As a Man Thinketh – notes

My notes/summary/interpretation of the book As a Man Thinketh (1903) by James Allen.

A poem by James Allen:

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:–
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.

Thoughts are the incantation by which we conjure our character and circumstances. It’s as simple as this: good things come of good thoughts — bad things come of bad thoughts.

Through our thoughts we create the world we experience. Through patience, practice, and persistence our thoughts can be molded to bring forth the best of life.

Like a garden, the mind is forever producing whether we tend to it or not. Without effort, the mind becomes overrun with weeds — whereas with some attention, a pleasant crop can be planted.

Chance is not a thing — we find ourselves exactly where we think we should be. If we believe in frustrating circumstances, our experiences will reflect this belief. But as control over thought increases, circumstances likewise come under control.

We gravitate towards whatever excites, whether it be from love or from fear. Our experiences are grown from our thoughts — we reap what we sow. External circumstances do not make us who we are — they merely reveal our underlying pattern of thought.

We don’t receive our various wishes and wants, but the sum of what we think. Thoughts have the power to imprison or delight — we experience whichever situation we earn through the cultivation of thought.

If we find ourself in miserable conditions, we can know our mind is rife with miserable thoughts. Thoughts are the cause and circumstance the effect. External improvement begins and ends within.

We often frustrate ourself with conflicting thoughts — wanting with one thought while thwarting with another. While it’s obvious that only oak trees come from acorns, the same is true with thoughts: good thoughts produce good things — bad thoughts produce bad things.

Improvement starts when criticizing and complaining end, when blaming others stops, when unpleasant conditions are used as the reflection of inner conditions, and when constructive and worthwhile thoughts become the new foundation of mind.

As the inside changes, the outside follows along. What looked confusing, unfair, and corrupt becomes well-ordered, fair, and honest.

Of course hateful and fearful thoughts lead to negative outcomes, whereas loving and gentle thoughts lead to positive outcomes. As we relax, life gets easier. When we stop our thoughts from thrashing about, the waves of the world are no longer stirred.

The body becomes what the mind believes. Sickness and well-being manifest based on habit of thought. Anxious and fearful thoughts welcome disease into the body whereas thoughts of joy and vitality strengthen the body.

It is not the diet that needs changing, but the corrupted thoughts that necessitated it. The finest thoughts naturally bring about a healthful diet. To defend the body, discipline the mind.

Thoughts of spite, jealousy, disappointment, and hopelessness act as poison on the body. The expression and agedness of the face readily reveal the thoughts we believed to be hidden within. Even death comes as peacefully as we believe it to come.

Cheerful thoughts can cure whereas pessimism can kill. Through our thoughts we confine ourself to a self-made prison or we enter through the doorway of heaven on earth.

By focusing on a purpose, the mind is made easier to control. By following our nature, devoting ourself to our duty, thoughts are concentrated. Upon this path, fear and doubt are our greatest enemies and must be slain without hesitation.

Whatever we accomplish or fail to accomplish, our own thoughts make it so. This is the very definition of individual responsibility. On one hand, we only have power over our own thoughts — but on the other hand, this provides us with an ability to alter the world we experience.

In this sense, the oppressor and the oppressed are cooperating in the creation of suffering. Both are afflicted with low-quality thoughts by ignorance. Both require improvement in thinking.

Through uplifting thoughts, we rise in the world. Through pessimistic thoughts, we sink in the world. For accomplishment and lasting success, effort must be applied to disciplining the mind.

The dreams we nurture will one day manifest. If we fantasize the worst, then we’ll achieve it. Whereas when we lovingly tend to the best of what we envision, we’ll achieve that. There is no good or bad luck, simply good or bad thoughts. Those we maintain, remain.

Strive to stay in a serene state. Practice remaining calm.

“The sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark* of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep: wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power.”

* “bark” in this context likely means “ship” as in a “sailing ship”.

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Flowing Flowers

The most important thing you can do to enhance your experience of existence is this: mental hygiene. In other words, if you’re having an unpleasant time, then you have a dirty mind. Every day, every hour, every minute, you have to tidy up as thoughts ceaselessly blow in through the window of consciousness.

