consciousness instead of soul after I connected with other people’s works. I like Consciousness (or Being, in Eckhart Tolle’s writings and Organism in Krishnamurti’s work), because it alludes to something not in discrete terms but in continuous terms … continuous with other people’s consciousness, with nature, and ultimately with the infinite, timeless Consciousness … the divine force, which many call God.

A few weeks ago, I urged my dearly loved friend, an architect with an incredible mind struggling to create a house design befitting a couple he considers his lifelong best friends, “Step out of your mind and cerebral side, become present, become conscious; generate a peaceful happy self, and then do this work. It (and everything else we do) is too important to do otherwise. If you’re feeling anxious, frustrated, confused, sad, angry – any of those feelings working on this house, then don’t do it. The work (and the house) will embody all those negative feelings.” He responded with promptness and certitude, “I work in my mind.  Asking me to get out of my mind is like asking an athlete to get out of his body.”

I suspect that the most amazing athletes would tell us (if they could or wished to articulate this,) that they do indeed have to step out of their minds and bodies, and then leverage their bodies in service of their Consciousness. Our Consciousness is bigger and higher than our minds or our bodies, which are simply tools given to it to be creative (and I don’t mean creative in the artistic sense alone). If we always work inside our mind then how can we employ it purposefully? When we live inside our mind, it means we are identified with it, we are fused with it, and we cannot separate ourselves from its delusions, its concepts, its beliefs, its suffering, its recorded history, and its endless stories. We then falsely, become our mind, instead of being who we really are – our higher Consciousness. Our mind in turn, begins to drive everything we do, and stops serving us any real purpose.

With ongoing observation I keep discovering that:

My mind is attached to memories of past and projections of the future; my Consciousness is simply present.

My mind is attached to ideas, concepts, and beliefs. My Consciousness has no attachments and can therefore freely imagine.

My mind talks; my Consciousness listens.

My mind thinks; my Consciousness perceives.

My mind moves; my Consciousness is still.

My mind judges; my Consciousness observes.

My mind controls; my Consciousness liberates.

My mind preserves; my Consciousness releases.

My mind learns and comprehends; my Consciousness already knows.

My mind defines, my Consciousness explores.

My mind is proud; my Consciousness is humble.

My mind is complex; my Consciousness is incredibly simple.

My mind likes justice (or being / doing right); my Consciousness accepts.

My mind has sight; my Consciousness has vision.

My mind loves identity; my Consciousness is so big and continuous, it cannot (and need not) have one.

My mind is addicted; my Consciousness is free.

The list goes on … and this is the first time I have created such a list!

In the Power of Now, when Eckhart Tolle uses the term “unconscious,” he refers to the state of becoming fully identified with our mind and mental constructs. When we cannot see ourselves as separate from our mind, we’re operating at a level of unconsciousness. When we become conscious, we are able to step outside and observe our mind, and then employ it appropriately. It begins to serve us rather than drive us. And when we achieve this state, even momentarily, we are given those gifts of insight, inspiration, creative visions, that arrive freely and seemingly from nowhere – not through a laborious, analytical mental thought-process, but effortlessly and naturally through our Consciousness. They come as those streaks of light and strokes of genius, which are not servant to time or space. We have all experienced such moments, albeit infrequently and fleetingly, when we feel “in the zone” and when “all time stops.” There’s a way to be like that all the time, but that requires practicing presence and becoming conscious.


*It is an irony that while the mind believes that it can control the future, it assumes it has no control over the past! A scientist featured in the film “What the *Bleep* do We Know” raised the question, and I paraphrase: “Isn’t it amazing that we think that by what we do today, we can influence the future, but not the past? Quantum Mechanics actually has no mathematical framework that says we cannot affect the past!”

Last 5 posts by Shahana Dattagupta


  1. anonymous

    Tana, I enjoyed the start of your post, but I must say that you lost me a bit. But the first part gave me a lot to think about. Both have roles consciousness and mind in creativity. Its the mind that creates, the consciousness is a counterfoil to creative exhaution

  2. Tana

    Hi Anonymous, thank you for your feedback!

  3. Khushi

    Good post. I think I had totally forgotten my consiousness. Really. Mind was ruling the day for a long time. I dont think I stopped to listen as you said. And I felt really dried up.

  4. Asha

    Tana, I have been following you since you started here. It seems to me that while you are making strides spiritually, you are not meeting enough people of different kinds. You were more joyous when we started, now you are calmer but less joyous. Dont mind, I dont know much – suggesting only.

  5. Tana


    Thank you for your kindness in following my writings, and for your observations!

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