WHAT IS THE MIND?????

Much of the field of Neuroscience is about studying the brain. It is wonderful that there are so many advances in understanding the brain. But what about the mind? We each have a mind but were we taught what it means? What is it? Where is it? I am a fan of the work of Dan Siegel and have read a number of his books. He is challenging the notion that the mind is what the brain does. “For me, the view that mind is only a synonym for the activity of the brain is partially true—but embracing it as complete and literal is potentially lethal. Lethal? Similar to cancer, seeing the mind and self as separated from other people and other living beings creates a way of living that is isolating, incomplete, and illusory.”In his new book, Mind, he shares a working definition of the mind-“as a self-organizing emergent property of energy and information flow happening within you and between you, in your body, and in your connections with others and the world in which you live” (p. 50). Mind is not the same as the brain. Mind is not just within you-it is embodied, enacted, extended, and embedded. From this understanding of the mind it is extremely relevant to mindful communication in daily life because mind is happening between our communication with others. Dan proposes there are four facets of the mind.

1.The subjective experience-felt experience

2.Consciousness

3. Information processing-mental activities

4.Self organization

So how does knowing this support our ability to practice mindful communication. Siegel suggests integration as the key to health and well being. If the mind is a self-organizing system and a self organizing system has a block it moves towards either chaos or rigidity. In order for a self organizing system to be in harmony it needs to be flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stabilized. Optimal self organization is achieved through differentiated elements of the system and linking these differentiated elements-integration (p.78). Integration is how to optimize self-organization, within and between-well being. And so a healthy mind creates integration within and between. Mindfulness also supports integration in cultivating an open awareness to whatever arises rather than being swept away by our habits, patterns, and judgments. An integrated identity might involve combining the importance and reality of Me with the importance and reality of We and Dan offers the concept of MWE. From this place, we can consider, perhaps our purpose is to create more integration, which leads to the natural emergence of kindness and compassion.

Jen Zehler