Mental Inner Game: Mind—Opening Frames for Peace and Creativity

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You can not open your heart, it is already open. It is the mind that is closed, and which must open to the heart. 

—Peter Russell.

Right at the moment when I started writing this article I came across this powerful quote by Peter Russell, and it connected all final dots in it.

Indeed. Your mind may never get quiet, but make it flexible and the heart will get in. Zen Buddhist tradition says “to open the hand of thought”.

Multi-layered perception of the ongoing reality is at the core of many spiritual traditions; in fact, all of them. Although mostly shamans (or curanderos) are associated with trespassing dimensions, as this is from where they heal, the state of “between-the-planes-of reality” is natural to all greatest spiritual influencers of this planet. It is innate, and often unconscious, in many geniuses and people who change the world with their thoughts and actions. It is also a well- known “after- effect” of many mind-broadening “techniques”, which, however, has to be properly integrated in one’s personality.

The unconscious mastery of “mental inner game” of shamans, remarkable spiritual teachers and geniuses is so high that we tend to say: “they are looking from the heart.” Either through ancient books, in person, or even through the different versions of ourselves—we all have met these “geniuses” at least once. And we always remember. They lack judgement and yet the level of their moral integrity is nonpareil. Of no doubt, they know how to put it into verbal messages. Their messages are always manifold yet can be very simple in wording. They come from the interplay between the world where everything is solid and defined, and the world where nothing has its own meaning: and it’s fluid, and makes no sense, and perfect. These messages are always vertical, meaning they rewire you form the top of your head down to the tip of your toes. Whether in the form of poetry which cuts through your aesthetic frontiers, cleaning out your juicy drama, or in the form of guiding quotes, these messages send you into a new orbit of existence. Messages that trespass your old structures.

Roberts Dilts wrote a book Cognitive patterns of Jesus from Nazareth where he made a deeper structures analysis of the language patterns of Jesus Christ to demonstrate this.

We can argue whether such people are “being all love”, as they often feel a bit “at a distance” which is natural for the multilayered vision. However, we definitely cannot argue that either in real presence or through texts these people feel vastly open–minded. Using Castaneda’s terminology, the balance between their first attention (in the now) and second attention (the position of the observer of the observer), is so perfectly calibrated, that their lens of perception bears minimum distortion of a subjective nature but remains inseparably connected with the present moment. Siberian shamans have a rule of “not splitting the attention” or “one focus at a time”. Meaning that your attention is priceless, as it gives power to wherever you put it. But the essential part is keeping one focus at a time, but being in the position of the observer simultaneously, and thus remaining spacious.

This article is based on my interest in shamanism (mainly Huna), Zen Buddhism, and ancient texts of different heritages. It’s an interpretation of several perspectives that are common for many spiritual and mystic traditions and can be viewed as mind—expanding “frames”.

Mastering the “mental inner game”

Wherever you are is the entry point.


From the shamanic and many spiritual traditions’ view, nothing has its own meaning. Meaning is something we create ourselves. Meanings are all derived from our internal “maps” of the world. In Zen Buddhist tradition we are only here, because our world is here. When we pass away, our world vanishes with us. There is no world left outside of us. Different internal worlds, or maps, will give different meanings to the same experiences. The depth and intuitiveness of our internal maps underlie such human virtues as broad-mindedness, whole-heartedness and the ability to provide space to other people at wherever they are.

Creating meanings is an intricate process, but quite often it is very deeply patterned in us. You can compare it to having a photo lens and always choosing the same settings for it, simply because you don’t know your lens has any other. The settings we are applying for our lenses punctuate our experiences in the present moment.

In that sense, acknowledging that you have a choice of lenses through which you are looking at something, is mindfulness.

Playing with these “settings” is a brilliant example of how you are co-creating any experience. Sometimes it is the only way to comprehend something. Although at a certain point it can become a natural state of your being, which most probably is not even realised by you, mastering this game can take time. And it is NOT about what’s going on in your head, but about the whole “state” where it puts you. At least this is when it has real power and healing potential.

Below are only five of them, but they are enough.

1. Playing with timelines. Of course—time. The first thing to mention about a shamanic vision and the inner game is knowing how to go out of time. Both pain and pleasure can be all-consuming within a short-term frame. Expand the timeline to include more months, years or even lives into a moment, and observe how your experience will change its significance and meaning. We each have our subjective feeling of time. When this feeling suddenly expands, we experience awe. Whether it is a shocking event, a mind-bending psychedelic trip or witnessing the vastness of nature elements, the sudden expansion of time makes us small and humble. It can be healing and terrifying at once. Keeping this “time aperture” wide-open, and yet being fully in the present moment, is natural for shamans and spiritually-awakened people. Keeping it too wide open for a prolonged period of time, without grounding, can cause a psychosis. Play with it mindfully. Time is a gentle healer. Time is also a gentle killer.

Acknowledging a timeline for any event in your life will alter the perception of its tempo and direction. If you have one hour for saying goodbye to a lover in an airport, your whole experience will have different accents, colours and sounds from the same experience if you only have 5 minutes. Most of our lives we don’t realize that we have no control over how much time we have left for something (in both directions). Respecting this unknown changes any context.

