The more optimistic psychologists and neuroscientists agree that most of us use about 10% of our full mental potential. The pessimistic ones say that number is closer to 2% – but whatever the figure is, it’s certainly small. That leaves 90% or more of our mental capacity spent recycling, rehearsing, regretting or simply dormant.The Vedic model of the mind states that we are only aware of the surface levels of mental activity. Mental stresses maintain background neural activity at a high level, preventing awareness of the quieter underlying levels of thinking. It’s not unlike speeding down the freeway in a car with the windows rolled down – the noise of the air and engine necessitate our turning the radio up, yet still we hear only the general outline of the music.
The effects of stress are like mud in water – a bubble can only be detected at the surface because the water below is murky. As the water becomes clearer, the bubble can be seen rising up from deeper and deeper depths. Like that, as our nervous system becomes freer from stress, the background of mental chatter decreases and thinking is appreciated at earlier stages. The proportion of mental activity which our awareness reaches increases both during and outside of meditation.
When the system is completely free of stress, we become aware of the entire spectrum of the thinking process. Just like exiting the freeway – when we slow down, we turn the radio down and find that many of the subtleties of the music become more apparent. Similarly with thinking, at quieter levels of activity much of the subtlety of thought is revealed and thinking becomes far richer, and more effectively translated into action.
Achieving our full mental potential therefore does not mean growing a bigger brain and head to go with it, thankfully. It is simply that the finer levels of thinking are now open to our awareness, and we make more use of them in our normal thinking process. We experience thinking becoming clearer, faster and more effective. That is how we achieve our full potential.