If you want to access the subconscious mind, it’s easy. You just need to shut the conscious mind up.
The catch is, that’s nearly impossible. The conscious mind is a huge part of our day. So huge, in fact, that we tend to think of our conscious mind as ourself.
It’s not. If we were exactly equal to our conscious mind, we’d cease to exist when asleep. Or dreaming. Or daydreaming. If we were our conscious mind and nothing more, we’d never have an intuition or a hunch or a gut feeling.
Brain scans of sleeping subjects have shown that in various stages of sleep, the brain can emit higher amplitude brainwaves than when awake, and even consume more oxygen than when awake. This means that our brains can be more active when we’re unconscious than when we’re conscious. There’s more going on up there when we think there’s nothing going on up there. And there’s even more going on up there when we’re not thinking at all.
Clearly there’s more to me than my conscious thoughts.
The conscious mind is the thinker. The subconscious mind is the knower.
The conscious mind is a thinking tool. It really is like a train, a vehicle. It’s meant to be used, not to be the user. As the sleeping/waking brain scans show, the conscious mind really is akin to the oft-quoted tip of the iceberg, with the bulk of it, the subconscious mind, being below the water line.
When your conscious mind has run amuck, you’ll be anxiously trying to figure out who you are and what you should do; you’ll be trying to think yourself into being. When your conscious mind is stilled and your subconscious mind takes precedence, you’ll know who you are, because your subconscious mind is the knower.
Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” Cogito ergo sum. And since then, most modern people have equated the ability to reason as proof of their humanity. However, ancient scripture describes the revelation of divinity when God said, “I am who I am.” Meaning that being is being, without reason. Reason comes from being, not the other way around. Existence just is. Mind cannot wrap itself around the fact of being because mind is a subset of being, and the subset cannot encompass the superset.
In order to know, thinking must cease. Not for knowing simple facts like two plus two, but for knowing mysteries like the grandeur of a mountain range or the infinite depth of a night sky. And why these inspire some people to feelings of transcendence but yet others to feelings of annihilation. The rational mind can lead us to understand how brain chemistry comes into play, but it cannot lead us to know the experience of wonder itself, much less why the experience is important. It can conjecture, but it cannot truly know.
To quiet the conscious mind and access the subconscious mind, we have to offend the conscious mind, interrupt it, quiet it.
Why would I want to bypass my conscious mind to reprogram my subconscious?
First, because the subconscious mind is the real driver of action. Willpower can keep away a few cigarettes or a few extra servings of cake and ice cream, but eventually the subconscious has its way. This is what St Paul describes in Romans: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
For real change to happen, the conscious and subconscious minds must be in alignment; so here are some practical principles to accessing the subconscious mind:
First, get plenty of sleep.
Studies reveal more and more that sleep is absolutely crucial to proper brain function. No longer dismissed as a waste of time and a weakness, sleep has been shown to be essential for processing memories, balancing body chemistry and cleaning the mind of negative emotions that have a detrimental effect on the whole person. Get plenty of sleep.
How much? Studies suggest anywhere from 7.5 to 10 hours. Your needs probably lie somewhere in between. Err on the side of more sleep. Imagine how much sleep you would be getting in a natural environment without artificial light. You’d go to sleep shortly after sundown. Suddenly, ten hours of sleep per night seems quite reasonable, doesn’t it? That’s how our ancestors would have slept, for millennia. Late-night culture is younger than Thomas Edison.
Waking techniques such as hypnosis and meditation are also helpful in quieting the conscious mind. Here are three practices that you may find beneficial in quieting your conscious noise, opening your mind and accessing your subconscious. These are practices that can be practiced for short periods daily or more often:
The basis of meditation is to observe one’s thoughts without judgement, without labelling them good or bad. Just to observe them as you would observe birds and bugs flying by your window.
Then you will realise that your thoughts are not you. Then you will feel comfortable detaching your sense of self from your driving thoughts. Then you will no longer be under the control of your thoughts but begin to control them.
Sit comfortably for twenty minutes without interruptions and just observe your thoughts – as though they were leaves floating by on a river; you pick them up, look at them with a goofy smile on your face and put them back down to float away.
The basis of hypnosis is to enter a relaxed, uncritical state where the conscious mind ceases its judgemental function. This is the hypnagogic state, where post-hypnotic suggestions can enter the subconscious mind.
For many, the idea of giving up critical control is frightening. This is because they’ve been brought up on cogito ergo sum. If I believe that I am my thoughts, the idea of giving up my thoughts is like suicide. At least, to the ego it feels very much like death. But it’s not really death. It is just the quieting of a part of you, like slowing down your heart rate. As essential as your heart is to you, your heart is not you. As essential as the mind is to you, your mind is not you. There is more to you. And when the lesser can be quieted for a moment, the greater can emerge.
Related to hypnosis are various forms of subliminal programming. These range from audio tracks such as the famous stop-smoking tracks with affirmations exhorting you to quit smoking recorded beneath soothing music, to sophisticated Paraliminals, which are a fascinating technology using a simple stereo recording to play back one message into your right ear and another into your left ear, with increasing degrees of overlap.
The theory with Paraliminals is that the conscious mind overloads and gives up – here is the principle of pattern interrupt, of offending the conscious mind – leaving the subconscious mind to piece together the input. This results in the programming suggestions bypassing the gatekeeper, the conscious mind, and being accepted as truth by the knower, the subconscious mind.
To practice self-hypnosis, search online for an excellent hypnosis, subliminal or Paraliminal audio and listen to the guided hypnosis. They usually last from half an hour to an hour.
3. Brainwave Entrainment
Finally, there are the methods that seek to modify the mind by changing the brain.
When we’re actively thinking and solving problems – or feeling anxious – our brain emits an electrical frequency that neurophysiology categorises as beta waves. In the hypnagogic state where we’re open to suggestion and super learning, our brains emit alpha or theta waves. In deep sleep, delta waves. *
Modern brainwave entrainment methods, first developed in the 1930s, train the brain to function at specific bandwidths for short periods of time, exercising the brain to function more often in those states, namely the alpha, theta and delta states associated with relaxation, creativity and learning.
Ever been in a shopping mall when a familiar song came on and you found yourself tapping your foot and humming along without realising it? Brainwave entrainment audios use the same principle, but with much more precise frequencies.
Do a search for brainwave entrainment audios and spend some time with them every day. They’re really enjoyable; I’ve tried a few and recommend The Morry Method.
Caution: Recordings that quiet the conscious mind should not be listened to while driving, operating machinery or balancing your chequebook.
Is all this pseudoscience?
Compared to the realm of physiology, the field of psychology is more recently explored; and the area of human potential and the science of mind even more so. Thus, much of it may seem esoteric and unfamiliar. This is expected of any new field of endeavour.
Before we’re through, some things will have been shown to have been pseudoscience while others will be proven legit. Already, the increasing overlap of neuroscience – traditionally a domain of physiology – into the field of psychology is proving rather gratifying.
One can sit back and wait till everything’s settled, or one can roll up one’s sleeves and dig in. Which way you decide will largely depend on your temperament and values.
Our conscious mind is the tip of the iceberg, and just a part of our being, like a vital organ. We are much more than our conscious mind; we are moved mostly by the unconscious mind that lies beneath the water line.
In order to open the mind and access the subconscious mind, we need only still and quiet the conscious mind through daily habits that can be practised for twenty minutes or more at a time, namely:
– Meditation, which is to observe our thoughts and disidentify from them.
– Hypnosis, which is to bypass the critical, conscious mind.
– Brainwave entrainment, which is to train the brain to function habitually at alpha, theta and delta bandwidths.