We choose to see things a certain way. We do. It’s up to us. We create the tone of voice within our own heads. We create most of our experiences, and we create in entirety the filter through which we process these experiences. We don’t like to think this. We like to think everything happens “to” us. Some stuff does, it’s true. But much of what occurs in our lives occurs at our own hand, in a sense. The sense I mean is that our thoughts form our actions, our actions then form our habits. Our habits form our lives.
“Most things happen by habit in our lives,” Yoga Sutra 1.28.
If there’s one thing we can control, it’s our habits. Thoughts become actions, actions become habits. Control the mind.
I’m actively working on controlling my mind, everyday, every moment (practically). It’s a lot of work. But, as the Sutras continue on to say, anything we continuously do will become a habit. If we allow ourselves to be conditioned into thinking “negative negative negative,” we will manifest negativity. Oppositely, if we condition ourselves into thinking “positive positive positive,” we will become trained to see the positive. I’m reminded of my dear friend Jennifer Pastiloff’s “5 Most Beautiful Things Project.” We so frequently seek out the irritating, the incorrect, the offending. It’s unconscious. You know those people out in the world, the ones who stride into stores pissed off, already angry, seething on the inside just looking for something to blame their unhappiness on? Don’t we all loathe the influence these people have on us? These hard shelled, bitter, “something truly shitty must have happened to them to make them this way” people? Don’t we pity them? I do.
We don’t want to mirror these people, for even a shred of an instant. We don’t want to perpetuate this unwarranted behavior. We want to cultivate enough radiating positivity within our own beings to treat these human flare ups of wretchedness, to stamp out the flames of such deep set despair. I do.
We begin the accumulation of this positivity in our very own minds. I sometimes become lazy, letting bad moods get the best of me, letting the grump factor permeate my internal monologue. Then I get down on myself for letting the negativity in, for letting that gloomy could block the rays of beneficial energy. Downward spiral. Other times I’m good, I take a deep breath and soften my face, the oxygen and gentle expression washing away my indignant riposte. These times strengthen me. They fortify my belief that the mind is all energy, that it can be regulated, that by regulating it I save my own soul.
Our minds control our realities. We determine the meaning that is awarded to everything in our lives. People, objects, our bodies, our experiences, everything.
I saw someone the other day who I know from photographs and, by the look on her face when we locked eyes, knows mine by the same means. We’ve crossed paths a few times but have never met. While our connection is irrelevant, and frankly nonexistent, years ago her presence really bothered me. When I saw her yesterday I was not phased. I saw her as just a girl. Just a sweet, pretty girl whose life is no longer entangled with mine.
There’s a mirror in my new house that makes me look fat. For an entire day, every time I saw it, I was disgusted. It’s a pretty mirror, hanging in a gorgeous, reflecting the room perfectly. But in it, I look like a cow. Vanity? Yes. Attachment? Yes. Shallow? Yes. Ridiculous? You bet. But it kind of ruined my afternoon, if I’m going to be perfectly honest. I had one of those “I feel fat and grumpy and useless” afternoons that, afterwards, make me feel like a shallow person who ought to have spent the afternoon counting her blessings. I would be happy to live in a world without mirrors.
I got rid of about fifteen bags worth of stuff when I moved. Clothes, books, accessories, furniture, toys, tools, you name it. I feel so much lighter. I still take up two closets in my new house; thank gosh I live with an easygoing, awesome guy. He lets my girliness and still-too-large wardrobe spill into the closet of the guest bedroom. I’ll continue to weed out the “I can live without this” stuff, as well as be mindful of future shopping (or lack thereof!) because this whole process taught me that my actual needs are quite minimal. Non-attachment. The notion is wonderful, but putting it into practice? Harder. As in not easy. As in many of us avoid putting it into practice at all. Just like I let half of the stuff I got rid of last week sit in my last room for three years. “It was expensive,” or, “I bought it in Italy,” or, “it was a gift,” keeping the items in my possession. I got rid of expensive things I never use, clothes from Italy that I haven’t worn in over a year, gifts that I’ve long since forgotten about and even fat pants. I don’t need any of those things. Especially the fat pants; I have no intention of ever needing fat pants! I mean that with utmost non-attachment 😉
My point is that I deemed all those things important. That girl, this mirror, those bags of belongings. They’re all real, tangible, but their meaning is a figment of my own mentality. I decided their representation to me. When I realized that girl is just a girl and I viewed her with compassion and non-attachment, I felt free. When I gave away those bags of things I no longer used, I felt free. Realizing that a reflection morphed by the long, squat shape of a piece of glass is nothing more than a distortion…realizing that it is a distortion of a physical body that is transient anyway, realizing that the emphasis I place on how that physical body looks is something that I, again, created…that’s a feat. Especially for a girl, one in my generation and one with my history. But I’m working on it. I feel the same way about “skinny mirrors.” You know those mirrors that distort one’s reflection so it looks far more lithe than it actually does to the naked eye? We all love those mirrors, don’t even deny it. But, regardless of the distortion, the mind gets the final say. The mind gets to decide whether it’s realistic, unrealistic, important, meaningless, valuable, invaluable, sensible, absurd…isn’t that powerful? The trick is in learning to harness that. It’s in learning to look at person who elicits a negative response in you and say, “They’re just a person.” It’s in learning to gut a room of all things you don’t need and realize, “They’re just things.” It’s in learning to look at your reflection in a mirror and think, “That’s not who I am.” It’s not easy. I’m not able to do it without intense focus, but again, with practice…it can become habit. This I believe.
I want to seek out the beautiful things in life, like Jen Pastiloff suggests. I want to see people as people, not as representations of my own life or the emotions I’ve placed on them. Positive habit forming takes practice, we’re only human; but we have the capacity to be profoundly aware in our “only human” state. We have the capacity to, in time, change the way we view, interpret and react to life.
Life is a balancing act. Some days the positivity flows, others the negativity creeps in. But I suppose what I’m working towards here is the idea that I don’t want the “balancing act” to be a copout when it comes to my thoughts. I don’t want to fall back onto the “oh it happens,” excuse followed by, “there’s traffic…” or, “that person was really rude,” or, “I’m PMS-ing,” or whatever. The excuses will keep on coming, the frustrating situations will keep arising, but just think…how powerful would it be if I could react with a greater sense of positivity than of negativity no matter the situation? How profoundly moving would it be if we could react with buoyancy, or at least non-attachment, no matter the circumstances? What if we could remain on a level that doesn’t allow the negativity to fully touch us, protected by the diligence of our own beneficial mindset?
I want to be diligent. Gently diligent. Not diligent in a punishing way, but a dedicated way. I believe that committed practice is the only way to really shape a new habit, when the habit is positive. We seem to collect negative habits unconsciously, they creep into our lives without invitation, when we’re blinking or napping or checking our blind spot as we merge. They just suddenly are. We manifested them, but we didn’t watch ourselves do it, we didn’t hope to do it. I know that I recognize these negative habits and then focus on reversing them. I focus on the “bad” habit, label it as such, and then obsess over ridding my life of it. But, as the principle of The Secret suggests, thoughts become things. If we focus on the negative, on what we don’t want, the Law of Attraction will draw that thing closer to us.
Believe it or don’t, that’s up to you, but the core of the concept makes sense. Think of the placebo effect; if someone takes a sugar pill thinking it will heal them, and it does, that proves that the mind has power. The mind can literally heal the body. All potential hokeyness aside, the power of the mind has a literal influence on the physical body. Stress is cancer causing; joy is cell renewing. It’s as simple as that. Stress is toxic; joy is healing.
Control the mind. Detoxify the body. Heal the soul.