Everything starts with a thought. From the greatest invention to the most horrific act, it all starts with a thought. The human mind is a never-ending thought-producing and thought-processing device. The National Science Foundation published an article showing that the average person has between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day. Here is a sobering thought, though: of those thousands of thoughts, 80% are negative, and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as we had had the day before.
This thinking device of ours is the first thing that is switched on when we wake up. Much like our computers, it only rests a bit when we go to sleep or when we meditate. Also, there is no such thing as a neutral thought. Every thought triggers an emotion. Like an electrical spark, it ignites a certain emotion. And that emotion always leads to some physical reaction in our bodies. If the emotion is one of fear, we would tend to stop breathing normally, clench our fists and jaws, develop a knot in the stomach, and start having heart palpitations. Conversely, if it is a positive and good thought, we feel relaxed and breathe normally.
When we talk about thoughts, it is useful to remember that the mind, the body, and the spirit are inextricably interconnected. When one is negatively affected, the other two will suffer too. If the mind is not healthy, the other two will be pulled out of balance. It is no wonder that, throughout all the ages, the sages and the scriptures have been cautioning us to ‘mind our minds’ – in other words, to be very conscious of what is happening in our thought world, and also to become aware of the source of our thoughts. A motto well known in the computer world is worth remembering here: ‘garbage in garbage out’. We need to become smarter by avoiding or at least minimizing negative input. Keep in mind, news bulletins and the media are not in the business of making us feel good. I have yet to come across anyone who has felt uplifted or inspired after watching the evening news or reading the paper.
Let us think about our minds as a beautiful and precious garden that requires our conscious attention because we know that the seeds we allow to be sown there will bring forth exactly the harvest according to the nature of these seeds. Every piece of information coming in is like a seed looking for fertile soil in which to grow. The more tolerant the soil is of negativity, the greater the likelihood for more negative seeds to take root and flourish. Fear is a good example of this. Currently, we are being constantly bombarded with fear-driven information and alarming statistics. If we buy into this, it becomes fertile soil for more negative seeds to germinate and, before we know it, our gardens will be overgrown with weeds of fear and worry. This then becomes our garden. From the moment we wake up in the morning, we are back in our garden of fear, worry and anxiety, and our health and overall well-being are compromised.
If ever there was a time to mind our minds, it is now. We need to become mindful like never before. We need to become conscious observers and guardians of our minds. We humans have this unique ability to be conscious of the fact that we are conscious. We have a ‘higher’ intelligence in us that makes us aware of our own thoughts. How amazing is that? We can think about what we are thinking about! Since we can observe our garden, we can change our thinking.
When times are tough and the future is uncertain, the seeds of worry, fear and hopelessness tend to flourish and take over the garden. So this is a good time to do some gardening, by walking through the garden of our mind and identifying the sources of our negative thinking (the weeds) that dominate our mind. Once we have identified the source, we can avoid it. Let’s not use our minds as a dumping ground for someone to offload their fear-driven agendas. Let us stand sovereign over our own minds, free to understand and perceive things as we see fit; let us draw our own conclusions and shape our own truths. Let us be free to live boldly rather than being diminished by fear. We are called upon to tend rigorously to our gardens. We reap what we sow. Let’s nurture the life-giving and soul-inspiring thoughts, and weed out the rest.