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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Seeking Appreciation

I’ve heard it said that “God loves you”. But what does that mean? It seems a bit abstract. Am I supposed to love this being back? How do I love an abstract entity? I can’t hug God or do any favors for him, right? And what if I find this world unpleasant, how do I love a creator of such miserable conditions? Why should I love something that’s only provided me with a piss-poor time?

Okay, some decent questions. Now let me ask you this: is there ANYTHING that you enjoy here on Earth?

Hm, well there are a lot of shows I’ve watched over the years that I’ve really enjoyed. I don’t particularly enjoy living life, but I do like watching it.

Okay, so you’re saying that your status as an embodied-being has at least provided you with an ability to appreciate shows about being human. Otherwise, if you were merely a conscious-cloud-of-gas, you probably couldn’t relate to human comedies or dramas, right? It’d be like watching a fish tank for example, it’d get real-old real-fast — whereas you can watch TV for hours everyday, year after year.

So if some entity created this world just to provide you with a means to enjoy shows about humans, that’s a pretty good gift, right? Maybe some aspects of the world were rushed and are not-so-perfect, but the storytelling-aspect is top-notch. So based on your enjoyment of shows/videos/movies/etc, you’d probably say it’s an impressive gift, correct?

I suppose if you put it that way, with all the shows and movies and stories I’ve enjoyed over the years, this world has been worth the price of admission. It’s like having a life-time pass to a cineplex or Netflix or something. I have to put up with a bunch of inconveniences, but the overall storytelling aspect is pretty great.

So with that in mind, imagine that God is the buddy that put all this together for you. It’s like he built the theater, the movie-projector, put in the seats, stocked the refreshments, wrote all the movies, had the actors do their stuff, and put in the special effects — in other words, he created a planet and everything on it just so you could enjoy an endless supply of entertainment. And all you ever have to do is sit there and enjoy it.

Are you telling me that you can’t find any love in your heart for a buddy like that? Again, maybe the seats are a little uncomfortable, maybe some people talk during the show, and maybe the popcorn could be warmer, but overall this is an impressive setup don’t you think? And correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve done nothing to deserve this gift, it’s simply been given to you.

I mean yeah, I suppose I didn’t do anything to deserve it. But it’s certainly not perfect.

Well if someone gave you a sweater as a gift, would you wear it in the summer? Probably not — but if you did, you’d get too hot and probably hate the sweater after a few hours. So in other words, if you’re not enjoying a gift, it might be because you’re not using it correctly. Is it possible that the world is better than you think, and you’re just using it incorrectly?

Hm, I suppose that could be true because I find the whole thing kinda confusing. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing, so it’s very possible that I could be doing something wrong.

So let’s get back to your original questions. In terms of God loving you: all this was created for your enjoyment — why else is there a world filled with so much orchestrated drama just sitting in the middle of nowhere? God isn’t abstract if you think of him as the buddy that designed and manufactured all this. And in that sense, everything you interact with is just a piece of God — so yeah you hug God whenever you hug anything within this world. And if you find this place unpleasant, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong, like wearing a sweater in the summer. At the very least, and as the most simplest set of instructions: just focus on the stuff you do like and your experience on Earth will vastly improve.

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.

Wonderful Wizard

It was less than two-months ago that I discovered I’m a masochist. I’m still trying to reconcile it. I don’t want to hurt myself, yet I constantly do in terms of insults and aspersions and lots of negativity. Basically I keep trying to bully myself into believing that I’m a weak, ineffectual, and fatally flawed creature that is subject to the whims of a harsh and random world. I can plainly see that the claim is not true, yet I insist on trying to convince myself it is. What’s up with that?

At this point, I am beyond certain that this world is dreamlike or simulated in some way. This is in no-way a natural earth — yet something wants me to believe it is. Why? I think the “why” is obvious: a simulated game wants to be believed, the fun comes from the sensation of full-immersion. But I think the problem I’m having, deals with the mechanism trying to be TOO convincing. “YOU SUCK AND YOU’RE POWERLESS!!! YOU’RE LOST AND YOUR SITUATION IS HOPELESS!!!”

And for the first few decades, the message was completely effective — I believed it whole-heartedly. But now it’s dumb. It’s like Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz: “Uh, I can see you’re just an old man behind the curtain talking into a microphone, your threats are meaningless now”. But there he goes, loud as ever, blaring those negative ideas through my thoughts. Shut-up already. I know you’re full of sh*t and I’m ready to appreciate the good-life now.

