An Extract from my blog, Mindfulness in the Real World: The Art of Mindful Living.
The Conditioned Mind: Living Beneath the Veil.
Generally speaking, we humans, despite sharing many common attributes, each have our own unique ‘version’ of reality. We each have our own lens through which we interpret the world around us. As soon as we develop the ability to conceptualise at an early age, every event we encounter contributes to the formation of our opinions, beliefs and prejudices. This is a perfectly natural process, but the problem with this process, is that essentially we become conditioned to think and behave only within the relatively narrow parameters of our environment – we simply learn to ‘act out’ the various inherited cultural biases. For example, if a devout evangelical Christian, convinced that their God is the One True Almighty, was born only a few thousand miles east, they’d believe the same thing – only about a different God, such as Allah (or any other of the numerous deities created by humankind). It is not hard to see how our conditioning can soon distort our sense of reality and identity.
I liken the notion of the conditioned mind to a veil of fabric draped over us. Of course, we are all born without this veil, but each life experience we encounter is like an individual thread of cotton, and as we acquire more and more threads, they become interwoven until eventually forming a veil that covers up who we truly are. In time, our veil impairs and obscures our view of reality; from beneath our veil, we can only ever experience fleeting glimpses of reality that manage to penetrate the minute gaps in the fabric’s weave. If we could only remove our veil, we would see an unfiltered version reality.
Because our sense of identity is woven into our veil, we mistakenly come to believe that who we are is contained within the pattern of the veil’s woven threads. Superficially this is true, but we don’t realise that who we truly are is the essence of what lies beneath our veil. We don’t stop to contemplate, that in order for conditioning to even occur, there must be an essential underlying source on which the veil is draped.
We can become so attached to the identity woven into our veil, that when faced with an alternative perspective or view – a view that challenges our sense of identity – we often cannot accept it, and we may feel affronted, or offended, and may even defend our own view with as much passion and vigour as though defending our very life. In this way, when we defend our beliefs, we defend our identity – and so defend our life. Our veil can act as a barrier, inhibiting true human connection, and can often distort our perception of others – and, in the most extreme cases, can even cause us to completely de-humanise them. Consider Holy Wars for example, where people become motivated by their conditioning to maim and kill tens of thousands of people, who just happen to have a different view – who simply happen to wear a different veil. In being so blinded by their conditioning – so impaired by their own veil – they can no longer see ‘others’ as fellow human beings.
I know at times we can all feel driven to defend our ‘selves’ when we feel opposed or challenged – even over the most trivial of matters, such as someone disagreeing with our opinion of a book, a band, a film, or even a choice of shirt. But whenever we feel these impulses calling us to defend our ‘position’, it is important for us to realise that we are merely being influenced by our veil. We must realise in that moment, that our indignation is a call for Mindfulness; it is a call to lift our veil and see the deeper reality of the situation.
This in an extract from my blog, Mindfulness in the Real World: The Art of Mindful Living.