Our Beautiful Mind
My desire here is to offer you some comfort and some inspiration, as well as some tools for dealing with your mind and feelings. Most of us experience painful kinds of thoughts that run like an undercurrent through our life and put stress on us in nearly everything we do – in our academic, social, spiritual lives. Maybe you recognize thoughts like these: “I just don’t belong,” or “I’m not as smart,” or “If people knew, they’d reject me,” or “I can never be good enough,” and so on. In this brief time together I want to explore feeling good, feeling free. Of course the care of the body is relevant here, too – good food, sufficient rest, often make a big difference in the sense of emotional well-being. But here I want to talk about how to love and care for your beautiful mind, taking some inspiration from the poet William Wordsworth: “[We will] instruct them how the mind of man becomes a thousand times more beautiful…” (The Prelude).
Many of our emotional and spiritual problems begin, not so much because of difficult circumstances or traumatic experiences of the past or because there’s something inherently wrong with us but rather because of the way we have learned to use our mind.
Let me share a story with you about an experience that Dr. Daniel Brown, a psychologist and researcher at the Harvard Medical School, had. He and a group of psychologists came to interview the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. One of the Americans asked the Dalai Lama, through the translator, how Buddhists deal with the issue of negative self-talk, talk like, “I’m not good enough.” The translator and His Holiness then began a long discussion in their language. The American psychologists, sitting there, began to wonder what was going wrong. Finally they learned that these Easterners did not understand the idea of negative self-talk. His Holiness turned to the psychologist who’d asked the question and said, “Why would you ever let your mind get like that?”
We in the West, especially the U.S., take negative self-talk, low self-esteem, etc., as a given. But the Dalai Lama said that there is no such concept in Tibetan culture of self-loathing or self-deprecation, or as he put it, “a lack of compassion for oneself.” Another American therapist in this group said that in his work he saw that many ordinary people carry on an incessant, negative inner monologue. He said that this becomes a constant habit, and that often people aren’t even aware of what they’re doing or the impact it has on them.
So, it appears that we suffer many emotional problems because we have let our “mind get like that.” But what are our options? The short answer is that we can learn to let go of thoughts that are not working for us and then energize a different kind of thinking.
I want to refer you to a valuable new website called All Of Life at alloflife.org, developed by a couple of young LDS men here in Salt Lake, based on the latest mental-health research, as well as on ancient and modern wisdom. On the website you can register for free classes of a course called Mindweather, which is a series of short videos, each only a few minutes long. The classes compassionately explain how the mind works; how to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings; how to accept them non-judgmentally, no matter how bad we think they are; and how to let go of them; how the brain is plastic, how negative thoughts have made neural pathways in the brain through frequent repetition but how exercising the mind in new thoughts produces new neural pathways, which change our experience in life. Since these classes build on each other, I encourage you to watch from the beginning, in order, to the end – but not all at once, so you can absorb the insights.
My remarks here will serve as a supplement to that website, since I can talk about relevant spiritual things here with you.
What are some of the things that have happened to our mind to make it vulnerable to sorrows? You and I arrived on earth with a beautiful mind -- pure, loving, and fearless. But we were born into a telestial, fallen world, so that as we grew, we began to be programmed by another sort of mind that flourishes in this world, what we might call the world-mind, characterized by fearful, negative thoughts and feelings. Then, as we grew, we lost conscious awareness of our original beauty, our joy, and our love. Happily, these qualities of our original self are still there in our being, unharmed, but to some extent covered up by the world-mind.
So, out of our confusion and ignorance and innocence as little children, we began to buy into fearful thinking and negative impressions of ourselves and others. The untrained human mind tends to run in negative channels, gravitating toward feelings of fear, despair, jealousy, hatred, contempt, vengeance, grudges, self-blame, self-doubt – just to name a few. We all experience all of them some time or other, as they are a necessary part of our earthly experience.
But we need to look more deeply into these negative mind-states and see that they are not only false, a deception, but that they have a poisonous effect on our soul. They create toxins in our being. They create feelings of isolation, of unworthiness, of anxiety; they weaken our faith and darken our mind, and block our communion with our true self and with the Lord. They make the soul contract, leaving us vulnerable to all the ills and sorrows of the fallen world, putting emotional and physical stress on us. Indeed, these thoughts are the lens through which we interpret the world, as through a dark glass. And they tend to be aggressive, seeking to take up residence in us. And then these thoughts, by the law of attraction, attract more thoughts and experiences like them, increasing negativity in our life. And, all the while, we don’t know what’s really the matter with us.
