In a nutshell – everything you need to know about the mind

Knowing how our own mind works is crucial for a truly happy and productive life. So what is the mind? Is it not just another word for ‘brain’?

No. The mind is not a physical thing like the brain. It is an activity which extends into every cell in the body and the energy field surrounding it. It contains the imprints that form your personality, including your habits, interests, memories, ideas and beliefs. It is shaped by your learning and the environment, and ultimately fashions the way you live.

The mind operates at many levels, some of which we are aware and others we are not. These levels of awareness include:

  • The conscious mind
  • The subconscious mind
  • The Collective Unconscious
  • The Superconscious

Each influences the others as information constantly flows between them. However, the deeper, subconscious levels are many times more powerful. The deeper we go into the mind, the closer we get to our spiritual core. It’s like peeling away the layers of an onion until we reveal the innate Intelligence that lies at the centre.

Understanding the mind how its various levels interact with each other is important because it enables us to become more effective in our daily lives.

The Conscious Mind

The mind has often been compared to an iceberg, with a small portion floating above the water level and a bulky mass hidden beneath. The conscious mind is the ‘visible’ part. It is the small fraction of mental activity of which we are aware in any moment, and includes the facility of reasoning also known as the intellect.

We know the conscious mind as an ongoing conversation in our heads, one thought following another, and another. When we pay repeated attention to a thought it filters through to the subconscious and produces record-like grooves which play over and over again until the thought becomes a habit.

The conscious mind has only a fraction of the capacity of the subconscious, but it plays a major role in our lives. We can consciously feed new patterns into the subconscious, creating new habits, weakening old habits and replacing them with new. Similarly, we can weaken old habits by withdrawing our attention from them until.

The intellect

The intellect is the reasoning part of the conscious mind. It gathers, sorts and uses information, calculates, decides, analyses and makes judgements.

The intellect is a powerful resource, but is greatly influenced by childhood programming and cultural conditioning. Thinking habits we learned as children do not always serve us well in adulthood. We must be careful: wisdom cannot always be deduced by logic.

The subconscious mind

A vast number of mental activities take place below our threshold of awareness. These include:

  • Regulating bodily functions such as body temperature, absorbing oxygen and nutrients into the bloodstream, waste disposal, the endocrine system (which monitors and controls the hormones), maintaining the immune system and healing. The subconscious normally acts separately from the conscious mind when carrying out these activities.
  • The subconscious has vast data storage and handling facilities which record everything we perceive, do, think, say and dream.
  • An instinctive goal-seeking apparatus, like a kind of automatic pilot which guides us in the direction of the predominant thoughts and mental images. This is the mechanism behind the so-called ‘Law’ of Attraction.

The subconscious prevents the conscious mind from suffocating in its own thoughts. Can you imagine continually being aware of every memory you ever had, or having to remind yourself to digest your food? Life would be intolerable, wouldn’t it?

All the material in the subconscious is capable of being brought into consciousness. For example, when we dream, the barriers between the conscious and subconscious open and subconscious material drifts into consciousness. It also opens up when we are daydreaming or in an altered state such as hypnosis.

The subconscious mind is responsive to the will of the conscious and has no capacity to think independently. Self-talk acts as a form of instruction to the subconscious, and like a faithful servant, it follows its instructions precisely.

The conditioned mind

The term ‘conditioned mind’ describes those mental activities, both conscious and subconscious, which are the result of previous learning, including the patterns which were programmed into us as children. If we allow the conditioned mind to dominate our thinking, we find it impossible to break away from old thinking patterns and behaviours.

Replacing harmful conditioning with new, positive thoughts is vital for personal growth. Once you know the technique, with practice you can eliminate any unwanted habit from your thinking and behaviour.

The Collective Unconscious

Individual minds appear to be part of a ‘group mind,’ a pool of knowledge and wisdom passed down the generations through our genes and cultural conditioning. This is the Collective Unconscious, a term coined by the great psychologist, Dr Carl Gustav Jung.

