Your mind is who you are. If your body works just fine but your mind is disconnected, as might happen with amnesia, you are not the self that you were. But if your body doesn’t work at all, but your mind is fine, you are still you. Your mind is a force that is attached to your brain, perhaps even generated by your brain, but it is not the same as your brain. Just as gravity is a force attached to the earth, but not the same as the earth, your mind is impossible without your brain, but your brain is possible without your mind. And, like gravity, we know the mind by its effects: We know there is gravity because when we drop something, it falls to the earth–we see its effects. It is the same with our mind. We cannot directly apprehend it, but we see its effects. We understand things; we have feelings; we impact other people.
Because of its central importance in our personal identity, our mind is precious and deserves care and development. The more we can enhance the quality of our mind experience, the more we can move toward the optimal, best, experience of ourselves in our lives. Our minds receive perceptions from our senses and from our body internally and then process and interpret those perceptions. It is the job of our minds to help us understand the world, to predict what is going to happen so we can plan for it, and to identify meaning and generate feelings.
Our mind is unique in that it must determine itself how to develop itself. We make choices about who and what is in our life, and those choices are both understood by our mind and also impact our mind. If we continually choose stressful relationships, we are creating internal conflict which may alter how we view the world and how we are able to respond. We may choose challenging relationships that require a lot of effort but that result in our growth and the creation of new pathways of thought and feeling.
We cannot always know the impact a choice will have on us. There are, certainly, unintended consequences to much of what we do. However, given the crucial role of our mind in our experience, we can decide to be thoughtful about what we choose and how we use ourselves in the world. We can be thoughtful about the relationships we build, the work we do, and how we take care of ourselves. Each decision, small and large, gives us both the results of that decision and also a reflection of how we are valuing ourselves. Regardless of the consequences, intended or not, if I have made a choice out of a true wish to value myself and to value those around me, that fact of taking myself and other people seriously will have an impact too. And each of these choices adds to a path of development that is both unique to us and continually changing, adding meaning, and constructing experience.