Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
Meanwhile on Twitter
Loading latest tweet...
Ben Nadel at NCDevCon 2011 (Raleigh, NC) with: Anthony Mineo

The Mind Is Just A Reflex Organ

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: Life

A couple of weeks ago, I re-rented the movie, the Peaceful Warrior with Nick Nolte. It's one of those movies that just makes you want to be better, appreciate more, and be happier and I had a craving for that kind of a feeling. Anyway, this time, one of the lines really struck a chord in me; the lead actor had just finished describing that he felt bad that his first thought after having witnessed a friend being hurt was how could this help out his own career. To this, Socrates (Nick Nolte) stated:

The mind is just a reflex organ. It reacts to everything. Fills your head with millions of random thoughts a day. None of those thoughts reveal any more about you than a freckle does at the end of your nose.

The first time I watched this movie, I didn't really give this any thought; but, the fact is, if you accept it, this philosophy is an extremely freeing outlook on life. Think about how much guilt people can carry around about the things they think. But why? What do your thoughts have to do with anything? It is our actions and our practices that define who we are. Like Soc. says, so many of our thoughts are just reflex reactions to things we see and hear every day - they are not who we are. How freeing!

Anyway, just thought I would share this sweet piece of philosophy.


 
 
 

 
Nick Nolte In The Peaceful Warrior  
 
 
 
Tweet This Groovy post by @BenNadel - The Mind Is Just A Reflex Organ Thanks my man — you rock the party that rocks the body!



Reader Comments

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior was my favorite book as a kid. Everything Socrates says made so much sense to me then and I continue to think about these things 15 years later. It's tough to quiet the mind. It takes a ton of practice, but it's well worth it.

Reply to this Comment

@koen,

After having seen the movie, I happened to come across the book at a used book sale. It's on my list of books to read, but I haven't gotten to it. Now, I am really looking forward to it.

Reply to this Comment

It is true that this truth sets us free. And it is indeed the truth that our thoughts do not belong to us. But we do know where they come from. We just don't want to admit it, because we would have to admit that God exists and that is too much for a lot of people. But Satan does have control of our thoughts but God said that Satan can only tempt us no more than we can handle. We learn from these thoughts and learn to control them when we learn where they are coming from and why.

Reply to this Comment

@Mr. Moran, I love your comments, and I don't have anything to add to them specifically or a way to comment about them specifically right now, but as you will see, I am sure that the comment I am about to post will reflect them at least somewhat.

@Ben, great post, I love it! And I do agree that it is calming and something that brings you peace to think of the mind as a reflex organ, and I agree that to some degree, it is. But at the same time, there is a certain amount of control that you DO have over your thoughts. Allow me to separate these thoughts and this level of control into two different divisions, if you will:

The real, true, actual 'reflex' thought

and

The lingering thoughts, thoughts you allow yourself to dwell on, thoughts that possess you, etc.

Now I will address the second one first, the thoughts that you allow yourself to dwell on, the lingering thoughts, mainly because I think this is more relatable to most other people. I think most other people have dealt majorly with this scenario, so I will be able to say something that other people have likely experienced and can relate to on this particular division. Even pastors and preachers and religious people, people of God, people who are steeped in religion, even those people will admit that the Bible at least ALLOWS the fleeting thoughts, the 'reflex' thought, etc., without considering it to be a sin. That is because, as I have been told by religious leaders before, as people, as human beings, we can't really 'help' these fleeting thoughts...they will come to everyone, and you can't really necessarily control them. And I did include a whole laundary list of people involved with religion, because they are different and don't deserve to be lumped into one category and profiled stereotypically. Anyway, most of them will go on to say that, if you have a fleeting thought, don't feel guilty about it, but don't dwell on it. Don't let it overtake your mind. Don't let it possess you. Rene Descartes had a whole part, if not all, of his philosphy dedicated to the mind and body dichotomy. I am not an expert on his work, but basically, your mind and your body, and who you are...it really is one thing...it can not be separated. What you dwell on, your thoughts, they become a part of you and your actions, and affect who you are. I'm not trying to sound preachy here, I am just trying to share my life experiences to the topic, and hope to shed at least a little new light on it, from my view point. And of course, I am sure a lot of this is stuff you have already thought about before, but maybe it's just a refresher. :-) Anyway, there's a really cool saying...I probably can't do it justice, but it goes something like, "learn to possess your thoughts before they possess you, control you, and over take who you are"...which is about taking ownership of your thoughts and not allowing them to over take you.