These uncomfortable thoughts and feelings result from the fear we pick up in the world-mind, perhaps especially the feeling of not being good enough or not being able to get enough love. Then, under fear’s influence, we may find ourself doing many self-defeating things to try to quiet the fear, to appear good enough, to get love -- maybe in any form -- and then, we suffer, we experience stress, because we’re living against our true nature – but we don’t know that.
My premise here is that we unwittingly contribute to our own distress. The truth is, we are finally responsible for our own happiness, because, when we are informed, we can choose (see 2 Nephi 10:23). Even though our negative feelings about ourself and our life can come from difficult circumstances, or memories of past failures and mistakes, or even from traumatic experiences, our current distress arises from the kinds of thoughts, words, and behaviors that we unwittingly indulge in now.
That’s good news because we can do something about it. Mental and emotional distortions are not part of the original nature of the mind – they are fake add-ons, and therefore, we can be freed of them.
But let me say, my experience is, it takes effort to change our mental habits, and it won’t happen by itself. But it is so worth the trouble and practice to do it. We can change our mind, because it is our destiny to have a beautiful mind, a mind we love.
What we quickly realize, however, is that we can no longer use our mind in just any old way. Therefore, we have to learn some spiritual physics, namely, how to discern two main energy fields: negative or low-energy thoughts and positive or high-energy thoughts.
We’ve already listed some negative thoughts which we all recognize; the higher-energy thoughts we also recognize. These include thoughts or feelings of kindness, helpfulness, truth, compassion, goodness, humility, and faith. These have a high-energy level, they actually impart healthy energy, they lift us up, and they feel empowering, while our understanding and our mind expand (see Alma 32:34) – because they are part of our true, emotionally healthy self, and, in reality, come from another realm outside this world. In fact, high-energy thoughts, if the intention behind them is pure, are continuous with gifts of the Spirit.
The Lord, understanding perfectly the dangers of our negative thought-world, has put instruction throughout the scriptures about the liberating use of the mind – e.g., “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not;” (D&C 6:36) “Pray always and I will pour out my Spirit upon you” (D&C 19:38); “Cry unto the Lord for all thy support;…whithersoever thou goest, let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord…” (Alma 37:36-37). That is the reason the Lord has made himself so accessible to us, because the rescue and the development we need are so beyond our personal powers to produce. These are not idle or optional instructions if we want to escape the sorrows of the world-mind. But they take some effort to train.
We are here in this life to learn to discern these two energies, and to access the higher. Earth-life provides the perfect laboratory for us to learn the difference; to learn that we are designed from before the foundations of the earth, as spirits of truth, to see through the haze and dark mists of this world-mind, and to live by more powerful energies.
And so we must come to our true nature. It has occurred to me that there is so much light, life, love, goodness, and joy in our true nature that it would take a powerful deception to convince us otherwise. This deception is only possible through our having forgotten who we are. If we had a clear memory of who we really were, and how we thought, and how we felt in the premortal world, how we loved pure truth, this earth deception would never work; we would never fall for its thought-world.
Consider this example of moving from deception back into one’s true self. Nephi, whose brothers are trying to kill him, has reacted with anger and despair; he’s depressed and shut down: he cries out, “O wretched man that I am!” But you can see that in the course of the chapter, he starts to get an inkling of what’s going on. It’s almost as though he says, Wait a minute -- “Awake my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (2 Ne 4:28). Like the great Nephi, we too are driven with the wind and tossed – until we get it.
Now, having spoken earlier of our true nature, we must speak of our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, because we cannot really separate our being from His – we are, in some unutterable way, part of Him, and He is part of us. He reminds us that we are made of the same stuff that He is: light, truth, intelligence (D&C 93:23, 29) – exactly the same raw material. That is why we are so uncomfortable with lies and darkness – it’s just not who we are.
Our beautiful nature, then, is embedded with the Lord. We live and move and have our being in Him (Acts 17:27-28); He says, speaking intimately to us, “I am the true light that is in you and … you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.” (D&C 88:50). He says, “I am the vine, and ye are the branches” (John 15:5) -- “Abide in me” (John 15:4). That is, we live on a life-support system in Christ, He being the conscious fountain of our breath, our light, and our love. We are vessels of these eternal essences in Him.
