“The past is a foreign country,” author L.P. Hartley famously wrote in his book The Go-Between. Perhaps that’s why we hold on to the postcards…
In the yogic tradition of Kundalini Yoga, they teach about three different minds that we all have. They are the negative mind, the positive mind, and the neutral mind, and they aren’t minds at all. ☺ They are ways of thinking and responding.
I think the words “positive” and “negative” have too much of a specific connotation associated with them that doesn’t accurately represent what is actually meant here. So when I reference these ancient yogic teachings, I update them to be the protective mind, the expansive mind, and the neutral mind.
First of all, all three of these states of being are wanted and needed. They each have an important purpose. As the name suggests, the protective mind is here to watch out for us. It is the part of you that asks you to look both ways before crossing the street, and think again before sending that angry email. The expansive mind is the part of you that is your biggest cheerleader. It’s the one that says, “Go for it! You can do it!” The neutral mind is the part of you that is tuned into the concept of just being. It is the neutral observer who isn’t attached to any specific “good” or “bad” outcome, but simply just is.
Most of us are predisposed to lean a little more one way or the other. Oftentimes, how we perceive the world around us is from learned behavior. The younger versions of ourselves always pick up behaviors from the people around us. Were your parents often worried and/or calculated about things? Did they get overly worried about you riding your bike with your friends or need you to check in with them multiple times a day? Or were they encouraging? Telling you things like, “You are so amazing. You can be a president or an astronaut, or anything at all you want to be!”
By careful observation, you can often tell which side someone is more apt to operate from. The careful person in your life who is constantly weighing all their options, deliberately taking the time to make the “best” and safest choice is typically more of a protective mind individual. The optimist who is regularly reminding everyone that it is all going to be great and that they can do anything is obviously leaning towards the expansive mind. It’s important to remember that even though we might be a little bit more one way than the other, we all have all three of these ways of being within us. And we can be more on the expansive side with one aspect of life and the complete other way in a different area. For example, you could mostly function in your career life from the expansive mind perspective, yet be more on the protective side with your personal life, or vice versa (or really any kind of combination—you are unique, after all!).
As I already stated, they are all great until… they are off balance.
If a person is a bit too much of a protective mind individual, they could easily stop themselves from enjoying life because they’re so worried that this or that could go wrong. The “protective” characteristic is now protecting when no protection is needed. An example of this would be wanting to ask a person out on a date but getting so caught up in what could go wrong that you “protect” yourself by not taking any action at all.
Conversely, when the expansive mind is off balance, it could look like someone who is a bit delusional about how great they are, or how wonderful a situation is. They could have just a skewed sense of reality—in the opposite direction. When the expansive mind is off balance, it often looks more like someone who just isn’t grounded in reality. Using the dating example above, perhaps they would be feeling so positive about everything that they fail to notice that the other person is, in fact, not that interested.
Regardless of what your main predisposition is, it’s important to be an observer of this for yourself so you can make helpful adjustments when necessary. The overly protective person regarding asking for a raise could benefit from consciously adding a little more expansive mind into that particular situation.
“You haven’t said much about the neutral mind, yet, Olivia,” you might be thinking. The neutral mind is my favorite. The neutral mind is the ideal place to come back to over and over again. It is the place within you where nothing is “good” or “bad,” nothing needs to be protected or expanded. It all just is. This is the most powerful place of all because it is where the two other minds meet and it is a place of what has been called the “zero space,” the ultimate stillness, a place of total acceptance of all that is.
If you can train yourself to move into this space of neutrality at least once a day, your entire life will change. So many things that used to bother you will simply dissipate in the profound neutrality and acceptance of the neutral mind. It is reminiscent, for me, of one of my favorite quotes by the great poet Rumi:
“Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
There is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”