I am sure that all of what I have written so far is probably just a refresher, and it is probably already known, but it's just nice to be reminded of things sometimes.

Now, onto the fleeting thoughts...the 'reflex' thoughts. To some degree, you have no control over that...true. Even, as I said, most religious people agree to that. However, at the same time, you DO have just a little bit of control over these thoughts even. Let me provide an example. If you surround yourself with porn and adult things and people who are active in that way all the time and perverts, and people who constantly talk about that kind of thing and want that kind of thing, eventually, no matter how much you may originally NOT be into that kind of stuff, eventually, they WILL rub off onto you, and eventually, you WILL start thinking about that kind of stuff. And quite possibly, all the time. And your thoughts about stuff like that may be 'reflex' thoughts, or they may start out that way, but these thoughts that you have no control over that seem to be just coming to you on reflex...they really are a reflection of your lifestyle and what you have been having flooding into your life, and the types of people you have been surrounding yourself with.

Not so bad, you say? I'll admit...it may seem like that it isn't a bad thing to sit and obsess about doing things with women all day and about that particular thing in general, but let me put it into a less desirable scenario:

By the same token, if you surround yourself with people who are obsessed with death and killing, and you watch nothing but movies and television shows about killing, and in your life, everybody you know is obsessed in some way with killing, eventually you WILL have passing thoughts about it. Someone WILL cut you off in traffic, and your first thought, fleeting though it may be, will be to blow their head off with a gun. Someone may screw you over with your girl, and you may start thinking about their disappearance from earth.

I know all of this sounds a bit drastic, but it is true. And also, there may be some people who can legitimately and truthfully say this would not happen to them, but from personal experience, in my life, I KNOW this could happen to me (and has). I was raised pretty religiously, and I went to church all the time when I was a kid. My thoughts were as pure as the snow when it first fell before some dog peed on it. I practically never had any thoughts that were unpure, or about the thing with the opposite sex, or about killing, or anything. I almost never thought about sinning, and almost never sinned.

But then, I started having doubts. And it wasn't when I went to college, because I went to a religious college. Slowly but surely, people were introduced into my life who were involved into that kind of thing. And I am not pushing blame on anyone else...I let them. I really didn't see any harm in or, nor did I think there was any harm in it. I became so worldly, so sinful. I did some of the worst things. (as a disclaimer, I have never killed anyone, nor have I ever had any wish or desire to, fleeting or not)...but the point I am trying to make is that as soon as I allowed myself to be surrounded by people who were into this or that thing, that's where my thoughts...even fleeting thoughts...went. Before that, I hardly ever had even a fleeting thought about those things.

The point I am getting at is this. True, even when I was very innocent, and as straight an arrow as you could find, practically, I still had the 'reflex' thoughts, the fleeting thoughts. But rarely close to never did I have these thoughts. Once I started surrounding myself with people who thought these things and/or said certain things and/or did certain things, those type of thoughts came more often. To some degree, what it comes down to partly is discipline.

Anyway, sorry about going on and on about it. Just thought I would add my input to it.

Reply to this Comment

Anna, thank you so much for sharing, I'll felt as if you were speaking directly to me...it spoke to me that much.