But if you recall, Dorthy and the gang had to rebuke the “wizard” to get him to capitulate. So I guess I must rebuke these negative thoughts that are trying to convince me of a falsity. They’re merely the result of an overzealous mechanism whose job is to convince me that this isn’t a fabricated world. “Stop it already! I’ve had enough! The curtain’s drawn, let’s move on! I’ll tell you what I want, and you fulfill it! Do you hear me!!?” Well, I guess we’ll see how that goes.

Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power…”
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: She wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

Loving What Is – Summary

This is my summary/interpretation of the book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie.

Four Questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?

Thoughts are forever flowing through our head. For the most part, thoughts themselves aren’t even true, they’re just a haphazard selection of ideas flying by our attention. Some of these thoughts cause us to feel bad — and we need to understand that there’s a cause-and-effect going on: negative thoughts cause us to feel bad. It’s not the external circumstance that causes the problem, it’s the negative thought about that circumstance that causes the problem — that’s it. When we imagine ourself in the same situation but without the thought, the situation always seems better.

In addition: it turns out that we are to blame for all our problems. Everything we think others should do, WE should do instead.

Whenever we believe that thoughts represent truth, we’ll suffer with stress. Like breathing, thinking happens automatically — and like the air we breathe, thoughts flow in and out. There’s no problems until we attempt to hold one in or keep one out — just let the thoughts flow unimpeded.

Everything that happens SHOULD happen. Don’t attempt to argue against something that already happened — it’s a recipe for pain.

We must mind our own business and stay out of everyone else’s business (including reality’s business). Attempting to control the world and everyone in it is a recipe for stress.

Unpleasant feelings are an indication that we are believing a negative thought. When we use unpleasantness as a means to find these thoughts, we can perceive their falseness and their ability to cause pain.

All the answers we need are within us. Essentially, when left alone, life takes care of itself. Any problems we experience are due to a belief in false thoughts. Stop believing in these pain-producing thoughts and life readily works itself out.

The external world we experience is a direct reflection of our thinking. We project our thoughts and stories onto the screen in front of us. It’s a bad idea to run over to the screen to try and change what’s on it. The better approach is to change what’s being projected in the first place. In other words, if there’s dirt on the lens, clean the dirt off the lens, not from the screen it’s projected on. Likewise, our problems originate inside, in our thoughts — not on the outside.

It turns out that every external problem we think we’re having, serves as a map to the actual problem in our thoughts. In this way, we can eradicate the source of every perceived problem we have.

Step one: if we’re feeling stress, trace it to the offending thought and write that thought down (this freezes the thought and allows it to be examined). Every stressful thought basically boils down to: “this shouldn’t be happening”.

For the first two questions, the answers should be “yes” or “no” — that’s it.

Example thought: My mom doesn’t understand me.

Is it true? Yes. Oftentimes her responses indicate a lack of understanding.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, I suppose I don’t know what’s actually going on in her head. No.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel misunderstood and separate. I then proceed to treat her like she’s a dummy. Overall it makes me feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more content in general and I’d be more satisfied with my interactions with her.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to self: I don’t understand myself.
Example: Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. Why should I expect her to understand everything I’m saying?
Turnaround to other: I don’t understand her.
Example: It’s true, I’m not always sure what point she’s trying to make. And maybe she did understand me, but I couldn’t understand how her response was appropriate.
Turnaround to the opposite: My mom does understand me.
Example: Overall we do seem to communicate effectively, maybe I’m just nitpicking the little things.

The turnarounds are the medicine we seek. By pointing the outwardly-projecting thought back at ourself, we realize the true source of the problem. And when we know the source, we experience relief.

Whoever’s around us will expose our weaknesses, and in that way we’re taught to improve. And every “he/she/they should”, is really “I should”. We will blame others for our suffering and paint them as scapegoats — but the true source is always the confusion found in believing our own thoughts. Everything others say we are, we are — never defend, just see the truth in what they say. Whenever we feel defensive, we know we’re hearing the truth.

We are sad because we tell ourself sad stories. When we change the story we tell, we change our experience of existence. And there’s never anything to forgive, simply because we cause our own problems. Never wait for a particular condition to be true in order to be happy, “skip the middleman and be happy now.” Despite any tumult that surrounds, remain calm and unconfused, then we become an example for our surroundings to follow. “With the thought, there’s stress, and without the thought, there’s peace.”

The experience of existence is as gentle and pleasant as the stories we tell about it. If we don’t want stress, don’t argue with what’s happening. In this moment, everything is as it should be. Nothing needs to change, it’s not our business anyway.