Here we realize that the Atonement, or, better, the At-one-ment, was wrought specifically so that He could dwell in us as a loving, guiding, purifying Presence, in at-one-ment with each of us. So, it appears that whether one wants that, or feels worthy of that, nevertheless, He’s patiently and continually there -- a free gift.
Let me suggest a small series of high-energy experiments for training your mind in high-energy mind-states.
1) You can grow in your direct awareness of Him. When you are in a quiet place, if you will get very still inside, allowing thought to settle, listening to the silence inside, perhaps feeling the energy of life processes moving in your body, aware of the simple feeling of being without thought, you can discern not only the presence of your own true self, but also that loving Divine Presence. It’s simply there. At first this awareness is indistinct and fragile, but as we experiment, perhaps during prayer, we will feel that sense of Presence grow, and we will feel it with us, shaping our day. We will know that our life is in His hands. All spiritual realities can be experienced directly. I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that this Presence is real. And many here could testify as well. I say to you, Honor the presence of the Lord in your being. (See D&C 93:35a).
2) Another high-energy experiment: during your quiet times, train your mind and heart to be like His by allowing overflowing, boundless feelings of lovingkindness to arise and fill your soul. You will have to reach down deep in your soul but know that this is already an innate, divine attribute in your being, and that it wants to emerge and express itself through you in the world – no matter what your past experiences with love have been. Your spirit knows what pure love is. Use your imagination, and allow yourself to be saturated with this feeling. And also notice your resistance to love. Our sorrows often come because of our resistance to love; old pain can create barriers. Let us dissolve the obstacles between ourself and love; let us simply love. The Lord will help us. Sit for a bit with what it would feel like to live that way, consciously, filled with pure love in Christ (see Moroni 7:48). You can do it if you persist because your most basic nature is love, and so is His.
We can see that He could never forsake or abandon us, but we can lose awareness of Him and His love for us. John says, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him…. Perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:16, 18). And in another place John records the Lord’s words:“Continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12).
One of the results of practicing this way is that, in time, you begin to notice that things are working together for you in detailed ways (see Romans 8:28-29). Your fear level begins to go down. Not to say that you won’t have troubles – of course you will -- so did the Prophet Joseph and the Lord Himself, but you’ll come to know that life’s events are happening not only to you, but for you. You can have this knowingness inside. It changes everything.
3) And consider trying this: instead of the usual things we think as we look randomly at other people, rather, silently bless everyone you see, looking at everyone and everything through eyes of compassion and understanding; especially observing that when obnoxious or abusive acts are committed, there is pain and ignorance in the person who commits those – always. So we think like our Lord --“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And remember, it doesn’t mean when we forgive a wrong act that we are saying that the wrong act is ok. No, we’re just seeing more deeply into it, while we side-step the misery of hatred the act might inspire. But think about it, speaking of misery: which would you rather be -- the one who is abused, or the abuser?
4) And then, try this: become tuned to unspoken cries for help. Everyone is so vulnerable and so many around you are suffering but not showing it. This is the spiritual gift that Thomas Monson and Gordon Hinckley and Spencer Kimball developed – they listened for the cries. Carry the ready question, “How can I help?” – even if only to radiate your love and your smile and your encouragement.
And the result of this practice? -- Our confidence waxes strong in the presence of God, (D&C 121:45), and we know we abide in Him (see 1 John 4:16).
And you’ll also notice that like attracts like; as in negative energy, so also in positive. That is, pure love attracts more love, so that the person who has let go of a lot of negativity begins to feel surrounded by loving thoughts, loving events, and loving people. Alma calls it the Law of Restoration and says to his son, “See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly … and do good continually…. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again and be restored” (Alma 41:14-15). What we do, speak, and think today, will affect our experience today, tomorrow, and in the days and years to come. No exceptions. We can make this law work for us by choosing our words, thoughts, and behavior with pure intention.
