Now, I believe that almost all human beings make some sort of a distinction between the self that wills and acts, and the subconscious self that manages our hearts and glands and nerves. Such words as self-control and self-consciousness suggest this division of our being into two parts, knower and known, thinker and thoughts. To the degree that we feel this division, we are always trying to control and understand and dominate our subconscious self with our conscious and willful self. But in Lao-tzu’s philosophy, this is quite literally to be all balled up—to be in a desperate and utterly frustrating condition of self-strangulation, falling over one’s own feet, and perpetually getting in one’s own way—which is, of course, not Tao, the Way of Nature. This is why our principal problem in life is ourselves—why we are so tormented with anxiety about self-preservation and self-control, why we are so mixed up that we have to make laws to regulate our behavior, employ police to keep ourselves in order, and equip armies with explosives to prevent us from blowing ourselves up. In the more intimate sphere of personal life, the problem is the pain of trying to avoid suffering and the fear of trying not to be afraid.
Alan Watts — Become What You Are (p. 22)
Trying to control and understand and dominate our subconscious self with our conscious and willful self is an impossible feat. The more we attempt to control our subconscious through meditation, prayer, and mindfulness, the more our subconscious just looks at us and smiles. It can’t be controlled.
It’s similar to someone who says they are going to try to be closer to God with the knowledge that God is just at the horizon. So they travel to the horizon and then realize the horizon shifted still further away while they were trying to get closer to it. One never can fully reach the horizon no matter how far they travel.
However, we are able to work with our unconscious self when we stop trying to control it. Puddles never become clear by stirring the water. The only way the mud settles is by leaving it alone. When we meditate, pray, or choose mindfulness for the sake of inner stillness—not control—the puddle clears.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,