The thoughts themselves aren’t necessarily “dirty”, it’s your own tendency to collect them and clutter up your mind that’s the problem. On their own, thoughts blow in, thoughts blow out — no big deal. But when you hold on to them, storing them away on a shelf for easy access, regularly marveling at them to the exclusion of new thoughts — you’ve got a problem.

Be careful of collected thoughts. Once you take a thought, it’s like plucking a flower off a bush. It’s cool to have it in your house for awhile, but it will wither and wilt soon enough, becoming a decayed version of its former self. And that’s fine, who doesn’t like some fresh-cut flowers around? But, you must maintain the vases and throw-out the flowers when they start to droop.

Who wants ugly or stinky flowers in their home? If a thought is unpleasant, don’t maintain it in your mind. Let it go, move on to the next one — there’s always a new one waiting to come in. Try not grabbing any, just soak in the sights as you browse the thought aisle. Scan past the ones you don’t prefer and focus on the ones you do.

Now – Condensed Summary

This is my summarized interpretation of the book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.

Enlightenment is: the enduring enjoyment of existence. The only obstacle to this serene state is the thinking-mechanism of the mind and its unremitting rumination. The thinking-mechanism just blathers on about life, shouting its constant commentary and criticisms while predicting dire doom. The thinking-mechanism is the terrorizer within, the source of all your problems.

You must strive to disassociate with this fiend. Those are no longer your thoughts, they’re just concoctions of conjecture floating by, worthless byproducts of the creative mind. As thoughts are no longer invited into your mental abode, a silence develops within that space. And the more often you shut the door on these unwelcome solicitations, the more this silence grows into serenity.

As the space between thoughts increases, your degree of consciousness increases. You’re currently driven by an unconscious addiction to the thinking-mechanism, a problem that won’t end without intervention. Thoughts are not who you are, they’re a diversion from who you are, resulting in an existential dissatisfaction.

Your true self exists in this moment only — that’s it. Your consciousness is simply trying to experience existence, but the thinking-mechanism is polluting the process and preventing this from happening. Your goal is to allow the consciousness to experience life without intrusive thoughts getting in the way (allowing you to enjoy existence).

Thoughts paint dour pictures of a woebegone past and a pessimistic future, slandering the actual experience of existence. Silencing these thoughts will drastically improve your experience.

Existence is happening right-now. Memories from the past or projections into the future aren’t actually happening when they’re envisioned in the mind — they’re concoctions of the thinking-mechanism. Staying in the present is the doorway to enlightenment — it’s the middle-way that must be maintained while abstaining from past and future musings that act as exits.

Just noticing that you’re not present, brings you into the present. Observe thoughts, feelings, and your reactions. Experience them, but don’t get lost to them. The primary object of attention should be right-now. Right-now is all there is, it’s the only reality you can actually engage with. By definition, the past no longer exists and the future hasn’t happened.

If you’re counting on circumstances in the future to make you happy, you’re doing it wrong. The condition of your consciousness right-now is what forges the future. So the way in which you improve your future is by improving your present, and the way to improve your present is to increase your awareness of it.

If you can’t enjoy right-now, you won’t be able to enjoy the future, no matter what the circumstances. The feeling of unfulfillment will follow you wherever you go. Waiting is a poor practice, avoid it — appreciate right-now instead. If you’re acknowledging the present, you won’t need to wait, you’ll have the greatness that’s in this moment.

Presence isn’t something you can think about, it’s the opposite of thinking, it’s the state of full-awareness of right-now. Be a predator whose prey is thoughts. When thoughts are allowed to flow freely, they’ll take you on a reckless ride downstream into unconsciousness. Keep your focus on right-now and you can’t get lost in thought.

How can you experience existence from an unconscious state? Obviously the ideal way to experience existence is from a conscious state while fully aware of what’s happening in front of you. If you’re too busy thinking about perceived problems, concocted pasts, and speculated futures, how can you appreciate actual life? Focus on experiencing; skip the commentary.

One method for increasing consciousness is by transfering focus away from the mind and into the body.

