Rediscovering that Ancient Territory: Your Own Mind

Volume 2, Issue 33

All of us are naturally curious about our own selves. When someone who knew us when, someone older than ourselves, tells us a story about something we did when we were too young to remember it, we are raptly attentive.

If it were not for the culturally ubiquitous time pressure, we would have the same curiosity if offered a searchlight method to see more deeply into our own mind than ever before. This blog post offers just such a searchlight, followed by my own “field report” on using the method, and what I found.

Find 5 minutes when you can’t be interrupted and there is nothing dragging you away like a deadline. This means you probably won’t find time to try this until the weekend, so leave yourself a note somewhere you’ll see it Saturday or Sunday morning.

Sit with your eyes closed and back straight, with your head drawn up toward the ceiling. First, still the mind by experiencing your breath going in and out, without trying to control the breath in any way. After a half-dozen breath cycles or whenever you feel as if your mind is relatively still, begin the exercise.

The exercise is simply to watch for what happens at the very beginning of a thought or feeling. This is not as easy as it sounds because we tend to get so instantly caught up in the thought or feeling we forget that we are doing this exercise. That is, until through exercises very much like this, we find that we have gained true control of our minds. This tends to be a gradual process — we get better and better at it over time.

One trick is to pretend that you are a soldier and you are watching for the enemy that you know is going to come over the rise ahead. A thought or a feeling is going to arise. You are in a state of concentrated sharp attention and the game is to see that arising as quickly as possible, identify what it is, and be able to remember the experience of it as accurately as possible.

Before you sit down to do this experiment, consciously strip away everything you have ever thought about the nature of the mind, all preconceptions, theories, maps, structures, models, concepts, hidden and overt assumptions. This allows you to see what is really there without biasing it by slapping a label on it or gestalting it into a preconceived category.

In the addendum below — for our more scientifically minded readers who may be interested in the nascent science of consciousness that has been very slowly emerging over thousands of years — is my field report on my own experience as a result of doing this exercise. You might want to defer reading it until after you have done the exercise yourself, so that I do not bias your own findings.

Best to all for an enjoyable holiday season,


PS — Hope to see some of you Friday, November 30, 2012 at the ARF Industry Leader Forum, where I will be speaking on a panel at 1PM, “New Methods to Drive Insights into the Future”.

Field Report: Investigating Bill’s Brain from the Inside

In order to get into the two higher, most effective states of consciousness — the Observer state, where we can really see what is going on inside ourselves rather than being puppeteered by software in our heads, and the Flow state (Zone), where we are spontaneously doing everything just right — we need to become experts in the empirical study of our own minds and inner life. This week’s blog post is about classifying and understanding the basic building blocks of all inner experience — thoughts, feelings, intuitions, and perceptions. We see these not as four different things but rather a smaller number of things that metamorphose so as to seem to be four different things.

Why bother? The reason we are writing this is to ask you to consider — or to reconsider — all of the experiences you have had of your own mind, your own inner life. In effect, this posting is a brief exploration into the architecture of inner experience to offer you the opportunity to look for yourself, empirically, into your inner self. What are these things you call your thoughts, your feelings, your hunches, your perceptions?

Carl Jung defined the four functions of consciousness as perception, feelings, intellect and intuition — the latter referred to in day-to-day life as “hunches”. These are four kinds of events that can go on in consciousness. According to Jung, nothing else besides these four styles of experience can be experienced. Do you agree?

Modern psychology studies emotions, which are the objectified manifestations (heart rate, skin conductance, etc. — measurements taken by instruments) of what consciousness phenomenologically experiences as feelings.

Within consciousness, what we experience first is something inside that motivates us and moves us toward or away from something. Those are feelings. Instincts – hardwired genetic carryovers, part of the machine, inherited before birth – are partly responsible for some or all of our feelings. The rest arise from motivations we accumulated during our lives, stuff we learned or decided to want or not want as a result of our experiences since birth.

When I watch what goes on inside of me, it often starts with a feeling that is also somehow an image at the same time.

Then what happens inside is that another part of me takes that feeling/image and interprets it as a conscious thought — putting names, categorizations, and other specific recognizable details onto the original amorphous feeling/image.

