"Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it ... Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves." -- The Dhammapada
Have you ever seen a sculptor work with stone? That raw hunk of stone is nothing but stone until he decides what it is he wants to create. It is but a formless mass of unrealized potential until he realizes his vision, picks up the carving tools, and goes to work. Then the stone begins to take on the form and character that manifests his inner blueprint. To paraphrase Michelangelo, the sculptor simply removes the unnecessary pieces of stone -- and that which began with the energy of a thought becomes transformed into a thing of beauty.
Now, begin to see yourself as a master sculptor. Each thought you have is like another chip in the stone, shaping your unrealized potential, your future, your life. Understanding that your mind (where your beliefs are formed) is the point of origin for every thought you have, it is encouraging to know that it is not the errant thought -- the accidental slip of your carving tool -- that does the real damage. By this I mean that an occasional negative thought related to fear, judgment, jealousy, and so on will not ruin your creation. However, the same thought repeated over and over countless times is bound to put quite an indentation in the stone. This will weaken the foundation upon which a healthy life is built.
Throughout time, every spiritual master from every age and teaching has taught this same truth. It is a reality from which we cannot escape: As a man thinketh, so he is. It is done unto you as you believe.
Buddha was right. Our lives are shaped by our minds. We really do become what we think. The good news is that it is never too late to begin carving out a new concept of ourselves if we don't care for the shape our life is taking -- you are a thought sculptor and your creation starts with your next thought. What shall it be? Sharpen your tools and go for it.
As a mindfulness practice, consider the following process:
- What are you thinking? As a rule of thumb, what is the direction, tone, and intent of your predominant thoughts? Ask yourself, "What kind of life is my mind shaping for me?" Awareness of your thoughts is where it begins.
- Then realize it is not just your thoughts that may need to change; it's the beliefs you hold that create the thoughts as well. Ask yourself, "What beliefs about life do I hold that stimulate the thoughts I am having?"
- Monitor the thoughts you think today and, if needed, challenge the beliefs behind them. See how they have shaped your life up until now and how they will form your destiny.
- If you catch yourself chipping away at the foundation of your own happiness and joy, stop and invite the infinite intelligence within to help you craft a new thought -- one based in a belief that supports who you would like to be in the future -- one that honors the gift of the life you have been given.
The practice is that easy -- and that hard. You may have to do it a thousand times a day, but you are worth the effort, yes?
Note: This writing is an excerpt from my book, The Art of Being - 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life and is used with permission of the publisher.
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