Psychology Versus Spirituality

Let me share my reflections with you. The word psychology has several meanings to me. The first thing that come to mind is mental illnesses and how psychologists and psychiatrists do everything in their power to understand the workings of the human mind.

Then, I start thinking about psychotherapy where the therapist and client explore human suffering by connecting with the client's feelings and thoughts.

To me, psychology is as fascinating as it's mysterious. What does psychology mean to you? Take a moment to think about it...

Spirituality on the other hand calls forth images of colorful ceremonies and rituals staged in exquisite temples. It also makes me think of individuals who withdraw from the hustle and bustle of modern life to seek out solitude in remote places.

Now, what does psychology and spirituality have in common and at what point do these disciplines merge or overlap if you like? This post is of an experimental nature, join me as I dive into the pool of conscious experience.

Psychological Observations And Theories

Psychology endeavors to understand the mind and human behavior through thinking. No matter how trivial it may seem it must be clearly understood, if not, we won't be able to appreciate the differences between the psychological and spiritual approaches to understanding the workings of the mind.

One of the main tools in psychology is the observation of human behavior.

Now, researchers carry out studies where they observe human behavior and it's the combination of research data and intellectualizing that form the foundation of psychology. These so called theories are assumptions and not truths.

To sum it up, psychology depends on external observations and intellectualizing as its chief tools. Of course, one could argue that it's possible to measure a patient's EEG and other biochemical activities during research, however, it's still external observations of the physical body and the mind. In order to move away from this external mode, we have to enter upon the mind itself.

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Thinking And Awareness

So, what are the differences between thinking and awareness? If you had fired this question at me 10 years ago, I would probably have replied, "To think is to process images and words while being aware is to give an object attention." I don't have any problem with these definitions but are they really true? I would say that it depends on who you ask.

Someone with direct or first-hand experience of awareness would relate to it quite differently, but doesn't every human being have first-hand experiences of awareness? Sure, even a fetus is aware of it's surroundings which means that awareness is not limited by birth.

Thinking Versus Awareness

Most of us are caught up in a 16-hour cycle of nonstop daydreaming, with sleep as our only refuge. Of course, there are brief moments when we're not, but those moments are far and few in between. Think about it, if you for example travel on a bus or train, what do you normally think about?

You would probably process thoughts about fellow passengers, what you did yesterday, what you're going to do once the bus arrives at its destination and make plans for tomorrow.

I call it daydreaming, when the mind runs around like a stressed chicken. We may think we are in control of these thought processes, but we're not. The daydreaming makes us absent-minded to the point where awareness of the here-and-now only lasts for brief moments.

Nonstop thinking is the nature of the human mind. Do you find it hard to accept the information presented so far? Not to worry, resisting is another high-profile characteristic of the mind. Besides, don't believe in anything I say or write, reflect on it and find out for yourself. What's is awareness then?

Awareness, the way we talk about it here is simply consciousness without thought. We're aware when we think, that's true. But this a lower form of awareness. The type of awareness I'm pointing to is steadfast and free from thought.

The Restless Mind

Imagine you're lying down on your bed with a stomach ache and for a brief moment you only pay attention to the pain, without any thoughts going through your head. This is pure consciousness. Awareness isn't more complicated than this. To be able to sustain this mode of awareness takes some practice though.

The nature of the human mind is to process thoughts from morning till night, with sleep as its only refuge. This, makes the mind a restless creation.

Spiritual Observations

So, let's take a look at the main tool used in spirituality for the purpose of understanding the mind and human behavior. When we're fully aware of the present moment, the mind isn't processing any thoughts which makes the mind calm. Most people have probably never experienced such calm during an awake state since only sleep normally is able to calm us to this level.

Someone who meditates a lot becomes radiant as the calm mind shines through the physical body.

Unlike in psychology where external observations and intellectualizing make for advancements, in spirituality the understanding of the mind and human behavior stem from direct observations of the mind itself.

The tool used is relaxed awareness of the present moment. What could be more direct than letting the mind observe itself, in the quest to understand its nature? For those of you who have little or no experience of present-moment awareness, all I can say is that awareness has to be experienced, thinking about it is not it.

If you would like to familiarize yourself with awareness, I strongly recommend that you download my free guided meditations. No previous experience needed, practice makes perfect.

Psychology And Spirituality Merge

There are many books where these two approaches to understanding the human mind merge. Note that psychology leans more towards spirituality than the other way around. It's also true that most of this inspiration has been drawn from Buddhism. So, where does psychology merge with spirituality and what do these two disciplines have in common?

For one, they share the same endeavors when it comes to understanding the mind and human behavior. Two, the psychology camp is starting to recognize the lofty benefits of present-moment awareness especially as a therapeutic tool.

I hope psychology as a science will continue to open up to the present moment and look deeper into this wisdom that has been cultivated by spiritual masters over millennia. Many patients would benefit from it.

Unfortunately, few scientists have developed their faculty of awareness to a high-enough degree to successfully apply it in their quest to understand the mind. Besides, the colleagues would probably shrug their shoulders and turn their backs on them, if the research was based on observations of the mind, by the mind!

Emphasizing Awareness

Spirituality gives little importance to thinking and intellectualizing, instead it points to awareness as the path to insight. So, in order to understand the mind, the mind has to observe itself.

Awareness of the present moment makes for superior understanding of the mind. Find out for yourself.

Best of luck!

Related:   Memory And Thought   Spiritual Doubt   Symbols And Rituals

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