I think that’s what a thought is. An interpreted feeling/image. I posit that Jung was not quite correct — thoughts and feelings are the same thing, at different stages of development.

Thoughts add details to feeling/images, turning them into specifications, bringing out additional information that had somehow been packed into the feeling/vision.

Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) classifies feelings as “kinesthetic”, making them bodily feelings albeit in some cases infinitely subtle. I’m not entirely convinced that all feeling/images can be felt in one’s body, but the term works intuitively.

Possibly feelings are the most substantial and primary actor, coming out of our most intimate connection with the vehicle we identify as the material sovereignty of our self, and arising to be transmuted into intuitions and/or thoughts and/or emotions and/or images/visions.

Perceptions coming in from the “outside” accompanied by an equal stream of feelings from “inside” – suggests that feelings are another sense, like seeing and hearing. In which case, we simply perceive, and the rest of the functions are what evolves from our perceptions. In other words, feelings are inner perceptions, and what we call sense perceptions are outer perceptions. Inner and outer perceptions are the raw stuff of experience, and as we turn them over in our minds, those perceptions turn into thoughts and/or intuitions.

So instead of Jung’s four-way classification of inner experience, I suggest that perceptions evolve into what Jung classified as thoughts (intellect) and/or hunches (intuition). Outer perceptions — the five physical senses — are what Jung called “perceptions” — and the inner perceptions are what Jung called “feelings”. Close inspection of these feelings, in my own empirical experience journeying within myself suggests to me that these feelings have both a body-type kinesthetic aspect and an imagistic aspect. The raw stuff of my inner life is comprised of feeling/image arisings that I then articulate internally as thoughts, with either words or not, or observe as hunches, without inner words.

Those feeling-image packets hit “the worder”, which often perfectly articulates the intent of the feeling-image packet. Just as often, “the worder” seems unable to get it right and comes out saying something other than what you intended — the right words don’t seem to come.

“The worder” physically sits above your left ear – Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area – decoding incoming words and encoding outgoing words, respectively. I observe that my own outgoing words are preceded by feeling-image packets (often invisible unless I am concentrating on seeing the details of inner head action), sometimes with more image, often with more feeling.

If it can be proven that both thoughts and feelings have a common root in the feeling-image packet (FIP), then Jung’s 4-way design would be reduced to 3-way. But what if it can be reduced further?

Intellect and intuition have always been seen as similar functions. Intellect reaches new conclusions step by effortful step. Intuition gets there in one leap, involuntarily, all by itself.

Sometimes when the intuition or hunch is particularly credible and important and came out of nowhere, we call it inspiration, suggesting help from some outside invisible source.

If these two sides of cognition may be thought of as a continuum, then the formula for consciousness would not be a series of 4 items in no particular order, it would be:


Where “S” is stimuli, “P” is perceptions, and these impinge upon the consciousness (symbolized by the square brackets) in which what goes on are feeling-image packets that turn into cognitions that turn into actions we take as a result of the process. Many of these gratefully are non-actions.

We need maps to study consciousness. We also need meditation to concentrate on seeing what really goes on inside for oneself.

This was my somewhat unusual sharing of my inner experience. You might find it worthwhile to look inside of yourself to see what arises moment-to-moment — and see how it might compare (or not) with what I’ve described in this “field report”.

By looking inside, we can begin to cut through dogma and other people’s beliefs, and see for ourselves who we are in our inner worlds.

Best to all,


2 thoughts on “Rediscovering that Ancient Territory: Your Own Mind


    The image that comes with a feeling i now realize is a memory tagged to my earlier most significant experiences of the same feeling. Perhaps even a remnant image from the FIRST significant experience of that same feeling. Or the most recent poignant instance of that feeling. In effect, stored within me is a vocabulary of feelings that i have had, coded by the images and other perceptions perhaps (e.g. smells) that i was experiencing when i had those feeling. If there are these memory clusters/engrams laden with associative percepts, that explains why a smell can bring back such a sense of deja vu, because it triggers a remnant feeling /percept memory bundle that we can feel but not quite cognize. Sometimes we do realize the whole of the memory. Best to all, Bill

  2. Pingback: Flow Goes Mainstream | Bill Harvey Blog

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