The mind is a mysterious thing. The mind and the potential power it has to effect changes in the world has fascinated scholars and shamen alike for centuries. Our fascination with the power of mind has not been diminished in modern times.
Today, people of many different orientations seek insights into the workings of the mind. Neuroscientists, psychologists, holistic health enthusiasts, self-described “new age” therapists, as well as everyday people, all seek insight into the nature and the power of mind. But, what is mind? Unfortunately, when it comes to understanding mind, there are no simple answers. And, in some cases there are no answers at all. The best we can do is examine those behaviors that seem to reflect the workings of the mind.
For most of us, the thing we call mind is a manifestation of brain processes. It is not something that can be cut out or held in our hands. Rather, mind is at the center of our consciousness. It is an emergent quality that produces our thoughts, perceptions, and emotions. Without a living brain, the concept of mind has little meaning. Thus, much of our curiosity about the mind is directed toward the workings of the brain.
We are fascinated by extraordinary abilities tied to the brain. We stand in awe of people who can do complex math in their head or remember in minute detail a scene that that they only briefly glimpsed. But, our curiosity goes beyond such abilities. We even wonder whether there are mind-based abilities that do not conform to our current understanding of cause and effect. Questions that border on the mystical are common. For example, can the brain influence events outside of itself? Or, through the power of mind alone, can we change reality?
Beyond a doubt, many people believe that the mind is something that can be harnessed. In fact, government agencies like the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as large corporations the world over, fund research into the power of mind. Projects range from the mental control of video games and weapon systems, to the manipulation of prosthetic arms and legs, to the conscious control of chronic pain. Not surprisingly, there are now a variety of commercially available, self-help programs that teach people to develop their brain power. Such programs are designed to teach specific thinking skills while increasing the power of the mind and expanding its reach and influence in everyday life. If we look around, the power of mind is now the focus of many programs designed to enhance academic success, increase wealth, and improve wellness. For these programs, “mind over matter” is not just an empty phrase, it is their goal.
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