Thoughts are your greatest power. We are what we think we are. See for yourself. Spend the day tracking every anxious, fearful, stressful thought you think. Bring these thoughts into simple awareness. Observe the emotion each carries. Look at the picture it paints that becomes the world you see.
It’s the weight on your heart produced by the thought I’m not going to make it that can suddenly diffuse into cold fear, immobilizing you completely. A moment later the fear can sink into depression that casts a shadow over your life. The world you will see through this thought-generated-lens will feel unsafe, unkind and seem as if it is hell bent on crushing your dreams.
The term we give this mind-made picture is “reality.” It is not some fixed reality. It is a representation of your own state of mind.
According to a 2009 study of the American Psychological Association, three out of four of us are struggling with stress and anxiety. When stress and anxiety are chronic, the brain becomes fear conditioned and wires for fight or flight. We see life through the eyes of our primitive brain, leading us to believe that we are alone, lost and constantly pursued by predators. When this part of the brain takes charge, life becomes a nightmare. It all begins in thought. Robert Sapolsky, the stress researcher at Stanford University Medical School, states it aptly:
“We humans are smart enough to generate all sorts of stressful events purely in our heads. We can experience wildly strong emotions, provoking our bodies into an accompanying uproar, with all of it linked to mere thoughts.”
Thoughts cast us into hell, but they can also rewire our brain to support our mind in securing our fair share of heaven here on Earth. The process could not be simpler. Often, people begin by trying to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts or affirmations. A far more effective approach involves extinguishing thoughts that are false, so they no longer have an effect. We start with the assumption that the vast majority of fearful thoughts are false. This is exactly what Mark Twain was referring to when he said: “My life has been a series of terrible calamities, some of which actually happened.”
Our laughter at Twain’s “drama queen” calamities is for our own. It indicates how often we travel in that direction. Who would you become if you extinguished fearful, stressful thinking before it paints you into a corner? How would the world look? Which of your problems might begin to reveal solutions? It is worth exploring through a simple practice that adds nothing to your to-do list.
Here’s all you have to do for a week:
- Be aware of anxious, stress-provoking thoughts whenever they occur. Notice the way these thoughts give rise to negative emotions that produce a perception of threat. Don’t try to change these thoughts or feelings. For now, simply observe them. If you criticize or condemn yourself for thinking or feeling this way, simply observe this as another stressful thought.
- Tell yourself: This thought, this feeling is in me, not in reality. I choose not to believe it. Let the thought disappear completely.
- In the spaciousness that opens, ask yourself: Who am I now, without this fear to limit me? Then go forward and be that person.
Don’t be concerned with finding the thoughts that are true. Remove what is false and the truth will find you. You’ll know it by its effect. It will arrive as a mind grounded in peace, inspired by joy and in love with life, turning to face the world with the fearless attitude that moves mountains.