Stressful feelings and suffering are the result of believing that a thought represents reality. Whereas if we don’t believe thoughts, the effect is a peaceful life. Life is paradise when we no longer default to trusting thoughts.

Whenever we feel wronged or insulted, how many times do we replay the scene in our heads? WE are the abuser that torments ourself with repeated showings of the incident. We are more unkind to ourself than anyone has ever been.

“I am willing to…” turnaround: I am willing to have my mom not understand me.
“I look forward to…” turnaround: I look forward to my mom not understanding me.

With these types of turnarounds, we embrace what-is. We no longer have to deny certain circumstances or assign them the label of “things to avoid”. We can be fine with whatever happens. Inner-peace is attainable right now.

What is within our power to change? Our thinking. So that is what we should change. If we want to clean up the world, we must start with our thoughts. We have everything we need right now. We have the right amount of money and financial security for the moment we’re in.

When we realize a problem is our own darn fault, we laugh — suddenly we’re no longer a victim and we have the power to fix things. We go from loser to winner. Whereas when we blame others, and think our suffering is their fault, we’re forever a victim and constantly stressed-out. We often abuse ourself through others.

Try this instead:
Step 1: Notice an unpleasant feeling.
Step 2: Write down the associated thought.
Step 3: Ask the four questions.
Step 4: Turn the thought around.
Step 5: Feel much better.

Love is the only motivation we need — not anger or fear or frustration or guilt.

Self-judgement example thought: “I’m a failure.”
Is it true? Yes.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, maybe I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. So, no.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel like a loser. I feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more confident and I’d feel better.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to the opposite: I’m not a failure. I’m a success.
Example: I do what I do — I’m successful at being me.

Using “My thinking” instead of “I”:
The statement becomes: My thinking is a failure.
And it’s true, my thinking makes me feel bad.

Decisions are already made. When the thought to do something appears, do it. That part of our story begins with the thought, and ends when the activity is completed. In this way the story of our life unfolds before us. The internal debate about doing something is the problem. Instead of doing, we worry. Don’t worry, just do.

For the best circumstances, the mind must be clear. If the mind is turbulent, the world will appear so too. It’s useless to work on the image that’s projected, we need to work on the projector itself. And when the mind is clear, our impulses will show us where to go and what to do — that’s a happy life. Whereas if the thoughts are stressful, then it’s time to ask the questions and turn the thoughts around.

Unpleasant feelings are simply an indication that we’re confused. Ask the questions and turn the thoughts around to become unconfused. The world should be a source of joy and comfort — until it is, keep asking and turning.

Substitute “my thinking” for the perceived problem:
Example thought: “I don’t like violence because it makes me feel bad.”
In the turnarounds this becomes: “I don’t like my thinking because it makes me feel bad.”
or: “I don’t like my thinking about violence because it makes me feel bad.”

Our bodies maintain balance and are self-healing, they’re more than capable of running themselves. What gets in the way is our stories about our body. “My body is sick! My body is in pain!” Confused thoughts are the problem, never the body itself. Let the body take care of itself, we’re not capable of controlling the circumstances surrounding its smooth operation. The only thing we can contribute to a healthy body is our healthy thinking — focus on that. The body is a reflection of the mind: a sick mind leads to a sick body — heal the mind, heal the body.

Ultimately we can’t know anything. Therefore, the best course of action is to accept life exactly as it is in every moment. Develop a positive perspective and proceed from there based on the inspiration we’re provided. And the way in which we develop a positive perspective, is to blame our problems on our confused thinking — NEVER blame the world or life itself or our body or our choices or other people — our problems begin and end with our confused thoughts. Fix the confusion, and the problems disappear. In other words, stop trying to wipe the screen at the other end of the room, clean the lens of the projector instead.

The world is attempting to help us perceive our confused thinking. Nothing out-there is ever as bad as the internal hell we create with our incessant maschochistic thoughts. We imagine the worst and repeatedly live those thoughts everyday. We craft a horror-story and fantasize that we’re in it with no way out. We perceive injury and insult and replay it within our minds over and over again for years. We assign roles to people, making them the villains of our life. Yet WE are the villain tormenting ourself in a prison of our own design. We are the villain tormenting others, treating them as if THEY’RE the bad guys.

Without the horror-story, life becomes a joy to experience. Investigate the horror-story by using the four-questions and the turnarounds in order to discover its untruth. The pain we experience right now is self-inflected — it’s based on a story we tell ourself. We must stop being so unkind to ourself. Explore the depths of these horror-stories and let the light in. Start with whatever is causing stress right now.