A final story: Byron Katie awakens. This is a story about a beautiful, rich 43-year-old woman who knew nothing of a spiritual life or spiritual principles or religion. After years of rage and depression she finds herself in a rehab house. One morning, she awakes, lying on the floor because she felt too unworthy to sleep in a bed. She says, “I was depressed for ten years. Paranoid, agoraphobic, filled with self-loathing. Every day I wanted to die. For the last two years, I could barely leave my bedroom. Then one morning, as I lay sleeping on the floor in an attic room, a cockroach crawled over my foot. I opened my eyes -- and in place of all that darkness -- was a joy I can’t describe.” “All my rage, all the thoughts that had been troubling me… [were] gone.” “There was a joy and clarity – a miraculous experience I can’t describe. It was as though I had never before seen what I was seeing, as though something new was looking out of my eyes – new, so new.” She says she rose and began to walk -- such peace, such joy and excitement, at everything she saw. All the old concepts, the painful memories, the self-hate – all these were gone, and everything looked entirely new. It was as though a space of nothing had been created that allowed a new intelligence to live. She was left only with gratitude and the question, How can I help?
She found that her nature, our nature, is only love and joy. “If you were the most beautiful in the world, the most beautiful, wouldn’t you want to see yourself reflected in everything? I’ve come to love everything.” She says it is our fearful thinking that covers all this up so that we don’t feel or see our innate love.
These days she is a gifted spiritual teacher, who writes important books, and travels the globe helping people recover from their minds.
So, one take-away from this story is this: What if you could not even think the recurring thoughts that distress and afflict you? What if suddenly they were gone? What if you were not capable of even thinking your favorite negative, fearful thoughts? Who would you be? How would you be? Would you not be liberated, fearless, your true, beautiful self in Christ? We have the power to come to live in the moment without the past. When all the negative stuff that we cling to so tenaciously is taken out, what is left? Only love and joy – that’s what’s underneath it all. We can begin fresh now, this very moment.
Of course we see similar accounts in the scriptures -- Alma the younger who awakens born again. Or King Benjamin’s people, purified in a moment of years of toxic stuff, who then experience such inexpressible joy, they can’t even speak (see Mosiah 4:2-3). These stories happen more than you think.
I encourage you to design your own spiritual practice for training your mind, things you want to train yourself to do every day in order to raise your spiritual energy level, in addition, of course, to your prayer and scripture. Remember, we’re forming new neural pathways. What you repeatedly practice will become your inclination. With the practice of compassion, for example, you’ll notice that in time it begins to arise spontaneously and lasts longer and longer when it does – until you have stabilized in this divine attribute. Setting out to create new mental habits is something like a rocket ship trying to escape the force of gravity – at first it takes quite a bit of effort, and then you break free, and it almost runs itself.
Take a little paper and write down a couple of intentions. Here’s the principle: your focused intention is the key to accessing the power of God. You tell Him what you intend, you show Him that you mean it, and He responds with His power. For example, you could—
1) Intend to monitor your mind, becoming aware of its negative content, each negative thought, feeling. Awareness itself is curative. Know that you can surrender these, as you find them, to the Lord. This can be very healing.
2) Intend to look at others with eyes of blessing and compassion. This practice changes your perception of reality.
3) Intend to multiply kindness and to help wherever it is appropriate.
Then look at your little paper of intentions a few times a day. Live your practice and love your practice; let it be the focal point of your awareness, even in the midst of your busy, preoccupied life. It’s your joy and your protection – not only for you, but for everyone in your world. Everyone you know will like you better. Live to love your mind.
And, when you have a minute, take a look at some episodes of BYUtv’s program, “Turning Point.” That will stir your juices.
I’ll finish with Elder John Groberg’s words: “Just stop and think for a moment of the whole world, the whole universe, literally filled with pleas for help…. We must spend effort to hear the cry of others — those unborn, those untaught, those unhappy,… those unwell. We must even strain to comprehend what is being requested, what is needed, and how we can best fill that need. We must, in fact, move into the unknown, become a full partner with God, and attune our souls to the hearing and answering of those pleas.” (Elder John Groberg, Ensign, April 1986).
Can you begin to imagine the difference you could make in this world as you train your beautiful mind? Or the joy you could have doing it? The Lord says– “I say unto you, even as you desire of me, so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation” (D&C 6:8). You know -- this is a reason to live.
May it be so, my dear friends. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
 Conversations on Non-Duality, Cherry Red Books, London, 2011, p. 237; also available as an interview with Dr. Brown and Iain McNay, YouTube. Dr. Brown’s comment was that negative self-talk is a Western disease, the consequence of an undisciplined and untrained mind.
 Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health, Daniel Goleman, ed., Shambhala, 2003, 184.
 Ibid, 190.
 Katie has told her story in a number of places, such as, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, Introduction, and a set of CDs called Your Inner Awakening, CD #1. More about her, including videos of her at work with people, can be found on her website.