Written by J. R. Nova
For as different as Eastern and Western philosophy can be, there have been certain trends running through both that support the same perception—that mind is more powerful stuff than matter. This thread is sewn deeper in Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and practice, but it is not absent from European philosophy.
“All that we are arises from what we have thought.” – The Buddha
“I think therefore I am.” – Descartes
I am a Taoist, and I also, in my spare time, study up on cognitive psychology. Both are similar in that they suggest that the world outside of us is nothing more than a blank slate, and it is our thoughts inside of us that give the world its taste.
In his book “Feeling Good,” David D. Burns preaches this point. Burns pushes the idea that it is not what people do to us that gets us in a bad mood, but how we think of what they do to us, and that climbing out of the muck of depression, anxiety, anger, and other foul emotions, is as simple as changing how we view the world.
And from the Tao Te Ching:
“The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky. ”
Doesn’t sound like “The Master” is a person who lets others get him down, does it?
The mind is a very powerful tool, and it can also be a very dangerous one. Human beings often set out with a purpose, having an idea, and bend the world to fit that idea; so that two very different individuals will view the same event, having witnessed it together, very differently. A pessimist will find misery about, an optimist hope.
Humans are greatly influenced by those around them. There is no doubt about this, but we are not wholly determined to be what we are today, in this moment of time. We may not have 100% free will, since the world is far too complicated to control all our actions, or even expect that we’re doing things autonomously when our own behavior may spring from decades of habit, instinct, or some other device of nature, but we do have a little control over our thoughts.
And if we can control our thoughts, if we are at all sane, then we can shape our own destiny.
In your mind, think of a blue ball. Then think of a red one. You’re controlling the images that enter your brain. The real question is: “How will you control them?”
Will you see a world in which others are out to get you, where every slight is an offensive, where every action is an action against you? Or will you live in a world where you accept and nurture—the best you can—those around you? Will you be upbeat about the world, or down about it?
How can we put this into practice? It won’t be difficult, though it may require time. By visualizing or meditating on positivity each day, we can slowly begin to shift into a new world view.
Imagine people smiling at you, and you smiling back at them. Imagine hugging them. Visualize this about people you love, and even people you hate. Do this for strangers as well as friends. See yourself, not standing against people or separated from them, but one with them.