Here’s some practice: Focus on your fingers and notice the sensation, a slight pressure or tingling or just the feeling that they’re there. Then move up the arms and into the head then the chest and around the body all the way down to your feet. Feel the sensation individually and then as a whole, pervading the entire body — focus on this sensation.

While going about your normal activities, maintain some awareness of the aliveness/energy feeling pervading the entire body. Focus on the task at hand but widen your scope to include the sensation within the body as well. And when not doing anything in particular, instead of getting lost in thought, focus on that aliveness/energy feeling within.

Whenever you start losing yourself to an alleged problem, go into the body. By focusing on an inner sensation, your focus leaves the thinking-mechanism of the mind. Focus on a single part of the body, feel it, notice the sensation, it’s there and you’re aware of it. Do this for every part of your body. Once you’ve gone through them one by one, start at the bottom and move up the body like a scanner, from toes to head and back down again. Then, concentrate on the sensation of the entire inner body at once — focus and feel it. If focusing within the body is tough, start with breathing. Observe the breath: in… out… in… out….

Remember that meditation is the practice of not-thinking. And this practice shouldn’t be limited to the duration of each session. While outside of meditation, continue guarding against the thinking-mechanism of the mind and continue feeling the inner sensation of the body.

You want to develop a connection to a deeper you. There are a few methods for maintaining this connection. One is through an awareness of the energetic-sensation within the body. Another method is by literally focusing on right-now — through the conscious experience of everyday activities. Another method is through the purposeful suppression of thought — maintaining gaps between mental commentary. And another method is by surrendering to life and whatever it is you’re resisting.

Then once this connection is well-established, it becomes a portal for love to flow through — this is the bliss and elation that comes with living in the now.

Satisfaction with life is a state that’s achievable right-now. Waiting for a particular circumstance or condition to occur only takes you further away from fulfillment. If you chase external modes of satisfaction, you’ll remain on a perpetual treadmill of dissatisfaction. Satisfaction is an internal state, a state without fear or lack, a state without worry or neediness, a state unencumbered by negative thought.

You’ll know you’re not enlightened if you’re not radiating love and joy — or if you quickly lose composure when tested by life’s obstacles. And the best use of these obstacles is as reminders and opportunities to enter right-now — as beacons to become aware and witness, to surrender to life unfolding.

From a broader perspective, situations and circumstances cannot be considered good or bad — they just are. And your goal, is to attain this perspective. To be at peace, you forgive and you accept every moment. You let the past dissipate to allow the present to flow in unhindered.

If you consciously accept everything as it is, the drama ends, there’s literally nothing to fight against. Drama is caused by resistance, and if you don’t resist, there’s no conflict. Let life happen, practice acceptance, watch without judgement or opposition as you go up and down and all around.

The thinking-mechanism of the mind believes that complaints can force the world into compliance. In other words, it can get what it wants through criticism — by pointing out everything wrong with the world, sharp and undesirable edges will be chipped away. But this is an incorrect assumption of the mind — a more effective path is to avoid negativity.

The only valid use for negativity is as a reminder to become present. Just like an alarm, irritation can serve to jar you awake. You cannot solve your dissatisfaction with life by pouting and complaining, by resisting it. You must allow situations and circumstances to pass right through you. With this power of transparency, you cannot be ensnared.

Should you approach the experience of existence distrustfully, constantly on-guard, waiting for the doom-hammer to fall, belligerently opposing everything that comes your way? Or, should you willingly allow the experience to unfold before you, surrendering yourself to existence?

Surrendering to the experience of existence is not the same thing as giving up. Surrendering in this context essentially means approaching life with a good attitude — with acceptance and appreciation. You can do what you want as long as it comes from a positive place whereas you’ll want to avoid acting out of fear or anger from a bad attitude.

Whenever you notice that you’re in an unpleasant situation, you can use the power of surrender to turn things around. Essentially, you’re saying, “I’m okay with this! Let’s do it!” And with that attitude adjustment, everything from that moment forward improves — you’ve positively altered your future.