There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence for this. Throughout history, societies from around the globe who had no physical contact with each other made leaps of progress at about the same time. There is also evidence of this in the animal kingdom. Leading naturalists believe this is evidence of a psychic force connecting them.

There is little doubt that one mind is able to communicate with others. We don’t understand how this works, but it has been investigated and verified many times.

The Superconscious Mind

The Superconscious is the intuitive part of the mind. It taps into a source of knowing and inspiration beyond the world of the five senses. It is not restricted by logical thinking, nor is it subject to the same perceptual errors, nor is it bound by past experiences or cultural conditioning. No known limit can be placed on its activities.


How do all these levels of awareness related to each other and a better life?

  • Take charge of the conscious mind by being aware of your thoughts and deliberately changing negative to positive with intent.
  • Your empowering new thought patterns then permeate the subconscious mind, which reflects back in your conscious thinking and behaviour.
  • You’ll also be able to examine the impact of the conditioned mind and collective unconscious on you and use your intellect to accept or reject ideas you like or dislike.
  • You’ll also learn how to subdue or silence interference from the conscious and subconscious minds to allow the Superconscious to make itself known.

Big stuff! It takes practice, but once you’re mastered it your life will never be the same again!

©David Lawrence Preston, 2.11.2016

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How to Books, 2007

People don’t like inconvenient facts getting in the way!

A Brummie friend told me about his upbringing. ‘If I’d been born in Pakistan,’ he said, ‘I’d be a Muslim. If I were from Israel, I’d be a Jew, if from Italy, I’d be a Catholic. When you’re from my part of Birmingham, you’re an Aston Villa supporter. It doesn’t occur to you to be anything else.’ He added, ‘I was in secondary school before I met anyone who supported any other team.’

I know supporting a football team is not the same as following a religion, but can you see the parallels? Both sets of beliefs are acquired in more or less the same way.

When we’re born, we have no beliefs. Like language, they are acquired as we grow. At first we get them from the people who raise us and those with whom we grow up – parents, siblings, relatives, friends and teachers. Later on the peer group and media play a big part.

Most of us tend to conform from an early age; it’s hard to resist when everyone around you thinks and behaves a certain way and there are serious consequences of not conforming.

Young children don’t have the same critical faculties as adults, and by the time we’re able to work things out for ourselves, we’re already programmed. Of course religious leaders are well aware of this. The Jesuits believe that if they can train a boy for his first seven years, he is theirs for life. That’s how strong our programming is.

As we mature, we gain new knowledge and experiences and begin to interpret the world for ourselves. We acquire new beliefs and let go of some of our previous beliefs, but few of us change completely. Research shows that few religious people change their religion.  This is partly because the programming process is so strong, and also because people can be treated very badly in some parts of the world for speaking out against the local religion and way of life.

Once we accept a set of beliefs as true, they become part of who we are, and if we depart from them we feel profoundly uncomfortable (this is known as ‘cognitive dissonance’). If someone criticizes our beliefs, we feel personally under attack. We fight to defend them. Then no logic, no evidence, no arguments can budge us. Every new item of information is screened, and if it doesn’t correspond with our current beliefs, rejected.

We certainly don’t want any inconvenient facts getting in the way unless – and this is the only exception – we decide to change. If the new evidence is so convincing that we feel the old belief is no longer true, we can drop it and adopt a new one. Sometimes an individual decides to believe something because it meets their current needs or just because they want to. Then the very same process that used to reinforce the old belief – cognitive dissonance and so on – sets to work to defend the new belief. And it doesn’t matter a jot if the new belief is actually ‘true’!

Christianity is full of inconvenient facts. Wake up! It’s time to stop looking at the Twenty-First Century world through First Century eyes!


©David Lawrence Preston, 30.8.2016

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Front cover 201 things

Balboa Press, 2015


[1] A soccer team from the English Midlands.