1. Greetings of peace and goodwill to you! Your web site has provided an avenue for an expanded learning experience for me. My main purpose for surfing was to search for answers to the nature of the mind. I would like to know what the nature of the mind is - does it have some kind of a form? Is it the instrument that thinks? How is it connected to the human physical brain?
By the term 'mind' we most of the time refer to the body-mind, that of the human organism, which is like a super-intelligent chimpanzee. It has conscious, Preconscious, subconscious and unconscious aspects of functioning, and learns through experience from the time of conception onwards, as well as containing in-built genetically inherited programming and functioning. The functioning (inherited and learnt) is closely connected to brain structure, and vice versa, for example the left (conscious speech and ego) vs right (subconscious and intuitive/feeling) brain differentiation and the limbic functions (unconscious and emotional), though this also extends to the body's muscular memory and genetic communication throughout the body and it's subtle energy fields and information fields. In addition there is collective consciousness between all humans and life on Earth and beyond, and ancestral memories and archetypes, which are accessed in deep sleep or meditation (slow delta brain waves).
Finally there is super-consciousness, which is the 'spiritual' aspect of our being, and this essence is both identified with the body-mind individual and connected with universal consciousness, which is basically love, and is the true nature of All That Is. It's a quality and can't be defined in terms of energy or space/time, except in that it isn't these things, rather it is the source or essence of them. This spirituality manifests as our creative impulse, love expressed through our will, and is beyond the ego - though in practice it is filtered through the body-mind and especially the ego defenses and mental distortions (negative learning). The spiritual being also carries its own memories and patterns of conditioning and imprinting over many lifetimes. So the goodness and truth of our Higher Self may be suppressed and asleep for much of the time, with our sense of Self dominated by the body-mind ego, primarily a left-brain 'think-think' function - which becomes that way because of our cultural conditioning and defenses we put up to protect against repeating painful experiences. Full-brain thinking, which is possible when we fully accept past experiences and present reality, incorporates intuitive feelings and knowingness to a much greater degree.
To the extent that we act according to pre-programmed patterns of conditioning, we are automatons - reactive instead of response-able - and not awake as spiritual beings. Our ego defenses or resistance against unaccepted feelings, past acts of ourselves or others, deeply held beliefs and rejected realities, results in the split between left and right brain mental functioning that is unfortunately the normal state of human beings, particularly in Western culture. The more we are in touch with the right brain functions of non-verbal intuition and holistic understanding of relationships, however, the more we are in touch also with the Higher Self, which 'thinks' in the same way as the right brain, seeing 'both sides of things' inside of just the polarities. The Higher Self knows the truth, what is, but the mind obscures that truth.
2. Do we create our own thoughts or do we simply 'pick up' thoughts and think these thoughts are our own? The thoughts that we have - are they our own, if not, how do we distinguish what are 'our' thoughts from those that we receive from other sources?
We create our own thoughts, but these originate from the diverse aspects of our self as described above, which split further into many identities according to as many 'identifications' or attachments we have to fixed ideas and solutions to the problems of survival. So our thoughts may conflict and seem to come from 'others'. Also, it is true, there are thoughts that we pick up, through telepathy or through imprinting, i.e. things we agree with or accept when we are in 'trance states' - fixated or confused and open to suggestion - these are like tapes that replay in the mind and that we identify with as though they are our true self-determined thoughts.
The highest state of yourself already fully realizes all truths but the conflict structures of mental attachments obscure this knowingness. More about these principles in 'Transforming the Mind' on the site. The philosophy and psychology of enlightenment is a complicated subject that I find interesting, I guess you too. But for those who are not interested, most of it is not 'need to know', as the most fundamental truth of the way things are, as one increasingly gets to know it, is more right-brained and non-verbal, and almost laughably simple if it were not so sacred. Though its essence is not a word, one word actually sums it up: LOVE.
3. It really hit me when I began to first start to read over your site, how I have the same general ideas about things mentioned. One example is months ago I'd think about how people were some what conditioned all their lives, how they grow up with only the influences of people - a suggested lifestyle. A month later I had some ideas about how I thought religion was a sort of brain washing, how you are raised into it, and how are you to believe otherwise, especially with the fear of Hell in Christianity. As for now I am still afraid to abandon my religion, it's a big step, but I know it's just part of my raised conditioning - how could I really be Christian if I feel forced into it?
Thing is, it's not black and white, you don't have to think in terms of abandoning it. Religions are not entirely wrong, if they were people would not be interested. There has to be enough truth for the principles to attract people and then the church or whatever can use that allegiance to control and manipulate people by adding additional elements that are false. So, don't throw out the baby with the bath water!
In Christianity, for example, the basic principles Jesus taught are correct, as unconditional love is indeed the way to go on the spiritual path and for the betterment of Mankind. But added to that later was all sorts of false and manipulative theology drawn from the old Jewish religions and mythology, like hell, virgin birth, original sin and so forth. Other religions also mirror these basic truths and add their own distortions too.
So what you like about Christianity is probably what's valid and what you don't like is probably the additions. Best to accept it as it is, apply what's valid and ignore what isn't. Don't expect a religion to be perfect, human nature isn't, and don't completely buy into any beliefs from any source, including from me - always keep an open mind.
Transformational psychology is really a way for people to be able to grow so as to be able to be truly Christ-like, that is, without hypocrisy or inner conflict to recognize their spirituality and that of others, and their oneness with the creative source that we all share (which is essentially love, a very powerful thing).
Transformational Psychology is comprehensive view of human nature. It recognizes our personal uniqueness, as well as a transpersonal dimension, something that is beyond our individual egos, and yet still a part of us. Based on observations and practices from many cultures, the transpersonal perspective is informed by modern psychology, the humanities and human sciences, as well as contemporary spiritual disciplines and the wisdom traditions.