Your choice is this: resist life with a bad attitude or surrender to it by maintaining a good attitude. When you interact with the world while maintaining a bad attitude, you’re going to have a bad time as you denigrate and disparage everything in your path, you’re going to attack and defend as you navigate an imagined minefield.

Of course the world looks horrible when you have a horrible outlook. But have an awesome outlook, and the world seems suddenly better. There is no problem “out there” — your lack of consciousness is the problem. The thinking-mechanism of the mind is taking you on a wild ride through the rapids — and consciousness allows you to rise above this self-induced turbulence.

The thinking-mechanism of the mind is the origin of your resistance and bad-attitude. Surrendering, i.e. adopting a positive attitude of absolute acceptance, removes the authority of the mind, stripping it of its self-appointed leadership position. You can continue suffering until you can’t stand it any longer, or you can consciously choose to remain present from here on out.

Executive Summary: To enjoy life, disregard your thoughts.

Now – Chapter 9

This is my interpretation of the book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.

Chapter 9

From a broader perspective, situations and circumstances cannot be considered good or bad — they just are. And your goal, is to attain this perspective. To be at peace, you forgive and you accept every moment. You let the past dissipate to allow the present to flow in unhindered.

Drama regularly comes to those that live unconsciously. You are unconscious when you let the thinking-mechanism of the mind lead the way. This thinking-mechanism encourages you to believe in a faux-you, a scared and lonely creature subject to the ills of a hostile world. This mechanism manufactures an endless amount of fictional problems — yet your unconsciousness is the only real problem you have.

Whereas if you consciously accept everything as it is, the drama ends, there’s literally nothing to fight against. Drama is caused by resistance, and if you don’t resist, there’s no conflict. Let life happen, ride along with acceptance — watch without judgement or opposition as you go up and down and all around.

The thinking-mechanism of the mind believes that complaints can force the world into compliance. In other words, it can get what it wants through criticism — by pointing out everything wrong with the world, sharp and undesirable edges will be chipped away. But this is an incorrect assumption of the mind — a more effective path is to avoid negativity.

The only valid use for negativity is as a reminder to become present. Just like an alarm, irritation can serve to jar you awake. You cannot solve your dissatisfaction with life by pouting and complaining, by resisting. You must allow situations and circumstances to pass right through you. With this power of transparency, you cannot be ensnared.

Surrender is complete non-resistance. When you surrender, there is an end to conflict, the only option left is peace — and you attain it. Through acceptance, everything you accept becomes the greatest option possible. This allows you to find fulfillment within — you are no longer trapped on a treadmill chasing after mind-created fantasies.

The world you perceive is influenced by your perspective. If you believe in a harsh world, you’ll experience the fear and fighting you expect. The world is subject to different interpretations based on perspective and level of consciousness. Therefore, to improve the world, you must broaden your perspective and increase your consciousness.

Improving the world begins within. Without an internal change, the ills of the world would simply start again each day. Your goal is to seek enlightenment and go from there. Become present in every moment. Be the beacon of peace encouraging the unconscious to safe harbor.

Now – Chapter 8

This is my interpretation of the book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.

Chapter 8

Satisfaction with life is a state that’s achievable right-now. Waiting for a particular circumstance or condition to occur only takes you further away from fulfillment. If you chase external modes of satisfaction, you’ll remain on a perpetual treadmill of dissatisfaction. Satisfaction is an internal state, a state without fear or lack, a state without worry or neediness, a state unencumbered by negative thought.

Your thoughts have tricked you into believing that you need something. You need nothing. You are complete as-is and the entrance to satisfaction is already open — the gateway is right-now. It’s literally now or never. Even in relationships, your goal is to accept the other person as-is — without criticism or a desire to change who they are.

You’ll know you’re not enlightened if you’re not radiating love and joy — or if you quickly lose composure when tested by life’s obstacles. And the best use of these obstacles is as reminders and opportunities to enter right-now — as beacons to become aware and witness, to surrender to life unfolding.

The worse time you’re having, the more motivated you’ll be to seek enlightenment. And be careful not to define yourself by pain and suffering, making them an essential part of who you are. Never identify with victimhood, right-now is the only moment in which there is power — and in this moment you choose where to focus: is it toward pain from the past or the joy of right-now?

