The Power of Thoughts – Swami Mukundananda
About 2500 thoughts run through our minds every hour. Even at this moment, we are bombarded with them. Imagine their potential healing power if they were joyful and optimistic. This book took an in-depth approach to understanding our thoughts.
The Opening Thought
Adi Shankaracharya asked a question in his book, Prashnavali :
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‘Who shall achieve victory in the world?’
The answer he provided was:
‘Those who have conquered their own mind’
What Is Thought
Thoughts are far more than the electro-chemical reactions happening in the brain. They are subtle energy forms created by the mind, with or without the assistance of the brain. It is pertinent to mention that not all thoughts require the brain’s intercession. There are a variety of thoughts that can be generated only by the mind.
Brain and Mind are not the same thing. Mind’s function extends far beyond the gross, tangible workings of the brain’s neurons. It encompasses the intangible, invisible, and transcendent world of feelings, attitudes and beliefs.
Why Negative Thoughts Arise
1. Overgeneralization: We make a general assumption based on a single incident.
2. Fallacy of Fairness: We feel that life should be fair.
3. Expecting a Catastrophe: We expect the worst to happen.
4. Filtering Out Positives: We take negative details of a situation and make mountains out of them, while forgetting all the positive aspects.
5. Imagined Mind Reading: The thought process where we are sure we know what another person is thinking. And typically, we assume it is something negative about us.
6. Labelling: We observe a particular behaviour by a person and apply a tag.
Reason for Negative Thoughts Part 2
7. Personalization: We assume personal blame for things that are outside our control.
8. Blaming: We engage in blaming others, saying that they are responsible for our emotional pain.
9. Imperative Thinking: We set the bar high and then project our expectations onto others. And when people do not match up, we detest them for it.
10. Polarized Thinking: This is all-or-nothing thinking that we must be fully successful or else we will be absolute failures.
11. Emotional Reasoning: We think that if we feel something is true, then it must be true.
12. Finger Pointing: This thinking is filled with fault finding in others.
How To Identify Negative Thoughts
Automatic: They pop into your mind without any effort from your side.
Distorted: They do not connect with all the facts. They jump to conclusions.
Unproductive: They undermine your motivation, feed bitterness and rob your optimism.
Justification: They provide excuses for you to be less than your best.
Intrusive: They are disturbing or even vicious, and yet quite difficult to switch off.
Three Step System To Eliminate Negative Thoughts
1. Dilution— Distance Yourself From The Thought:
Whenever a negative thought pops into your mind, remember that it is not you. Rather than adopting it, you can distance yourself from it.
2. Substitution—Replace A Negative Thought With A Positive Thought:
When unwholesome thoughts contrary to self-discipline and goodness arise in the mind, the reverse thoughts should be practiced.
3. Sublimation—Build A Positive Thought System:
Focus building on the thought chain of positive emotions. Cultivate in your mind wholesome ideas of inspiration, optimism, cheerfulness.
Discipline Your Thoughts— Pleasure Vs Happiness
The more a product gives us a dopamine rush, the more addictive it is. There is momentary gratification followed by regret. The more pleasure we seek, the unhappier we become.
The experience of happiness is very different from pleasure. Physiologically, it is attributed not to dopamine but to serotonin. This is not an excitatory chemical but a pacifying one, it does not fire the neurons; rather, it calms them down.
Do the opposite of mind’s urges. Every time we resist the urge for momentary gratification, we break the mind’s control over us.
Positive ‘Chintan’— Train Your Thoughts
In Sanskrit, mental practice is called Chintan. It means ‘deep reflective thought’.
Strategies to train your Chintan:-
Think Intentionally: Disregard the programmed response & instead consciously choose your thoughts.
Revise Desirable Thoughts: Push yourself past the complaining mind & practice contemplative thinking.
Think New Thoughts: Try new ways of thinking.
Feed Your Mind: Feed the mind a good diet of wisdom, inspiration & knowledge.
Physical Exercise: Exercise releases pleasure chemicals that supercharge our thinking.
The Art Of Effective Thinking
This includes a huge variety of thought skills.
- Diffused Thinking: The conscious mind is relaxed, our subconscious gets to work. Often happens while our conscious mind is engaged in some diversion.
- Focused Thinking: The conscious mind is in deep work to get tangible results.
- Big Picture Thinking: We explore possibilities and identify opportunities amongst them.
- Detail Oriented Thinking: Going into details of something to do excellent work.
- Critical Thinking: Thinking clearly and rationally to understand a matter in depth.
- Reflective Thinking: Allows us to revisit experiences with fresh eyes.
The Art Of Effective Thinking Part 2
- Attachment Thinking: Our emotions prevent us from seeing things as they are.
- Strategic Thinking: It’s aim is to devise an effective blueprint for action.
- Abstract Thinking: Thinking about intangible concepts such as freedom, equality.
- Practical Thinking: Use of common sense to evaluate the feasibility of ideas.
- Mature Thinking: Being aware of our emotions and having empathy for others.
- Spiritual Thinking: To find a deeper purpose to life.
- Divine Thinking: It imbues our every thought with selfless love
- Good thinkers are those who can use any or all of these styles depending upon situation at hand.