This is a powerful quote from Gautama Buddha. We constantly think, this is a fact. About a milllion things a day. From the moment we wake up and prepare breakfast, to the moment we turn off the light and try to fall asleep. Every day, we repeat things in our heads, sometimes over and over again like a broken record. We think about memories, future plans, conversations with friends, food we are going to eat, etc. But most importantly, we build an inner world with each and every single thought and over time, this inner world has a huge impact on our circumstances.
Our vision of ourselves is so deeply ingrained in our brains that we often struggle to detach from whatever characteristics and adjectives we think define us. “I am not patient”, “I am very irritable”, “I am this and that”. The truth is, we end up convincing ourselves and deciding that this is who we are, while in fact we could as well be patient and peaceful if we wanted to. We let our own thoughts limit us all the time. We let other people’s judgments and expectations as well as their own perceptions influence us. Culture also plays an important role here, where beliefs and all sorts of codes are part of our identity and where we tend to put people into boxes and give them labels.
I have always found it extremely difficult to try and choose words to define myself and others; all beings on this earth are in constant evolution, there is no such thing as a fixed state. Depending on the day, the period of their life, the place, the context and so many other factors, people have many different facets! It’s comforting or perhaps the easy way to come up with some definition that would apply to all situations, that would shape our identity for good and even give us excuses for the misbehaviours and careless words, but “being” is not making a statement on who you are; it’s thinking, acting and changing.
I noticed that there is often some sort of “mirror effect”: when we think bad about ourselves, then this is what we project on other people, who in turn can feel that negative energy. Very rarely will you attract postive energy and compassion if you walk around angry at the world and yell at everyone. The beautiful thing about it is that when you spread little acts of kindness, not only people around you will behave differently towards you, but you will also feel much better with yourself. It’s a rule of the universe: whether you cultivate a positive or a negative mindset, this will directly impact your attitude in one way or the other, and therefore how people interact with you.
Our reality, our world, our life is based on how we think, this is the guiding force within each of us. In every given situation, you have the power to make conscious decisions about your thoughts in a matter of seconds and thus change the course of things. It’s not an easy shift and some mental disorders can totally alter this capacity; but in most cases, mindfulness is the key. Once you have
identified the harmful patterns that have negative impacts in your life and disastrous consequences, you can take the time to analyze the emotions, acknowledge them, and let them pass through different gates before you act on them.
Something as simple as counting backwards from 5 to 1 can make a huge difference. It’s amazing the number of things that can happen in such a short time. You can turn an impulse into a more reflective approach, leading to kinder or wiser words and a more compassionate attitude. Our brains are very reactive, in the sense that many different triggers push us to speak and act immediately; but on a second thought that takes just a few seconds, how you respond to these triggers can vary drastically and this is what your whole life is about.
We are never really prisoners of a situation. Most of the time, we imprison ourselves because of tiny uncontrolled thoughts that we develop every day without noticing. We are stubborn with our own ideas, our own visions of things, of ourselves and of others. This is attachment, and it’s the opposite of freedom. We kind of like thinking what we think, why the hell would we give up what we have repeated to ourselves for so long and reprogram all these well-established mental routines?
In fact there is a wide range of realities and angles to choose from when faced with a problem or unpleasant condition. Most things actually become problems as soon as you consider them as such and the more you focus on them with the wrong approach, the more they intoxicate you as a result. You always have the possibility to take advantage of situations that you don’t like, to see the bright side, to learn from them and above all to decide to move on with your day without letting them consume your mind and affect your mood.
But it’s entirely up to you: are you going to take the reins of your own thoughts and life?
Article written by Géraldine Perroud. Born in France and now based in Toronto, Géraldine is an inspiration seeker, language lover and challenge maker who is driven by passion to make a meaningful impact. You can follow her posts on Instagram by clicking here.