In my faith community story-mind consciousness is called the Parai mind. Parai is a word meaning final in Sanskrit. This is because once this portion of our consciousness has decided how to interpret an event, how it will be recorded in our memory, and what we will choose in future circumstances, or contexts that are similar…that decision is Final! We know that our story is true! We might even say, “This is my truth, the way it really happened.”
Story-mind wants to do its job and its job is to observe, compare, interpret, discern, and recommend a course of action about everything! The only time this inner helper might be silent is during meditation. But even then it is only waiting eagerly to spring into action, at a moment’s notice, assisting us to assess our progress, equate this meditation sit to others we’ve experienced, and to offer an opinion on how well we’re doing compared to others around us.
Why do we need story-mind? Because it can observe, interpret, discern, compare, remember, and make recommendations. Without a fully functional story-mind we would be operating like an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient. In fact these two unfortunate disabilities cause a disruption in the proper functioning of story-mind so that the sufferer can’t remember where they live, who their family members are, or how to perform even the simple tasks they learned as a child. We need story-mind; however it’s important to understand its limitations and even its handicaps on the spiritual path.
When the Story-mind has been tamed it is a useful assistant helping us remember skillful means, creating a true observation of events (what could a camera capture), developing and carrying out plans for transformation and change. It can remember the words to songs, remind us of happy events from our past, and assist us to find gratitude in the now. Story-mind knows how to read, write, and develop compassionate forms of communication, and assist in explaining dharma teachings to ourselves and others.
When Story-mind is untamed, tempestuous, untidy, and undisciplined it holds us prisoner to our past experiences, both real and imaginary. An undisciplined story-mind is constantly saying, “what if?” and giving us vivid and detailed conjurings of sorrowful, upsetting, and wildly dramatic possibilities- each accompanied by an appropriate emotional response.
Our story-mind might just torture us with endless, cruel, nasty, and judgmental voices from our childhood. These are called “hate voices” and they pretend to want to help us, but in reality they just want to keep us fearful, trapped, and helpless.
Can’t you do anything right?
You knew this would happen if you weren’t careful…
How many times are you going to let this happen before you do something about yourself?
You just had to open your big mouth, didn’t you?
What’s wrong with you…you big baby…buck up buttercup!
See, no one really likes you anyway…why even try?
With a nose like yours you should be in the circus!
Quiet! If you don’t talk- you can’t get into trouble.
Stop being so needy…what’s wrong with you anyway?
If you had a brain, you’d be dangerous!
And on, and on, and on, and on…
Story-mind does not want to be tamed. It is important to keep this in our awareness. It has had free rein for as many years as we’ve been here and it doesn’t want to relinquish control at this stage of the game. However, story-mind is only one part of us. It is the “little self” or “ego self” the front man/woman for our fragmented goodness nature.
Story-mind, body-mind, striving-mind, desire-mind, and habituated-mind are all in cahoots to keep us from learning about this Truth. Every time we come close to believing, touching, or experiencing this Truth- the five minds gang up on us and try to make us afraid. They tell us that without them to set us straight we would be awful, selfish, terrible Sinners- destined for hell…make no doubt about it!
But wait a minute! Isn’t the hell we experience because of what those five minds keep insisting is the truth? And isn’t story-mind the biggest tell-tale of all? So what have we got to lose if we make the attempt to saddle, bridle, and tame this part of our consciousness? When it is tamed story-mind gives us information, but doesn’t dominate and control what we decide about that information, or belittle us when we become hesitant or confused.
The following exercises will help begin the domestication process of story-mind.
- Ask yourself what are the things you’ve always wanted someone to say to you, but no one ever has?
- Make a recording of these things, include anything your inner child needs to hear in order to feel loved and appreciated. Listen to the recording every day. Add to it when you think of something else you want to hear.
- Think of at least one compassionate thing to do for yourself each day and do it.
- Create a set of mantras that go something like this:
When I make a mistake it doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it means I made a mistake.
When I feel sad it doesn’t mean I’m a cry baby or weak, it means I feel sad.
When I make sacrifices for others it does mean I’m a good person, it means I am a person who makes sacrifices.
When I am generous it doesn’t mean I’m a special person, it means I am choosing to be generous.
When I’m not generous it doesn’t mean I’m selfish, it means I chose not to give something away right now.
You get the idea. We can tame the story-mind by stopping its interpretation of each thought, action, or non-action. What happened is simply what happened it doesn’t have a meaning, some implication about us, nor is it a significant indication of our worth either good or bad it just is what it is.