In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes, “Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind — or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body.” I remember the very moment I read this line over a decade ago. That book literally changed my life, setting me on a path of dis-identifying with my thoughts, perceptions, and ego.
Then came the day someone told me they read the book and didn’t really like it. I was completely baffled that anyone could possibly read those same words I read and be wholly unimpressed. But isn’t that exactly the point? Everyone assigns their own meaning and interpretation to everything. Our experiences are wildly subjective!
Years later I would see Tolle speak alongside Marianne Williamson who shared a line from a course in miracles: “You can mismanage your mind but you cannot diminish its power.” This, too, was a moment I remember well, quickly taking a piece of paper out of my pocket and jotting down the quote.
Holy shit, I thought. She’s right! The mind creates both poetry and atomic bombs — dreams, nightmares, and everything in between. It can be a force for good or a force of destruction. But it will definitely be a force, whether you like it or not.
Even the Tao Te Ching, written some 2,400 years ago, proclaimed that “Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self.” The wise have always known that our experiences are deeply colored by our thoughts.
Fast-forward a couple millennia and scientist Bruce Lipton writes The Biology of Belief and claims that “Your life is a printout of your subconscious mind.”
It’s the verdict of the ages!
Cogito, Ergo Sum
When seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes wrote “I think, therefore I am,” I suppose he may have been searching for fundamental proof of his own existence. Or maybe he was just smoking some good-ass weed. Either way, I have to imagine he considered what James Allen would publish hundreds of years later, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so shall he be.” In other words, your thoughts don’t just determine that you exist, but how you exist!
And when Anaïs Nin wrote “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are,” she was sippin’ that same kool-aid.
The point is, you were born into a body along with gender, race, language, culture, family, socioeconomic status, religion, genetics, and all kinds of shit that you never chose. You’ve been subjected to all manner of nature, nurture, trauma, and conditioning for all your formative years.
Thus, your default belief system is essentially a fucking cosmic accident. A ragtag bunch of mostly inherited mental sundries that will determine the course of your fate.
And if you have no mechanism for assessing the merit of your thoughts, i.e. if you believe everything you think, that junk drawer full of odds and bodkins on the top of your neck is gonna drive your bus, eat your lunch, and write your whole story for you.
A Mathematical Illustration
The number of possible outcomes for shuffling a simple deck of fifty-two cards is: 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000. This means that if every human who ever lived shuffled cards for their entire lifetime, the probability of arriving at two identically shuffled decks is still astronomically unlikely.
Certainly, you’ve got more than fifty-two beliefs, values, priorities, and experiences rattling around in your dome. So what do you suppose the odds are of bumping into someone who sees the world the same way you do? I’d say it’s categorically impossible.
Therefore, I think it would behoove all of us to simmer our feisty asses down a bit when our thoughts generate emotions that we interpret as reality and conclude that everyone on earth is wrong except us. It’s just not a strategy for compassion or authentic human connection.
Change Your Mind, Change Your Life
This book title likely originated from what American psychologist William James said a century prior, “If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” That’s really what it comes down to, y’all. If you have no interest in releasing the white knuckle death grip on all your most cherished opinions and beliefs, your life is probably gonna be a veritable flatline of emotional banality until you breathe your last complacent-ass breath.
Have you ever heard of someone winning the lottery or inheriting a windfall of money only to piss it all away and be broke again in a couple years? It’s a tale as old as time. Any external changes will be temporary at best until some internal transformation occurs.
This is the sad truth I know deep down when people ask me “How do I stop dating losers?” The solution isn’t to go date a better person. The fact is, you won’t date a better person until you power wash the inside of your skull, ridding yourself of whatever shame, codependency, fear, and dysfunctional belief systems that have you dating weirdos in the first place.
If you’re looking for change anywhere outside of your own mind, you’re looking in all the wrong places.