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The Mind is Cyclonic! Can You be a True Psychonaut?

May 8, 2023

By Matthew J Mirabile

A still of the cyclone, from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer.

In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy returns home just as a tornado is bearing down on her house. Before long, the house is caught up in the tornado, and she bumps her head. As the house is caught up in the tornado, she looks out the window. She first sees her farm animals pass by, and then evil Mrs. Gulch, who turns into the wicked witch. Most of us experience our inner world like Dorothy’s in her tornado-stricken house!

The interior landscape of the mind is a mystery to us. For most, it is a mysterious abyss from which thoughts and impulses emerge they don’t understand. Others might experience it as if they were caught in a tornado, where they suffer at the mercy of a thousand thoughts, images and feelings swirling around at once.

The way the mind works is a lot like a cyclone; all our thoughts, imaginations, and feelings swirling around at different levels and speeds. No wonder most of us can’t get a handle on our inner world. It's cyclonic! But we don't have to live entirely at the mercy of that inner world.

Imagine if you could take a slice out of that cyclone, representing one moment in time, and pin it to the wall to look at it. You might see something like rings within rings. Some might be broader and brighter and easier to see into, and others might be thinner and darker and harder to look into. These rings represent something like a map of the mind and how it works. We have created something like a map to show where and how your thoughts work.

Most of the time, people don't need a map like this. We certainly don't need to consult it when we are going about our daily affairs. But for those who suffer from mental health and addiction issues, it can become useful. Like monks shut up in a monastery who scrutinize their thoughts and impulses continually so they can root out unworthy and sinful thinking so they can be more holy, those who suffer from mental health and addiction issues can benefit from a similar approach. In the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, they call it "inner watchfulness." Practicing inner watchfulness is a more Christian method of mindfulness that observes thoughts so bad onces can be cut off. This has the neurobiological effect of changing how our brains are wired. This is a basic principle of neuroplasticity, and essential if we are going to become spiritually and emotionally healthier people. We will never completely master the cyclone, but at least we can learn to navigate ita little more easily and eventually ease our internal suffering.

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