Thoughts just appear. Pain comes from blindly believing them. Undo this attachment to the untrue thoughts, then feel relief. The path to a peaceful life begins and ends within — no other input or participation of others is necessary. The world we experience WILL reflect our own internal mental state — a joy-filled mind leads to joyful circumstances. When we finally understand that this is a benevolent world, our questioning will be over.

Remember: our judgements about others become a prescription for ourself. Any advice we give out, is actually for ourself. We are our own student.

Living As If

This is something I’ve been told, dunno if it’s real: if you put everything in place as if it’s true, life will simply follow through. In other words, “if you build it, they will come”.

A quick illustration: if you assemble a lemonade stand, put out signs, mix up some drink, stack the cups, and sit behind the counter, people will actually show up and patronize your business. In a natural world, there’s no reason anybody should ever show up. But in this world, the one we’re living in, customers come when you expect them.

Whereas if you do something half-assed and don’t expect much of it, you’ll see a return on that investment too i.e. nada mucho. If you don’t want customers or profits, don’t worry, they won’t come. That’s just how it is in this world: you find what you seek.

After decades of living here I suppose I can corroborate this theory. Although, I’d add that fulfillment oftentimes sneaks up when I least expect it. But because of my desire for delightful surprises, I guess life is correctly fulfilling my wishes by catching me off guard.

A word of warning: establishing a particular situation by whim-fully buying-on-credit can be a bit dicey. I’d reckon that borrowing is workable if there’s real collateral behind it, but it shouldn’t feel like gambling. Gambling is basically an expectation of loss — remember, you find what you seek.

I’ve been living as-if for the past eight months or so. For the most part, I’ve successfully eschewed thoughts of lack and worry. I’ve been earnestly enjoying myself. I find comfort and joy in my current surroundings. It hasn’t been perfect, but I wonder if I would’ve accepted it if it was.

In a natural world, I should’ve been using my time to establish a viable income to support my new lifestyle. But that’s not what I did. For whatever reason, I’ve been dedicated to establishing the best attitude I can muster. Now THAT hasn’t been easy and it certainly highlights how bad my attitude was.

But my feeling right now is that I can handle the next step. I also recognize that my old attitude could not have supported the lifestyle I want to live. When you have great things for example, sometimes you’re afraid of losing them or sometimes you feel unworthy of having them or sometimes you realize that “things” don’t satisfy like you thought they would.

I came into this world with a messed-up attitude, expecting the worst experience ever. I ignorantly perceived a nefarious nature underlying everything, disparaging all I saw. I was a straight-up hater and sower of negativity. I appreciate that fact now and apologize for it. I further recognize that this world is a paradise providing all that I need, it’s simply up to me to accept the gift I’ve been given. Thank you — and I, for one, welcome our new benevolent overlords.

Non-physical Improvement

In a non-physical world, the way to improve your life is through the practice of mental discipline. Given the situation you find yourself in, you need to find the fun and extract whatever enjoyment you can from it. Acceptance of what-is plays a big part in this. But the best part, is that your situation will vastly improve once you accept your current state. When you prove that you can handle a little, you’ll receive a lot more. Whereas if you refuse to play along and reject what-is, you’ll receive even less (having shown yourself incapable of handling things).

Mental discipline is mostly about practice. It’s maintaining an awareness of your thoughts and responding appropriately. Negative thoughts must be dealt with and defused. Negative thoughts are identified by the way you react to them. If you feel bad or behave poorly, then you can bet such negativity was preceded by a negative thought. You must identify and undermine that thought — find a way to make it false. You’ll need a new way of looking at the world in order to do this effectively. If you already had an effective perspective, you wouldn’t be having an issue dealing with negativity in the first place.

The most efficient perspective for this purpose is achieved by dropping any semblance of an absolute physical reality. In other words, you should develop a perspective that explains the world in a dreamlike way. From that standpoint, the world becomes infinitely alterable as well as a direct reflection of your thoughts. Whatever is happening within your mind, becomes the world you experience. If you have a turbulent mind, then you’ll live in a turbulent world. In the same way, a peaceful world begins with a peaceful mind.

Additionally, this dreamlike perspective makes everything your fault (you’re the dreamer after-all). This is good because you can no longer be a victim. Forgiveness becomes unnecessary because your lack-of-discipline is the only thing to blame. The world never attacks you, you attack you. And you will attack yourself — you’re a bit of a masochist. The only thing between you and the best life possible, is your attitude and the acceptance of life as it happens. Despite anything you think you’re experiencing, trust in the world’s benevolence and maintain an appreciative attitude — do this by utilizing discipline. In this way, you travel the path to a better life.