2. Creative limitation frame. Any kind of limitation is a possibility to dive into creativity. We create by having less options, less choices, less opportunities. Creativity is being born out of “HOW”. The purpose of any kind of limitation is to show you that there is a co-creating opportunity in front of you. Whenever you think you are lacking something or have lost something—there is a new road hidden nearby. You have to make a guess how to unveil it. The limitation onset is a point of uniqueness, where you create the new choice.

This frame is second to none when listening to someone’s criticism. Critique as an art was born in ancient Greece to diversify the way of looking at things as well as to refine eloquence. However, in its less artistic expression, it takes forms of judgements and sometimes traumatic verbal interchanges. Criticism in childhood is often a source of trauma; in a shamanic language, it causes a soul loss. Many have experienced, but not consciously realized, that if there is no “how” in the criticism, it has an effect of hypnosis. It puts you in a trance-like condition because linguistically it is structured as an equivalence statement. “This is bad.” “You are wrong.” “Your work is useless.” These kinds of statements presuppose that someone knows 100% that something is equivalent to something else. These statements don’t give you any chance for feedback, neither are they providing any insight that can help. The only option they suggest is saying “yes” or “no” to it. In both cases, the effect such statements are producing is shutting you down and thus making you controllable.

To an even greater extent, all the above refers to your self-critic. If your judgmental self-narrative is not offering you any “how”, you are hypnotizing yourself into being your own victim. Instead, offering any question with “how” in response (how do you know this is true? How can I stop being “bad”? How do you define “bad”? etc.) re-directs you towards the state of creativity. Wise criticism always challenges the richness of your mental map and offers the ways to create flexibility within its rigid parts. You may notice this across many different spiritual traditions. The answer to the “how” question is often embedded in the language patterns of people who know how to go out of context and play with lenses.

3. Depth of field. Depth of field is a photography term that refers to how much of the image is in focus, and the priorities between the objects within the image. The “depth of field” of our own vision—the same as in the photo camera glass—varies constantly … but much less predictably. Every time you are about to form an opinion about something, especially someone, remind yourself that you are only seeing 2 % of it; hardly more. Richard Moss said that the distance between ourselves and others is precisely the distance between ourselves and ourselves. Can you measure this distance between yourself and yourself? Is it constant? Is it fluctuating? Does the feeling of this distance come in diverse demeanours? Or always the same?

So many peculiarities to “measure” about your own inner territories before you think you can “see” others. This is probably why judging in general is at the angle of mindfulness. Because most of the time we only see such a small fraction of anything. It is good to remind ourselves about it from time to time.

Also judging is a sheerly human trait. Imagine your dog judging you silently for not keeping up with her expectations… Or a tiger judging the other tiger for not preying skilfully enough. Only humans have given themselves this privilege.

In fact, it is whathow and why we judge that reflects the richness of our inner world. Just think of how many things we have no cognisance, but we make ourselves believe that we do—death, birth, God, Cosmos—to name a few. The major part of what we know is only what something IS in our own world. If the depth of this “knowing” is crossing at a point of someone else’s depth—we are lucky to meet each other …

And the last two that are powerfully interconnected. Later echoed by some psychotherapy schools, they take roots in ancient spiritual traditions.

4. Everything has a positive intention.

Eckhart Tolle said that the ultimate goal of everything is finding peace.

Whether you realize it or not every action is pointed towards a favourable outcome. The favourability of the outcome may not be straightforward for everybody involved, since it depends on the interpretation, but the intention is always to bring change needed. From a broader perspective, we can say that the intention of every action is ultimately peace. Peace on our terms, or peace of a higher meaning depends on the level of integrity of the individuals involved. But peace is the only intent at the core of any interaction, including your inner dialogues with your higher and lower-selves. However, the well-known proverb about the road to hell that is paved with good intentions, is also hinting exactly at this postulate. All wars are looking for peace, on someone’s own terms.

5. People make the best choices available to them at any given time.

It is an illusion that we could have done better. As a consequence of the unique juncture of our personality with the facets of reality we live in, every given minute of time we are making our best choices. Our choices are always a reflection of our “inner maps”. Even when we make mistakes and realize that we could have made a different choice, it’s exactly at the moment when we realize it, that we can make a “better” (a different) choice. But not BEFORE that. It is these “mistakes” that refine our inner worlds. Thus, we are always “right” to the best of our abilities. The only time when we are wrong is when we think we could have been doing better. The same is true for everybody.

The combination of these two together is offering the following: We are making our best choices every given moment of time with the ultimate purpose to find peace.

Nothing else to add …

Although the list of such “frames” can go on, even applying only one of them into your worldview can eliminate patterns that don’t serve you any more.

In the end, it’s an illusion that there are many wisdoms to learn and new things to discover. Everything is already in front of our eyes—seeing it is the key.

Change how you see—and see how you change.

—Zen Proverb

This article first appeared on



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