We think that the world is limited and explained by its past. We tend to think that what happened in the past determines what is going to happen next, and we do not see that it is exactly the other way around! What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn’t explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.
This powerful quote by Alan W. Watts has been used by many as a helpful way of describing the difference between a psychological model and a spiritual model. The psychological model says that it is our past and our experiences in life that form and shape who we are; how we feel; and how we behave in the world. In this model our past explains and even justifies our current reality. The psychological model essentially says that the wake that trails behind the ship creates the boat and makes the boat what it is. This is a common belief of today’s world. Most people try to understand themselves and others around them by the past.
In traditional psychology, a therapist seeks to understand the nature of any behavioral or emotional disturbances by understanding the patient’s past. The patient is encouraged to talk openly about any life difficulty or traumatic experiences. The patient is encouraged to explore those experiences to find insight into their current difficulties. A common belief within this model is that the understanding of how the person got to where they are will help them to change their future. But what if this isn’t true? What if your past is not the cause of your present?
The spiritual model of healing the mind agrees with Alan Watts and says that your current consciousness (essentially the thoughts and beliefs in your mind) create your current experience in the present moment. This experience will simply dissolve into the past like a wake behind a ship. In the spiritual model your past doesn’t really matter that much and does not determine your present or your future. What matters is your consciousness. What matters is how the mind sees and interprets the world that you perceive.
In the spiritual model the mind is an elaborate computer program that takes in enormous amounts of data and processes that data. It literally sees and hears everything in your perceptual reality. It then runs complex programs that focus your attention on only those aspects of reality that are deemed to be important to your individual self. The result of that processing is your conscious perceptions of yourself and of the world. The core of this program of the mind believes that you are an individual self that is separate from Life. This separate self is weak and fragile and needs protection. The mind attempts to protect and defend this self and to seek out what will ensure the survival and even expansion of this self.
Much like a computer processing large amounts of data to find patterns and meaning, the mind processes every sight, sound, smell and nuance of this worldly experience and reduces it into patterns and gives it meaning. In doing this it distorts reality because you are no longer aware of the whole of it, you only see parts of it. You are only aware of what the mind shows you. You think you are seeing the world as it is, but you aren’t. You are seeing it through distortions produced by the mind. In eastern philosophies, the mind that does this distorting is called an ‘ego’.
A spiritual model holds that there is no true separate self without this ego mind. Enlightenment is what occurs to a person when the entirety of this ego mind drops away and the true wholeness of Life can once again be seen and recognized. Those who have had this enlightenment experience report that they no longer see any separation. They no longer see self and other. Everything that they look upon they recognize as themselves. Everything is One.
Therefore, in the spiritual model of healing, the central problem is not one of understanding a past causation that brought the person to their current circumstance. The central problem is one of unburdening the person of a distorting mind that prevents them from seeing reality as it is. In this theory emotional and behavioral disturbances are caused by the ego mind that distorts reality. Once these distortions are relinquished, only inner peace remains.
The Belief-Shifting method of healing the mind is based on a spiritual model of healing. Unlike a spiritual path, whose purpose is to support the person in dropping the whole egoic structure of mind, Belief-Shifting simply intends to support the client in dropping particular mind distortions that are creating suffering and life dysfunction for the person in their present. Once the distortions are dropped, the person’s present reality is instantly transformed.
Which model do you think is true? Does the wake make the boat? Or does the boat make the wake? Does your past determine your future? Or will healing your mind free you today?