the Clouded Mind
Three of the problems that are frequently mentioned in the teachings of the ancient sages of Yoga when speaking of finding the Truth or Absolute Reality:
Everything we experience in the external world is a manifestation of something else. The house is made of bricks, and the bricks are made of sand. The flowers arise from the soil, only to return to the soil. Today's friend is tomorrow's enemy, and then again friend.
Though Truth or Reality is contained within all of these, it is a bit hard for the seeker to find in this external way. It is what the ancients called the change of "Nama Rupa," or "Name and Form." The form changes and we call it "house" instead of "sand," or "flower" instead of "soil," or "friend" instead of "foe," while all along it is made of the same stuff of the Universe, ever stable, ever pure.
Each of the senses, though wonderful tools for dealing with the external world, are really quite limited. To the Yogis the Indriyas (senses) are a more gross, more external part of our makeup, particularly when they function through the physical body.
While the external world keeps changing, the very senses with which we observe that world are able to have experience only within their own limited range. The eyes see only a limited range; the ears hear only a limited range; and so also with smell, taste, and touch. They all provide useful, though limited, inadequate information when seeking Truth or Reality. The way to find it cannot, then, be through the senses.
The most limiting of the three is this one, that the mind itself is "clouded," as if a thick morning fog were resting over the part of the mind that can accurately know, decide, judge, and discriminate (See the article on Uncoloring your Colored Thoughts). The cloud is made of the vapors of our own mental conditionings, the very habit patterns that define our personalities, that we mistakenly come to believe is "who we are." This cloud bank is made of the colorings of spiritual ignorance (which has it's root in our ability to "ignore"), our mistaken identity as an individual that "I" am separate from the Whole, our seemingly countless attractions and aversions, and our fear of the loss of our precarious balance of all of these. (See Yoga Sutras, particularly sutras 1.4 and 2.5.
The “clouded mind” is also the reason that it is so difficult to understand and follow the very teachings and practices that would lead to liberation.
In a very practical way, this clouding is the reason that we can read right through a description of the method of meditation, listen to a thorough verbal explanation, completely miss the point, never practice it, and then wonder when we’re going to learn or be given more advanced practices.
Worse still, we may wonder when some great saint is going to come, choose us out of the crowd, and give us the path to enlightenment, or take us directly to the Highest while we continue to cling to our clouded state. The means and the Truth are actually right in front of us, if only we could find a break in the clouds. The sages have been showing us the way throughout human history, if only we will do our part by removing some of the clouds we have put there ourselves.
It is not an insult to say we have clouded minds. It is simply a statement of the nature of the problem. If we really understand and accept that this is the problem, then we can take actions to work around the problem, and eventually eliminate it. If we call it "maya," or "illusion," or say the world is "unreal," it does not suggest a solution to the dilemma. However, when we see the obstacle as being a "clouded" mind, the solution, or at least the direction we should go seems obvious.
What's the solution to a "clouded" mind? Remove the clouds!
We are not ignorant beings who need to "attain" something, by which we will no longer be ignorant, such as attaining more data from a classroom. Rather, it is a process of undoing, or unlearning. It means thinning out the clouds, gradually and systematically, so that the sun that is already there can shine through. (See Yoga Sutras, particularly sutras 1.5-1.11 and 2.1-2.9.)
To work around the clouded mind first means accepting the reality that the clouding is the problem. Then we can train ourselves to consciously be more observant, do a better job of discriminating, and to repeatedly go over the same basics of meditation, contemplation and communing with the Divine, however we experience that. This means doing the same simple practices, reading the same books, and listening to the same explanations, over and over, and not always looking for something new around every curve in the road.
When have sufficiently thinned out the cloud bank over the mind, the systematic nature of the methods given us by the sages becomes profoundly clear. We then only have to continue to work on removing the clouds so that we might finally reach the Goal, what has been referred to as the glittering light deep in the unconscious.