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In previous parts of this series I have attempted to lead up to the most challenging question of life for a human being, an innate question built into our very core: “Who am I?”
This fundamental question comes with many variations: “What do I want to do” or “want to be,” or “should I be?”
When we ask ourselves this important question, our minds can inform our bodies and spirits in confidently choosing a direction in life. We will, each one of us, decide to make our own path, follow another’s, or choose none at all, letting happenstance guide our lives.
Regardless of our direction, we need our mind to help direct us. Mental illnesses don’t make it any easier–just look at Wikipedia’s long list of them under “mental disorders:”
One in five Americans experienced some sort of mental illness in 2010, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. About 5 percent of Americans have suffered from such severe mental illness that it interfered with day-to-day school, work or family. [Source: ABC News, Jan. 19, 2012]
Being bipolar myself for more than 35 years, I can attest to the suffering mental illness can cause–but also to the progress medicine has made in effective treatments, both chemical and behavioral.
One of those effective behavioral approaches—mindfulness meditation, which I discovered during a six-week class during my mental illness treatments—helped provide a key to my own self-awareness. I found that a regular practice of mindfulness not only aids treatment, but also allows fuller expansion of normal life activities and brain functioning.
Often we only think about pleasing our outer senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and vision. Yet even comas and REM states prove the mind and spirit still works without them. The Baha’i teachings also name five intellectual, spiritual or inner senses:
…imagination which conceives things; thought, which reflects upon realities; comprehension, which comprehends realities; memory, which retains whatever man imagines, thinks and comprehends. The intermediary between the five outward powers and the inward powers is the sense which they possess in common – that is to say, the sense which acts between the outer and inner powers, conveys to the inward powers whatever the outward powers discern. It is termed the common faculty, because it communicates between the outward and inward powers and thus is common to the outward and inward powers. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 216.
Obviously our bodies and minds and spirits use these structural tools for discovering the reality we call Me.
Precisely by reason of our discoveries into the realities of our own selves over the millennia, we have developed our five inward powers that are equivalent to our outward powers. Those inner powers have now far surpassed our physical powers alone. Our mental powers created technology, which gave us the ability to see inside our own brains with CAT scans and MRI’s, and increasingly learn what it means to be human.
So–why do I exist? The Baha’i teachings say that we all exist to grow spiritually—to fully develop those inner senses and powers.
We can live like the animal, rely only on our outward five senses, take what we want and not care about others’ feelings, or we can utilize our inward, spiritual senses, and find ways to live in harmony and prosperity with our fellow human beings.
If we fully utilize those inward powers of mind and spirit, especially our collective minds as one human family, we can discover and implement solutions to the most intractable global problems. With time, will, and unity of thought and purpose, everything is not only possible, but probable.