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What identification with the mind really means

If you read spiritual texts or listen to spiritual talks, you might have heard the warnings against getting identified with the mind. But what does it really mean to be identified with the mind?

When a thought arises in us, in some cases, we have a choice whether to follow the thought/emotion or not, but in a lot of cases, we don’t. For instance, if the day is cloudy/rainy, it affects the mood of majority of us. All our actions and decisions on that day are affected by the weather. But, a few of us can see through and probably try to take decisions and actions irrespective of the weather outside.

So whats the fundamental difference between these two scenarios?

In the first scenario, there is no distinction between the person and the thought, and there is no realization that there is a choice not to completely believe in every thought and feeling. So whichever way the mood swings, the person will flow that way. If the weather is bad, the person will be sad. If there is too much sugar in the coffee, his afternoon is ruined. His happiness will totally dependent on moods and circumstances.

When a thought arises in such a person, there remains no distinction between the person and the thought. This can be put in other words as: the person is gone and what remains is only the thought! His actions and decisions then, will completely directed by that thought. The person is like a puppet for that thought. There is no guarantee if the thought would bring happiness or suffering. But whatever it brings, the person is forced to experience it.

This is what is meant by 'being identified with the mind'.

In the other scenario, the person knows that his thoughts and feelings are not necessarily the best judges of the situation. That they can be wrong! If the thought is wrong or if it doesn’t make any sense, he can take decisions/actions without being influenced by it. This brings freedom in life. The realization that we don’t have to believe in every thought and feeling is a great liberation. We don’t have to suffer if the thought tells us that life is terrible.

This is what is meant by 'not being identified with the mind'.

Thoughts brings a kind of hypnosis with it. Not being identified with the mind means recognizing this hypnosis- this compulsion to believe in every single thing that comes to your mind. The choice of not to believe in every thought comes from the realization of separateness of the person and his mind. A popular spiritual analogy is that the person is like the sky and the thoughts are like the clouds. The distance between them is infinite and yet, from the ground it appears that they are close. The sky only appears to change on a cloudy day, but in reality it is totally separate and different.

This realization of separateness is the backbone of mindfulness meditation. The person is guided to simply look at everything that arises in his mind- To observe how random and different each thought is, and to observe how we fall in the compulsion of getting lost in the thought.