Thought Tolerance

Dear Rich, should I actively suppress my thoughts? That seems kinda harsh, shouldn’t I be more tolerant towards them — a bit more peace, love, and harmony? Maybe just observe them non-judgmentally?

Dear reader, have you not been listening to your thoughts? They’re straight-up evil. You can’t reason with them. They fling sh*t just to watch it stick. Being tolerant of intolerance leads to a cesspool that nobody wants to swim in. It doesn’t work, and years of Internet-based-forums has proven this point. With anything high-traffic, you absolutely NEED strong moderation.

Imagine a public restroom, now imagine some guy pinching a loaf right into the sink. Freedom of expression right? Why not? You just gotta be more tolerant bro. Or is it wrong to poop in the sink? And if that’s wrong, and a certain level of decorum must be maintained, then you shouldn’t allow your thoughts to sh*t on EVERYTHING within this world.

Your thoughts are NOT the end-product, they’re simply the byproduct of a creative mind. In other words, they’re the waste that must be disposed of properly lest that sludge pollute the environment. Don’t believe me? Just take a bit of time to watch those thoughts oozing by — notice how you feel — take ’em all in too, every last piece of pessimistic excrement.

Sick of the stink yet? Are you ready for some law and order? Then shut that sh*t down! Your goal is pure unadulterated consciousness — experiencing, without thought. Eating an apple? Then just eat an apple. “Hm, it’s an okay apple but I’m wondering…” NOPE. Shut it down — just savor the flavor. Walking down the street? Then just walk down the street. “Huh, I hope that…” NOPE. Walk — no internal talk.

And lastly dear reader, if you don’t actively control the toxicity emanating from your mind, you’re passing the burden onto everyone else. You’re like the guy randomly sh*itting in the sink expecting everyone else to just “deal with it”. If change starts within, your thoughts are ground-zero. So yes, you need to suppress that sh*t.

A Conscious You

Dear Rich, what would a more conscious me look like?

Why dear reader, that’s a very good question indeed. Why bother trying to attain a state of constant presence if there isn’t any benefit? Well in fact, there IS a plus side to being-in-the-now.

For starters, do you know all that negative rumination that tends to ruin your day? Gone. You’ll have a clear head and a clean conscience. Instead of arguing with yourself and everyone else, instead of feeling guilty and shameful, instead of forecasting the most dire consequences possible — you’ll be free. You’ll no longer be a prisoner within your own mind.

Do you know all those worries you have? Gone. What’s going to happen in the future? Who cares — not you, that’s who! You’ll be too busy engaging in the present to give any energy to false prophesies. What’ll happen five years from now? One year from now? Even five MINUTES from now? WHO CARES!

Oh boy, and did I mention the pure bliss?! Why, when you’re livin’ in the right-now you’ll be feelin’ the full joy of this moment every second of the day! It’ll be euphoric even! Just picture it, there you are, fully engaged in the activities comprising existence, and your consciousness is experiencing everything with full focused attention!

Makes ya wonder why you’re not doing it already. Well sir, no time like the present — ha! And lucky for you, the-now is literally happening right-now. Simply shut that thinking-stuff down and begin. If you believe it’s gonna take some time to put that baby to bed, you best start the work immediately — because the sooner you begin a thought-free life, the happier you’ll be.

And I hear ya, you’re thinkin: “Rich, that sure sounds good an’ all, but I’m havin a hard time swallowin what you’re sellin”. Well friend, all that skepticism is just your thoughts talkin — the precise part we’re tryin to get rid of! ‘Course it’s gonna fight back! But that’s no pal of yours, heck, your thoughts have been outright torturing you your entire life! Makin up all that scary stuff that never happened, humiliating you, frustrating you — doin whatever it could for no reason in particular.

But now it’s time for your consciousness to get its due — a thought-free turn at life. An uninterrupted experience, living without the constant commentary. Why it’ll be the life you always knew you should be livin ‘cept there was somethin holdin you back. And you’ve finally found the culprit! Those dirty good for nothin thoughts. Well say goodbye baby, ’cause you’re consciousness-realized now!