At any given moment you can be a slave to thoughts, the author of thoughts, a controller (or calm-witness) of thoughts, or abide in no-thought. Given the importance of these four modes to forming our perspectives on life we briefly describe them below.
MODE 1: As a slave of thoughts, you are trapped in your thoughts and emotions so that you become your anger, frustration, resentment or whatever emotions you feel. There is a need to avoid thought-slavery and to touch reality as it is, without the complications of our emotional baggage and associated thought-patterns.
MODE 2: In contrast, as author (or architect) of thoughts you deliberately employ thoughts such as self-talk or affirmations and visualization. (As author of thought you might even consider making use of other techniques like neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and hypnosis).
MODE 3: As a calm-witness of thoughts, there are two components. Firstly, as a calm witness of thoughts you become adept at shifting your awareness or attention to non-thought objects such as the breath, inner energy field or a simple mantra, which helps the quantity and intensity of thoughts to reduce. In this way, you can learn to be calm as a default position when there are no particular challenges – which helps enormously when real challenges arise.
Secondly, from a position of calm, you calmly witness your thoughts and emotions which tends to help them dissolve – you’re not caught up in them as in slave to thought mode. You realize too that your thoughts are not you and understand that disturbing thoughts or scary stories generated by a fearful mind, in most, if not all cases, do not need to be taken so seriously.
MODE 4: Abiding in no-thought may be more of a theoretical notion than a practical one for most of us. It could be described as a state of no-thought or more accurately a state of no-reaction to situations that would cause anxiety in the “average” person. This less reactive state can arise from prior intense suffering and the really deep realization that the source of your suffering has been thoughts – so you renounce them. This may be a psychological defense mechanism or a spiritual awakening. In any event, one can still have a friendly relationship with thoughts that do arise involuntarily and thank them for their input. Never fight with mind!
With reference to Exhibit 1 below, a sunny perspective concerns two of the four modes discussed above: Author of thought and Calm-witness of thought. The circles represent one’s head. The darkened area in “slave” represents “lost in thought,” the thick line in “author” a mortar board. The dotted empty circle represents awareness as calm-witness of mind – not lost in automatic or compulsive thought.
EXHIBIT 1: The Sunny Perspective
As author of thought we sidestep identification with thoughts or being a slave to thought, so that we are no longer necessarily bound to our old identity. We indulge in self-mastery and consciously choose our life into being by paying attention to what we want and refusing to pay attention to things that we don’t want. This is deliberate life creation, employing thoughts and actions in service of our mission on a daily basis and each moment of our existence. Becoming an accomplished author of thought can be aided by strategies such as repeating affirmations, visualization and creating the feelings of having our wishes fulfilled. We might employ stock affirmations for events that accentuate the positive and diminish the negative – for example: “I always bounce back more strongly.”
As calm witness, we observe our thoughts, emotions and reactions non-judgmentally with a compassionate understanding of the human condition – the tendency to be a slave to thoughts. Indeed, we realize that we are not thoughts and emotions (that come and go, so can’t be us).
With a sunny perspective, in place of ego-driven thrills you gain the joy of living just as you are without needing anything much. There’s no interest in keeping up with the Joneses; no preoccupation or concern with what others think about you, no need for engagement with the “hedonic treadmill” and fleeting glimpses of happiness. You decide to be happy, joyous and blissful now or perhaps more accurately these states descend upon you because there are no unhappy thoughts and no unhappy meanings given to your experiences. You accept what-is completely and avoid painful attachments.
The sunny perspective is a practical one that honors both our human and Being dimensions.
In keeping with the foregoing you can do two things:
1. Learn to become calm, relaxed, aware and present with a state of equanimity as often as you can
2. Author your life making use of the 4 P’s: pictures, phrases, posture and pursuits – to suit your purposes.
Pictures and phrases refers to your mental representations and self-talk respectively. Mental representations generally refers to visualization, although it can include other ways that your mind-body interacts with your world such as feelings and intuitions. Posture refers to an upbeat as opposed to a downbeat posture, one that reflects confidence and self-belief as a Source-inspired individual. Pursuits concerns your life choices – your ventures or adventures.
Use of the 4 P’s to author one’s life is a practical approach within the grasp of most people and mirrors to an extent practices we already use, but ones that are being used unconsciously, such as self-talk as we listen to our thoughts. Other practices such as neuro-lingistic programming (NLP), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and hypnosis may also be suitable for some people.
As the author of your thoughts and your life, you plan and design your life and avoid the default of slavishly following all aspects of society and culture. There’s no need to reject everything though – by all means keep what’s fair, good and noble, whatever sits right with your heart. You can engage fully in the “game of life” – setting and achieving goals – living an intentional yet moderate life that, ultimately, optimizes your well-being.
Daily, deliberate, conscious intentional living helps.