Thought—the act or process of thinking—is one of the greatest powers we possess, and like most powers it can be used positively or negatively, as we choose. A great majority of people have never been taught how to use thought, the master power of the mind. It is just as essential to know how to think correctly as it is to know how to speak or act correctly. Ernest Holmes, founder of Science of Mind, offers why he believes this is so; he said, “Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.”
With modern scanning equipment, we can see the brain, but we cannot see the brain working. We see only the results of the brain activity. The mind, which is invisible, directs the thinking process. It tells the brain how to sort experience and fact, and how to give shape and form to new ideas. The indirect action of thought is easy to understand, for obviously a person must think before he can do anything. Thought is the motivating power behind an action, just as electricity is the motivating power behind lighting our home. Thought also has a direct action on matter. Regardless of whether or not we translate our thought into actual performance, the thought itself has already produced some kind of effect.
Have you ever had an original idea and wondered where it came from? It’s as if your mind planted a seed of the idea in the brain. Your brain recalled your experience and knowledge and developed the idea in a way that could finally be expressed by you coherently and persuasively. The idea probably improved as you tested it under various conditions.
In the same way, the mind can tell the brain what to think about. It’s tempting to believe that we have no control over what comes into our heads but, in reality, we do. If a thought comes to you that is not in your best interest, you can, with very alert practice, begin thinking something else, so that the undesirable thought will go away.
Sound difficult? Try the following experiment. If someone says to you, “Don’t think about bananas!” you immediately have a picture of a banana right in the middle of your consciousness. To tell yourself to stop thinking about something doesn’t do a great deal of good then, does it? The undesirable thought must be replaced with a desirable thought. If you don’t want to think about bananas, try thinking about Valentine hearts. Once these two words are planted in your mind, you can picture the Valentine heart, in all its beauty, and the bananas are gone.
This is called the “crowding-out technique.” (See The Templeton Plan, Harper Paperbacks, p. 113). If you fill your mind to capacity with thoughts that you think are good and productive, you won’t have room for the bad ones. The thoughts you can “crowd out” are those of envy, hatred, covetousness, self-centeredness, damaging criticism, revenge, and any time-wasting thoughts that are unproductive for your ultimate goals in life. Another method for crowding out negative thoughts is to quietly release them. You might affirm, “I lovingly release you to the vast nothingness from whence you came.” Then let them go.
When you face an unpleasant task, such as mowing the lawn, it can be tempting to complain about it. However, when it’s in your best interest to finish the job, why not make it more fun now that you know you can? How? Use a “mind talk” with yourself. For example, do you like the color of your lawn mower? If so, every time you catch yourself thinking, “I don’t like mowing the lawn,” think instead, “I like my red lawn mower.” Ask your family and friends to help you. If you say something negative about mowing the lawn, they can wink and smile and say, “Oh? What color is your lawn mower?”
It is important for you to find something that is true for you, however insignificant it may seem, with which to replace the negative thought. It could be that you enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, being outside, the smell of newly mown grass, or that you may get to visit with a friend over the back fence. If you allow yourself to think in a particular manner today, it can be easier to think in that same manner tomorrow. Anything to change your negative thought to a positive one will change your attitude and, as a result, your experience around it. Your grass may not only get mowed, but you will feel better about yourself.
Be kind to yourself in this process. If you’ve worked at changing your thoughts and the negative ones seem to keep roosting in your mind, laugh at yourself. Accept that you’re doing your best, and return to thinking your replacement thought. As you become more adept at controlling your thoughts, your positive, good thoughts will change your life for the better.