Reply to this Comment

@Dan, thank you so much for that! You have no idea, really, what that means to me. Sometimes I sit here and respond to things and I write stuff, wondering if anyone else is even going to get what I am saying or has any experience that can even relate. I have a problem with being self-centered, sometimes. I sit and write about my own experiences, knowing there are probably tons of people who aren't going to get it at all, but I write anyway, because it helps me to get stuff out. On the other hand, I do write a lot, hoping sometimes at least, that someone else will get something out of it, it will clarify something for someone, or maybe even help someone. So I appreciate it SO MUCH when someone does get something out of what I wrote. You made my day. :-)

Reply to this Comment

@Anna,

Sometimes, its something that a person hears a thousand times before.... but it takes a particular person to articulate it perfectly like a 'key' to another person. Then its like a light goes on in the mind.

I wish more and more people shared like this and felt the freedom to speak from the heart/spirit there will be more keys and more light for people. =).

You see when Mr. Morgan spoke, my defenses came up and I got nothing out of his words ( no offense to Mr. Morgan ).... but your words....seemed to be put in a way that I was receptive to and agreed with.

I'm glad I made your day, you made mine! =)

Reply to this Comment

@Dan, once again, thank you! And about it striking a key...don't I know it!!! As I mentioned, I grew up in the church, went all of my life. (even went to what could loosely be considered a "Bible College", so I have formal education in it also). There was a period of time in my later teenage years that I became downright arrogant about how much I knew about the Bible. As arrogant as it sounded, I got to a point to where I didn't see the point in going to church anymore...I thought I knew it all, and that there wasn't anything the preacher could possibly say that I hadn't heard or didn't know. (I had read the Bible thru, cover to cover, by the time I was 16 years old...I was reading the Bible actively at 10 years old). It seemed like that the preachers where I was going at that time were just old men who were regurgitating facts from the Bible that I already knew. (No offense to anybody who is religious, and I apologize if I have offended you, it wasn't intended). But that's just how it seemed to me at that time.

Then, around the end of that time or shortly after, I started going again, if for nothing else, just curiosity. I was surprised and delighted to find the preacher where I was going at THAT time was talking about stuff that I had already heard, but it also seemed "new", the spin he was taking on it. It was definitely stuff I had heard before, but from a totally different perspective. I felt so refreshed! Also, as much as I may know about whatever, whehter it's the Bible, or coldFusion, or whatever...I can always use a review, or refresher. Often, we are listening to a talk, and it's something we have heard a million time, but it got piled up under the stack of information of our brains that doesn't get to be used much, and reminding us of it is like getting out that old book that has fallen behind all of the others on the shelf, dusting it off, and opening it up to discover a whole new perspective on things you hadn't thought about before. :-) So I'm glad I made your day and that you made mine. :-)

Reply to this Comment

From where does my thoughts arise/come/spring/?

What triggers my thoughts?

Do thoughts necessarily require an external stimuli?
Why certain thoughts recur?

Why certain type of thoughts are readily accepted by us and other types rejected?

Mu understanding tells me that the fountainhead of my thoughts is my memory, my experiences- both pleasent and painful,my present and past environment ans my infinite associations.

I would be very grateful if someone could elaborate or add or contradict my perceptions on this subject.

Reply to this Comment

"From where does my thoughts arise/come/spring/?"

From You.

"What triggers my thoughts?"

You do.

"Do thoughts necessarily require an external stimuli?"

No.

"Why certain thoughts recur?"

Because they do.

"Why certain type of thoughts are readily accepted by us and other types rejected?"

Because of other thoughts.

"My understanding tells me that the fountainhead of my thoughts is my memory, my experiences- both pleasant and painful,my present and past environment as my infinite associations."

You do not understand anything.

Reply to this Comment

@Dan,

I have no hesitation in accepting all that you have opined except the last observation " you do not understand any thing. "

Kindly persuade me a little to decipher the inherent message for me even if it is going to hurt me.

S C Sharma

Reply to this Comment

@S C Sharma

Look into the reasons why you have hesitation in accepting the last comment.

Reply to this Comment

Post A Comment

You — Get Out Of My Dreams, Get Into My Comments
Live in the Now
Oops!
Comment Etiquette: Please do not post spam. Please keep the comments on-topic. Please do not post unrelated questions or large chunks of code. And, above all, please be nice to each other - we're trying to have a good conversation here.