The following breakdown of mind states is just a generalized construct. The intention is to begin framing various forms of instruction around these states. This way people trying to work their way through the spiritual investigation process can more easily find what they need.
Note: Many people in the first five mind states can live happy and productive lives. All efforts are focused on satisfying the ego though, so things like happiness and fulfillment are temporary and can just as easily shift into depression or frustration at any moment.
The impossible mind
While it is difficult to admit such things, there are many human beings on this planet who will spend their entire lives shrouded in darkness and will NEVER look inward. Within this lifetime there is very little hope for them… It really is a matter of ‘better luck next time’. You never know though – a sudden shift in circumstances can unexpectedly throw an impossible mind into a new, more open state.
The hardened mind
This type of mind represents my own personal starting point. This is a rigid mind that refuses to allow room for possibilities. This type of mind is far more interested in dogma and proof than in possibilities. This usually takes the form of unrelenting clinging to a particular system of religious belief or to science as if it were a religion. This type of mind CAN be opened, but the movement needed must be DEEPLY felt!
The skeptical mind
This type of mind differs from the hardened mind in that there is some room for what might be possible. There may not be much room, but the mind isn’t being maintained in complete isolation of reality. Possessing a skeptical mind is actually a wonderful starting point for a spiritual journey, although it may be difficult to fully engage in many of the necessary steps until the mind is opened further.
The open mind
This type of mind is literally open. Open to the possibilities of a spiritual life and willing to explore them. The path may not be fully understood, but there is faith. Open minds can actually be a bit of a hindrance in some cases though. There is often a deep sense of grasping at a range of eclectic options in the hope that at least one of the many chosen paths will offer some degree of relief from misery.
The ready mind
This type of mind goes beyond the open mind in that a particular path has been chosen and the way is clear. A commitment has been made and a practice has been established. A ready mind is a mind that has embraced its longing for something more in life – and the search is now in full swing. A ready mind is a wonderful mind – it is the type of mind most likely to break through.
The awakened mind
Once a mind has broken through for the very first time, the entire nature of the journey becomes clear. It may be just a brief flash, or a major personal realization, but all it takes is one taste of an awakened mind to realize that the path chosen is now bearing fruit. Once a mind has been awakened, the real inner journey can begin in earnest.
The frightened mind
This is generally a transient state on the way from an awakened mind to a beginners mind. Chances are this mind state will be revisited repeatedly during the journey – and will also include a healthy dose of doubt and personal unease. This is just the ego attempting to bring balance back to the mind – to try and dismiss your efforts as false. Ignore the fear and press forward. It will get easier.
The struggling mind
As with the frightened mind, this is generally a transient state on the way from an awakened mind to a beginners mind. Fear and doubt play a large role here to, but the real challenge is in commitment. Dealing with a struggling mind means that you are doing real work now! This work is likely to be painful in many ways. You cannot turn from your pain! You must embrace it!
The friendly mind
Once fully embraced, the fear, doubt, and struggle begin to ease. Coming in tune with the heart or spirit is now a joy and something that is pursued because you can no longer turn back. Indeed, if you’ve made it this far, the worst is likely over. There are no guarantees, but with your heart or spirit now leading you, you are well on your way to the final attainment of peace.
The beginners mind
This is the end of the journey. Ego has been dissolved and there is just your body and your heart or spirit. You are also keenly aware of the true nature of all things, and you aren’t wrapped up in any of it anymore. This is the peace and equanimity that was promised in the very beginning. It takes hard work to get here, but this is a place of love and joy – and it is worth the trip!