The Mind: Where the Enneagram Lives
This post is an adapted excerpt from a chapter of my book, Becoming Your True You: God, the Enneagram and Your Unique Purpose. I’m officially launching it this Friday, April 3, at 7 p.m. via a Facebook Live launch party. Here’s the invitation.
When you say “mind,” what do you mean? Is it your brain, something outside your brain or something inside your brain but separate from it? Can your mind tell you what your mind is? As it turns out, the answer isn’t easy – even for scientists. And since it’s essentially where your personality comes from, it’s important to understand what the mind is, how it trips you up and how to begin to untangle yourself from its control.
In the book The Perfect You, Dr. Caroline Leaf makes a distinction between the brain and the mind:
“…the brain is the physical substrate through which the Perfect You works, where our thoughts are stored and from which we speak and act…The mind is intimately correlated with the brain’s structure: the unique mind is expressed through the unique brain.”
Dr. Leaf quotes Nobel laureate John Eccles, who agrees that “the mind and the brain are independent entities.” She defines the mind as “your thinking, feeling and choosing” (what I call the soul) and writes about how what you think, feel and choose goes on to cause physical reactions in the brain.
Alongside “What is the mind?” lies an equal thorny companion question: “What is thought?” There are all kinds of theories of thought. Throughout history, people have thought a lot about thinking! Why? Because they intuitively understand that this is a key of human existence. How and why thoughts are created say something about who and what we are.
There’s currently no expert consensus on how many thoughts our brains have per day. Estimates range from 50,000 to 80,000. That’s 35 to 56 thoughts per minute – about one to two thoughts per second. Whether at the low or the high end of the range, that’s a lot of thinking going on.
At the level of personality, Russ Hudson echoes the opinion of many deep thinkers over the millennia when he speaks of the mind compulsively thinking as a way to make sure it still exists. He notes that the ego (personality) isn’t a thing; it’s an incessant activity. This is why Dr. David G. Benner calls thought “the great sinkhole of consciousness.”
Here’s a little saying that illustrates the power of thought:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Nobody really knows who said this, but it’s gold. And it’s biblical. Jesus tells us in Luke 6:45 that “Out of the overflow of the heart (mind) the mouth speaks.” Thoughts become words. Paul also reminds us of where words come from: “I believed, therefore I have spoken” (2 Corinthians 4:13). In context, we think of this in the positive sense. But it can be negative, too, because not all of what you believe is positive.
If that anonymous quote above is right, we desperately need to renew our minds and their thoughts because, as it turns out, our destiny depends on it.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.