Walks of Mind
Illuminating What Goes on in our Mind
Please enjoy reading this walk. It has been
created by John Cochrane for your interest and, hopefully, benefit.
Introduction to the Walks
©John Cochrane 2005-2006
There are times when I am fired with passion, when my whole self seems to be so energised and full that I am sure that people around me will be burned. And there are times when I am in a deep dark place of isolation and embittered fear. And much of the time I am in neither place, I am living my life from day to day.
I know which end of the spectrum of experience I want to be living in but have often found it a huge challenge to get myself there. This collection of walks holds some of the things that I have learned that have made a difference. Sometimes I just wish I’d found out sooner!
I invite you to share some of the insights that have made a difference for me and for those that I have shared with. Insights drawn from modern psychology and everyday experience that have allowed me to accept more fully who I am, why I am as I am, and what I can do that will make a genuine and lasting difference to my experience of life. You don’t have to do anything difficult to get a benefit. You don’t have to struggle to understand. You don’t have to agree with what I say or fit in with any philosophy I may or may not hold. Just read away and let your imagination do the rest.
Walks of Mind is packed full of insights, ideas, and propositions examining how we came to be as we are and why we tend to experience life as we do. Most importantly, this collection of walks uncovers some of the underlying, and simple, reasons for some of the most challenging struggles that we can face.
Throughout my adult life I, like many others, have read many books and listened to many teachers, philosophers, and academics on many aspects of living life. There are many wise words of advice and many well thought out descriptions of our experience of life. However, there are very few that seem to talk deeply about why we are as we are, and hence this collection of walks.
This collection of walks is not a manual for self-development nor does it offer any unique or ‘secret’ answer on how to live life and gain ultimate self-fulfilment. This collection of walks is, however, a starting point for personal understanding and a companion for personal development – whatever route that may take. Where appropriate, pragmatic power tips are included that draw from the new insights, and important points of understanding are emphasised.
Are you interested in finding out more about why we are as we are? Do you want to understand yourself more fully? Do you want to make significant changes in the way you go about and experience your life? If you say ‘yes’ to any of these then I am writing for you.
And I have some strong wants as I sit and write this:
If you visit a new country or vacation area, you may well get yourself a guide book or book yourself on a tour that will give you information about the places and sights on offer. A vacation guide book will often set out a series of self-guided tours that help you to get the most out of your time and see the sights to the best advantage.
This collection of walks is a little like a tour guide for the mind, with a series of walking tours where we take the time to see what is there to be seen. Each ‘walk’ explores a different theme and yet all the walks relate to each, they all occur in a place that we experience every waking moment of our lives. The sights and places to discover that these walks explore are all in a place that we are already familiar with - or are we?
You have lived with your mind since the day you were born, and arguably even before that. But do you know what is going on when you get bored, or when you are depressed? Do you know why you ‘feel’ a certain way when you are excited or attracted toward someone? Do you know why you tend to believe that life is tough at times? Do you know why you can sometimes find yourself full of righteous anger? These are all experiences that we know about, we each know what the experience is like, but do you know why we experience these things in the way that we do? And if you could get a handle on the ‘why’, don’t you think that would give you a much better chance of appropriately choosing how you wanted to ‘be’?
Each walk in this guide examines what is going on in a simple way that delves to the roots of how and why. Each walk is written as an exploration, a tour of discovery, that exposes key insights into what goes on for each and every one of us as we live our day-to-day lives. Important points are highlighted in each walk and it is worth pausing at each of these to take these points in.
Some of these walks expose the reasons for unconscious behaviour that we can get into that leads to confusion and missed opportunity. The walk on love, for example, sheds light on why some of us tend to fall in love so inappropriately. Some of these walks propose ideas that provide a fundamental shift in understanding, such as the walk looking at our basic emotions. And in some of these walks, for example the walk on ‘ghosts of the mind’, we get to understand how a particular way of looking at our mind in action can be used to boost our personal growth.
The ‘walks’ also represent the following-through of a particular logical track or collection of observations to reach an end conclusion. Just as in a real-life walk sometimes the going is easy and at times it can get tougher as there are challenges to be overcome, but the end-point is worth the effort.
Some Basic Presumptions
Without getting into any consideration of the ‘why’ of our creation, it is my belief and starting point that we are physical biological creatures and that the major abilities of our minds are there to help us survive. Each and every feature of the mind is there for a reason. I do not claim that these features are in any way the best for the job or an example of logical perfection. Just as our physical bodies show as the result of many compromises, so our minds can be thought of as the heritage of millions of years of survival in tough and changing conditions.
Similarly, conscious thought itself is rooted in personal and human survival. The ways that we think are present because they give us some survival advantage. For example, conscious focussed thought is essentially logical. It has to be this way because only logic gives us strategy, which allows us to apply general learning to particular situations with discernment. Only through an assumption of cause and effect, a fundamental of logic, can we create mental models of life and the world and thus ‘think’ through particular situations. But there is a considerable hidden cost to this way of thinking, which we uncover in a while.
Non-logical thought, random or chaotic thought, if used as the primary thought process would deny this ability to model and make sense of the world, and would hence become a survival risk. However, non-logical thought which can be accessed within logical thought introduces an ability to be creative – another survival benefit.
I say nothing here about spiritual or religious belief, nothing about the widely held view that there is more to humanity than just our isolated brain-encased mind. In this collection of walks I am concerned with that part of our mind, for example, that has the job of warning us about the tiger which may be about to leap on us from behind the next bush, or the possibility of poison in the lush-looking fruit we have just found. This self-same part of our mind is still busy doing its job of warning, though now the nature of our lives has changed and the warnings may not be appropriate.
It seems self evident to me that whatever evolutionary basis there is to the way our mind works, and hence to our behaviour, it has resulted in a great variety of capabilities. There is no simple blue-print of ‘correct’ or ‘sane’ thinking and being, there is no single ‘best’ makeup of mind that will guarantee to serve us most profitably throughout our lives.
If you are new to any of the current ideas of how the human mind works, read the primers first as these give a background that supports the main walks.
Please enjoy these walks. Personal empowerment comes, I believe, through self-knowledge and self-knowledge is available to us all if we choose to look discerningly at the mindful places that we find ourselves in.