“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.”
John Milton – Paradise Lost
“A good mind is a lord of a kingdom.”
Seneca – Thyestes
“The monsters of the mind are far worse than those that actually exist. Fear, doubt, and hate have hamstrung more people than beasts ever have.”
Christopher Paolini - Brisingr
The mind is amazing. It is also dangerous. It is incredibly powerful and it is often underused or used incorrectly. When we speak of the mind taking over we are not talking about something good. The untrained mind or the uncontrolled mind can be deadly, literally. People create anger, depression, hatred, and fear all because of what’s in the mind. People get sick and even kill others or themselves because of what’s in their minds. This isn’t to say that all illness is illegitimate, but in my own experience I know that stress caused me great physical pain. As Elizabeth Scott says in 8 Keys to Stress Management, the body often reacts to what is in the mind because the body doesn’t know the difference between a genuinely stressful situation and one created by the mind.
When people behave irrationally or dangerously, they are said to be out of their minds. When people are distracted or thoughtless, they are said to be mindless. When people’s minds are controlled, they are said to be hypnotized, and caused to do someone else’s will. So to be in our own minds or to be mindful is a good thing. Too much mind, however, may cause problems. The problems come when we believe or accept everything that comes into our mind as truth or as something to be acted upon without further reflection.
For example, I had a thought recently that almost triggered a panic attack. It came unexpectedly and mostly out of nowhere. I could feel the panic and the fear starting to rise. That created more fear. I was driving at the time, so I found a safe place and pulled over and read my two most recent blogs. The one about being patient was especially helpful. Then the panic receded. What the mind brought to me, the mind also took away. I replaced the harmful thoughts with more productive thoughts. I then got busy with some tasks and it wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I realized my panic had disappeared completely.
Yesterday I noticed something else that was disturbing about my mind. I noticed how quick it was to go to the negative in almost every situation. For example, if I got a green light, instead of being grateful, my mind went to the time I got a ticket. My mind also likes to relive past hurts, injustices, and inconveniences. Worse, it likes to create problems where there actually are none. It likes to go into the negative, the angry and the fearful. Sometimes the mind is like a spoiled child, always clamoring to have its own way. The more I cater to its bad behavior, the worse it will get. Like a child, it needs training and discipline. Left to its own devices, it will often cause problems.
I cannot spoil my mind. I cannot let it have its way. The mind is meant to serve a purpose. It is meant to help solve problems, not create them. It is meant to bring me curiosity, exploration and learning. It is meant to make me think and enjoy. It’s fun when I can reminisce or solve a puzzle. I even enjoy how it lets me solve a problem that I’ve been working on for a while by giving me the answer unexpectedly after I’ve let the problem go.
The mind must be my, servant not my master, because, like money, it is not a good or kind master, but it is a great servant. My mind can tell me to quit or it can tell me to Get Started and Keep Going. Ultimately, I must be in control. All products of the mind, fears, angers, discouragements, and even bad dreams must be examined and reined in. They are just thoughts, not reality.
Reality is when I take action. It is my mind that can get me to my Purpose or it is my mind that can distract me from it. I know which one I choose.