July 10, 2009

Two Sides of a Golden Coin

The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can alter his life simply by altering his attitude of mind. — William James

You are a living, breathing contradiction:

You become what you think about. and You are not your thoughts.

How can we reconcile these two truths of existence? By recognizing that your perception of reality is a trick of the light, so to speak. You are both the outside world and the inner world, both essence and physical being at the same time.

Inside and Out

Jesus of Nazareth said that the kingdom of God is both within you and outside you. The Tao Te Ching reminds us that your mysterious, essential self and its external manifestation both arise from the same source.

Understand that you are two sides of a golden coin. The unity of these two sides produces the whole. You can sit in the awareness of that whole through meditative practice (I’ll write about different styles of practice in another article.)

Yet it’s easy to be aware on the mountain top or the garden, but it’s quite another thing to be a saint in the city, to so speak. We must connect with our fellow humans, and maintaining a healthy connection can be a great challenge sometimes.

Locked Behind a Story

We’re complex creatures, and we treasure our stories — even the ones that tell us we’re incapable or worthless. “You’re no writer!” “People will laugh at you!” “That’s stupid.” All such thoughts are stories that keep us locked away from being fully realized adults.

You could try positive thinking and affirmations to change your thinking. But those techniques aren’t very useful if you don’t believe the message itself. If you can’t see yourself, for example, being free of anxious thinking habits or being a non-smoker, you cannot achieve those goals. They can’t manifest outside your thoughts because you still believe the opposite.

The good news is that you can change self-defeating behaviors and unproductive habits of body and mind.

Habits of Mind, Habits of Body

Our habits of body and mind are the results of the images, thoughts, and stories we hold in our minds. Scientists and psychologists now know what spiritual practitioners have known for thousands of years: That by changing our mental picture of who we are, we create new behaviors.

We become what we focus our minds upon.

Not only do we become what we visualize, but our little corner of the world reflects what we think back to us. So you also receive what you think about, every day, all the time.

That means you can change your world by changing your habits of mind.

Try It Yourself

Now, before you go asking how this could be, I’d like to suggest that it’s a rule of existence. It’s an easy rule to verify and validate for yourself. What works, works, so test it out for yourself if you dare.

Here’s what to do. Each night before going to bed, and each morning before rising, visualize a behavior you’d like to bring about in your life. Let’s say you’re perpetually late for appointments. Actively visualize in your mind’s eye arriving on time, every time. Vividly see yourself as someone who is always punctual.

It’ll take about 30 days for a change in the way you see yourself to become a change in external behavior.

If you perform this simple exercise, I guarantee that the behavior you want to create will become a reality. Start with something simple to get your visualization muscle working. I recommend writing down a brief scenario in which you tell the story of being the change you want to see in your life.

Try the experiment for 30 days, then send me a note about your experience. I’d love to hear about it.

Take time, then, each day to clear your mind and practice active visualization. The more often you do that, the clearer your thinking will be, and the more satisfying your life will become.

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