You are no greater than your thoughts
Imagine rummaging through the attic and coming across an old, wooden chest. Not recognizing it, you pry open the heavy lid. After clouds of dust scatter, you peer into the chest. You’re puzzled by what you see: seeds. Thousands and thousands of seeds of every imaginable type. Some smaller than a grain of sand, others larger than a coconut. Seeds designed to be carried by the wind, or to be entangled in the fur of passing creatures, or to be transported by brooks and streams, or to be carried in the bellies of birds. Seeds that germinate into multicolored flowers and lofty trees or poisonous plants and destructive weeds. Seeds that grow into plants that provide oxygen, food, beauty, shelter, and shade. Others that develop into plants that devour, poison, ensnare, and injure living creatures. As you close the lid, your hands tingle; you can almost feel the enormous potential contained in the chest. You realize this simple container can easily become a treasure chest or a Pandoras Box, depending on the types of seeds it holds.
Yes, the chest represents our mind, and the seeds, our thoughts. You see, our thoughts germinate and create the garden of our life. Thousands of thoughts stream through our minds each day. We seem to think of everything, except our thoughts themselves and the role they play in shaping our lives.
As a young man, Liberace was no different. He, too, didnt pay much attention to his thoughts. That is, until he read The Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol. The book changed his life and transformed Liberace into Mr. Showmanship, one of the biggest draws in Las Vegas and the worlds highest paid musician and pianist. Claude M. Bristol had a simple message: Every person is the creation of himself, the image of his own THINKING and believing. As individuals THINK and believe, so they are. Two thousand five hundred years earlier, Buddha delivered a similar message: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. . . . What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.
We are born with an empty chest (mind), but when we reach five or six years old, it contains thousands of seeds, which have been placed there by our caretakers. If a child is unfortunate, most of the seeds may look like this: Youre a naughty child. Mommy doesnt like you. Youre so clumsy. Thats a stupid thing to say. Go away now. No, I dont have time to play with you. If you dont go to bed right away, Im going to spank you. Dont touch yourself. Didnt I tell you to stop sucking your thumb? Go in your room and study your alphabet. Sit in the corner until you learn how to behave. . . . With seeds like that, what kind of world does the child live in? Is it a warm and cozy garden or a dark and dreary jungle?
As adults, we can operate our minds like aircraft, either manually or on autopilot. When we run our minds on autopilot, our thoughts control us. But when we use our minds manually, we control our thoughts. And when we control our thoughts, we control their outcomes, or as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.
So, how do we reap a destiny? How do we escape from the threatening jungle we live in and arrive at the Garden of Eden? How do we change our Pandoras Box into a treasure chest? How do we control our thoughts? You may be surprised to learn that it is not difficult. If we follow a simple plan, which I will describe in the next article, we will start on an exciting adventure. On the other hand, if we dont follow the plan, the chariot were riding in will either crash or not get very far because the wild stallions (our thoughts and emotions) are pulling it in different directions! However, once we tame and control the stallions, we can take our chariot to the destination of our choice. Have you ever wondered why you exist? You are here not because of what you are, but because of what you can become. Join me in Part 2 of this article, so we can together continue becoming what we were meant to be.
In the above, I wrote about a wooden chest stuffed with seeds of every type. I explained the chest represents our mind, and the seeds, our thoughts. The life we now lead was created by our thoughts. If we would like to improve our life, we will have to improve our thoughts. Or, as James Allen wrote, He who would be useful, strong, and happy must cease to be a passive receptacle for the negative, beggarly, and impure streams of thought; and as a wise householder commands his servants and invites his guests, so must he learn to command his desires and to say, with authority, what thoughts he shall admit into the mansion of his soul.
In other words, if we are to improve, we must become aware of our thoughts and control them, rather than having our thoughts control us. How do we do that? One way is by following the procedure outlined below.
1. Get a cheap pad of paper or a notebook. Spend 15 minutes, longer if necessary, to analyze your average day. What you are looking for is one hour of wasted time each day. Once you have found it, plan to use that time to work on controlling your thoughts, their outcomes, and your life.
2. Did you set aside one hour each day? If so, you are ready to begin opening the chest (your mind) and examining the seeds (your thoughts). You will need your notepad and at least an hour a day for one week. On the first day, write on the top of page one, What do I think of myself? Next, carefully and neatly list everything that comes to mind. For example: I am attractive. I am overweight. I am shy. I am too sensitive. I am a good parent. I am lazy. And so on. You have set aside an hour, so use it. List everything that comes to mind. Try to come up with a list of 150 items or more. If you cant do it in one hour, complete the list the following day.
Once the list is complete, add a plus sign next to every positive statement and a minus sign next to every negative statement. I am intelligent would be a positive statement and I am lazy would be a negative statement. As you are not in the habit of examining your thoughts, this exercise will help reveal the contents of your mind. Suppose you discover 75% of your thoughts are negative, that would suggest you are losing at least 75% of your potential! Before you can control your thoughts, you must become aware of them, which is just what this exercise is designed to help you do.
3. On the second or third day return to your list. Every statement that includes the verb to be is inaccurate and needs to be corrected. For example, if you wrote I am lazy, that is wrong. Why? Because the verb to be means to have the essence of, or to equal. Thus, I am lazy means I = lazy. Which is not true. What you mean to say is, I sometimes behave in a lazy manner. There is a big difference in those two thoughts, and the difference affects your self-esteem. Dont allow the verb to be to cloud your thoughts. Get in the habit of precise thinking. Even where other verbs are used, you need to reevaluate what you wrote and make it more accurate. For instance, I lack confidence is not accurate enough; what you mean to say is, In my opinion, I lack confidence. By focusing on the truth, it helps you realize that your negative thought is only an opinion, and opinions can be changed!
4. On the next day, return to your list and dig deeper into your mind by asking the questions who, what, where, when, how, and why. Thus, if you wrote, I sometimes behave in a lazy manner, WHEN do you do so? WHY do you do so? HOW do you do so? You get the idea. This exercise is designed to help you better understand yourself. Answer these questions for as many of the statements on your list as possible. True, it is a big project, but it has a big payoff; mainly, a new, better you.
5. Over the next following days, add new questions and make new lists. Questions such as, What do I think of life? What do I think of my family? What do I think of my job? If you diligently follow these exercises, you will get a clear view of your present state of mind. After a week of focusing on the contents of your mind, awareness of your thoughts should automatically appear at other times of the day. When this begins to happen, encourage it by pausing and taking control. Lets say youre at work and suddenly catch yourself thinking, Darn it! This guy gets on my nerves! All right, you caught the thought, now STOP. Label the thought. Is it good? Is it going to help to make your life better? The answer is no. So, CHANGE THE THOUGHT. For example, change it to, How can I better understand this person and grow to appreciate him or her more? This new way of looking at things can lead to better understanding, harmony in the workplace, and a new friend. In other words, you can create a better life, a better you, by taking charge of your thoughts.
As you practice being aware of your thoughts, you will grow more and more skillful. Whenever you find yourself harboring a negative thought, imagine it is a weed; pluck it out of your mind and immediately replace it with a positive thought. A bar of iron costs $5, made into horseshoes its worth $12, made into needles its worth $3,500, made into balance springs for watches, its worth $300,000. Similarly, a person made into someone who has control over their thoughts has immeasurable value and infinite potential. All it takes is a pad of paper and a pencil to begin!