At the end of this article, there is a meditation that takes us through the three layers of the mind outlined below. This meditation is about 15 minutes in length, and is best done lying down.
Recently, I’ve been very interested in the three levels of the mind (as described by Freud); the Conscious, the Subconscious, and the Unconscious. I’ve had a few occasions in the past few years where the deep Unconscious was activated to send me a message, and the experience was so intriguing, I thought it was worth looking at more deeply.
The most surface layer, the Conscious mind, is like the mind’s leader. The Captain. It isn’t always right, but it directs the ship. It is essentially our focus and imagination. It is with what and how we are interacting, and how we imagine our actions might produce outcomes. It is us looking, and doing.
The Subconscious mind is our storehouse of accessible memories, habits, beliefs, values and behaviors. It stores data, like names and phone numbers, and the beliefs we call on regularly. It takes up much more space in our brain than the more superficial Conscious mind, but it can be controlled by the Conscious. For example, the Subconscious might remember enjoying an ice cream sandwich, and direct us to eat one when we see it. The Conscious, if desired, can override that impulse, and even work with the Subconscious to create new habits and behaviors.
However, there are times that the Conscious is heavily focused on it’s imaginations, and the Subconscious can take over our body. Imagine being so deep in thought as you are driving, that you do not remember several minutes of the ride. Your Subconscious enabled you to drive while your Conscious was busy elsewhere. And, it can’t be underestimated the influence the Subconscious has over the Conscious. It filters the large amount of incoming data, interprets sensations, and is aware of much more than our Conscious can focus upon. And, emotions and habits often trigger our reactions and actions, and can override our best intensions.
We are very aware of both the Conscious and Subconscious minds. However, the Unconscious mind takes up the most mind space. The Unconscious stores deep memories. These can be repressed, or distant. Every single experience we’ve had has been stored in our Unconscious. All of these experiences form our beliefs, habits, and ideas. Therefore, it informs, and creates our Subconscious mind. And, as the Subconscious works with and influences our Conscious mind, it’s easy to see how our Unconscious mind is the root of our thoughts and actions.
When we feel we have received a message in a dream, or an idea pops up during a quiet moment of the mind, such as during meditation, or we feel like we “hear a voice” telling us something, it’s very likely it’s the Unconscious mind. When we feel confused or unsure, it can be helpful to try to tap into this deep voice.
This week in class, we worked at quieting our minds during an asana practice heavily focused on coordinating the breath with movement. Then, we took extra time for a guided savanna. This relaxing guided meditation helped explore the three levels of the mind. Ive recorded it to share below. Try to allow the mind to just be free, and perhaps some new ideas will float up!