Many times I’ve heard from my friends 'I can’t stop thinking about it' or 'I couldn’t sleep, I kept worrying all night'. Very often when I asked, if they know that they can learn to control their thoughts, they said that it’s impossible, the thoughts are just coming and they don’t have the power over the stream of consciousness. It might be that you think something similar… And what if I tell you that you can learn to control your thoughts? What if I tell you that you can change the way you think and stop the sleepless nights? Would you have enough courage to try & do it?
When I found out that my longtime mentor, Louise Hay, passed away last month I felt very sad and lonely. Even though I never met her in person, her voice and guided meditations saved me during many sleepless nights in my life. That’s why I thought, the best what I can do to continue her mission, is to share it. Here are my thoughts then, on her most important message: you are what you think.
Let’s start from the beginning. What does it mean 'to think'? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, „to think (v.) – to believe something or have an opinion or idea„. When we look at the etymology of the word, it gives much more clues: „Old English þencan imagine, conceive in the mind; intend, wish, desire” probably originally „cause to appear to oneself„. That definitely shows we are creators of the thoughts. That means we can control them or change if we wish to!
Nobody has ever seen a thought and even scientists can’t really explain how does it happen, that we think. The scientific approach is that because we don’t know how we think, we can’t control our thoughts. However, if we are the person thinking those thought, surely we do something about it?! Plus the definitions above, that come from tradition and history give us a hint, that 'general understanding' is that we are the creators of thoughts.
My approach is more spiritual, than scientific but there is a lot of logic to it. I agree with Louise, and many other, who believe that not only we create our thoughts but also that our thoughts create our reality. Yes, the thoughts reflect reality (or surrealism, because we can think about things we’ve never seen or that don’t exist) but thoughts also have a creative power. Ultimately, if we are thinking those thoughts, are they not coming from us (inner to outer), not the other way round? I’ve started recently learning meditation with the local Spiritual University (Brahma Kumaris). They teach the following logic: When we get sad, for example, or angry that FEELING comes from somewhere, it doesn’t just come from thin air. The source of the feeling is a THOUGHT.
So we think first about something and then this something makes us sad/happy, etc. Those feelings we feel, often turn into WORDS, when we complain, shout at someone or say a compliment. If the feeling or a thought are 'strong' enough, they will evoke an ACTION related to them – you are angry, so you will shut the door loudly or leave the room. If you repeat the actions often enough, they are very likely to become your HABITS. The sum of habits overtime becomes your CHARACTER – when you think about yourself I always get angry easily. Eventually, your character becomes your personality and your personality is who you are!
Let me give you an example. I’m sitting at home in my favorite armchair and the doorbell rings. I think: Who can that be? Maybe it’s my neighbour, who wants to borrow some money again… Then I feel frustration & a bit of anger, because, He still hasn’t given back what I gave him last time (these are my thoughts). So I ask at the door Who is it? anxiously & don’t open the door straight away. If the neighbour comes often enough, with time, I will always ask Who is it? at the door and it will become my habit. This little distrust and anxiety might then turn into lack of trust to men or neighbours in general and become my character and my personality… Single actions are just actions but habits + feelings related to them are powerful.
Now, if we assume that the thoughts WE THINK create our reality, based on the above, what can we do, not to create/or change the habits that we don’t want in our life anymore? First of all, we have to remember that, when we were children, those things were happening much more unconsciously. We got to know the world & learn its rules through observing adults and drawing our own conclusions about their behaviour. When we are adults, often we just repeat what we unconsciously know and rarely question our own actions or thoughts. But now, as adults, we have the power to rationally assess what we think and try to dig deep to find out why. I’ve heard a story once: A lady was making a cake (Polish 'drożdżowe'). She made the tough, took 1/4 of it and threw it out to the bin. Her daughter asked why is she doing it. She said, that’s this is how you make this cake, this is a family tradition. Her mum was doing it this way. The girl got curious, so she went to ask the grandmother, who said the same: it’s a family tradition, my mother was doing it, that’s how you make this cake. The daughter didn’t give up. She went to the grand-grandmother and asked same question. The old lady said: Oh, you don’t really have to do it, I just had a baking tin that was too small for a full portion, so to make sure that the cake raises properly, I was only putting 3/4 of the dough in it…
As adults we can question 'the truths' that we’ve known since childhood and consciously try to change those beliefs. The best place to start is our thoughts. Watch them, observe them and catch yourself when you think something you want to change. When I was a small girl, adults in the village I was spending my summer holidays were always 'warning us' that if we are not 'good' and don’t listen to them, a man will come and kidnap us. You know, silly talk of old ladies but recently I’ve noticed that this might be the reason that I always feel suspicious of strangers. When I see a stranger coming round me, I very often think that he wants to harm me and those thoughts result in actions like quickened step, closed doors, etc. (And I’m not talking here about common sense, middle of the night in a dark alley fear…). Now, when I catch myself thinking those thoughts, I consciously try to asses the situation and if there is no real danger, make an effort to think something positive, like Maybe he needs some help, Maybe he just want a chat. You may think, It must be hard work. If, I have been thinking like this for more or less 20 years, so it might take me a while but one has to start somewhere! Yes, it’s not easy at the begining, like everything new you learn, but to be honest I was surprised how quickly I could see the results. Not only I stopped thinking that strangers want to hurt me but also stopped thinking that I am a distrustful person, because I am not! And I definitely don’t want to be one!
A similar principle works with what we think we can & can’t do. The actions are stopped by our thoughts. If we want to do something, we should start from looking at what we think about the action and why. For example, I want to be fit, so I’d like to exercise 3 times a week. I rarely do it that often because I think I can’t be bothered. Why I think that? Because I also think that I’m not good at sports & that’s it’s very difficult to do the exercise I do, it’s too much effort. So the way to go, to change the root cause of me not doing the exercise is to notice the negative thoughts I think about my exercise and replace them with something like: Exercising is easy & I’m good at it. Think about what you would like to do, you curently have difficulties with & maybe try to look at ypur thoughts related to that task… When we sent our mind to something, nothing is impossible. Louise Hay thinks so, so do I 🙂
And for beginners who have difficulties spotting your own negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones, I recommend guided meditation. They do give us a lot of perspective. For me they worked especially well in the beginning, when I used to have a tendency to worry and over-analyse. Of course, for me, the best place to start is with Louise Hay – you can find some of her best ones saved in my YouTube playlist here. She has an amazing evening meditation, to calm your mind before sleep & a really nice morning meditation that I was always listening to on my way to work.
As usual, we are only scratching the surface here (you can read more on thoughts & their power in the links below) but it’s worth mentioning that the positive thinking works when you think it works! The negative thinking works anyway 😉 Only you have the ability to change YOUR thoughts, so I encourage you to try. You have nothing to lose & so much to gain!
„The thoughts we think & the words we speak are constantly shaping our world & our experiences. Many of us are in the old habit of negative thinking and we don’t realise the damage we have inficted on ourselves. However, we are never stuck, because we can always change out thinking.” Loiuse Hay
[Unfortunately I don’t know who created this picture, so I’m not able to put credentials here. If you know who this belongs to, I’d be very grateful if you can contact me, so I can copyright accordingly.]