New book - example passages
The book will consist of a couple hundred entries, most of them under 200 words. There will be some that are longer, like entry #1 below. After I've written the introduction, you'll understand why I've chosen to present the ideas this way. There will only be a handful of main topics; each of them covered many times in slightly different ways. The sample passages below focus mostly on the topic of "rewiring our minds" to minimize the amount of negative energy in our lives.
Here’s a thought: Have you ever noticed that most of your physical and mental activity is completely automated? It’s true. That amazing brain of yours is constantly creating circuits that reduce the need for you to think. When it comes to physical activities, we understand this process as “learning how” to do something. Take riding a bike for example. If you plan on acquiring this skill, it’s going to take some serious focus, thought and effort...at first. But then, like magic, the thinking stops, the wobbling stops, the falling over stops and, suddenly you’ve got it. From then forward, staying upright and in control is practically effortless. But how did this happen? Well, without realizing it, you helped your brain grow new physical connections that didn’t exist before. Those new mental circuits are now doing what they were programmed to do so that you can focus your conscious mind on other things. OK, that’s how it works with physical activities, but what about activities that are purely mental? What about the inner voice that reacts to a news headline, a social media post, aches and pains, a stubbed toe, or the death of a loved one? What about bad mental habits, common inner narratives and impulses that inevitably lead to unnecessary suffering? Well, your brain likes to automate these things too. And once the unhealthy circuit is established (just like riding a bike), it’ll effortlessly bypass your conscious mind and take you for a ride. But here’s the problem: unlike riding a bike, you didn’t consciously choose to create many of the circuits that influence your beliefs, feelings, impulses and subsequent behaviors. For lack of a better term, many of them were “installed” without you realizing it. They were established when you were young, before you possessed the maturity and wisdom to question their value. If our brain knew better than to automate unhealthy mental activity, we’d be a lot better off. Unfortunately, it doesn’t know better. But the good news is, by using our conscious mind, we can teach our brain how to “know better.” We can uninstall unhealthy circuits and replace them with healthier ones. This is absolutely one of the most valuable skills a human being can possess. “Science” calls it self-directed neuroplasticity; I call it rewiring your mind. Whatever you want to call it, learn how to do it. It’ll improve your life in ways that you can hardly imagine.
It’s not that we have fear, anger, resentment or any other damaging energy trapped inside of us...what we have, instead, are completely unconscious / automatic habits of thought that generate these feelings. It isn't the past or present provocation that's the problem. Rather, the problem lies in our habitual / practiced response.
As you get better at observing your thoughts, you’ll be able to avoid entering the negative states of mind that unhealthy thoughts create. You’ll see the thought for what it is: An inferior way of dealing with a situation.
When you observe an unhealthy thought, simply ask your brain to produce a better option. Even if the second or third option is only slightly better, you still reduce the damage. Plus, you’re training your brain to understand that better options are always available and worth looking for. Pretty soon you’ll develop a habit of seeking better options automatically.
What if you’re unable to “observe” and block an unhealthy thought before it drags you into a negative state of mind? No problem. When you realize what's happened, you can begin the process of dulling the unwanted reaction (the negative feeling, state or impulse), by stating a preference: "I’d prefer the opposite reaction to the one I’m having" or, "I'd prefer to feel immediate disgust when presented this response." Or simply “observe” that you’re being offered an opportunity to remain in the negative state, and you can reply to that offer with anything from “thanks, but no thanks” to “screw that, I’m not wasting my time on this.”
Consciously acknowledge the positive feeling you experience when an unwanted reaction diminishes or passes. And if you have an improved reaction from the start (a situation that normally would have triggered you failed to do so this time), immediately embrace that reaction and express gratitude for it.
Always embrace and strengthen the desired connections in your mind, never embrace and strengthen the unwanted ones.
I refuse to nurture negative emotions when they appear. Instead, to the best of my ability, I observe them, acknowledge their existence, and then state the obvious: I can do better than that. If I choose the opposite response, I’m choosing to “practice” and strengthen those negative emotions. I’m wiring them deeper and deeper into my nervous system, making it progressively easier for me to slip into them again. Why would I do that? I have the ability to disrupt that negative energy (with the intent of improving my perspective, even just a little bit), and that enables me to continually improve my state of mind.
Why spend your life fighting and resisting the same unhealthy impulses when you can simply eliminate them? When there’s no longer an impulse or desire to do something, you can be offered the opportunity a million times and you'll never take it. Abstinence is effortless when you’re disinterested, or downright disgusted, by the thought of something.
If there is fear, your mind created it. If there is anger, your mind created it. If there is resentment, judgement, depression or any other negative emotion...your mind created it as a response to something. But why? Is it possible that the negative response is unnecessary? Is it possible that another person could face the same thing with far less suffering, or none at all? Is there any reason to avoid seeking a less-harmful perspective? To clarify, I’m not suggesting negative emotions have no value; they do. Negative emotions indicate we're perceiving something in an unhealthy way, especially when we ratchet them up to the highest degree. They’re similar to the pain response you’d get by placing your hand in a fire…nature’s way of telling you to alter your approach.
You can use your mind in a way that strengthens you, or you can use your mind in a way that weakens you. Like doing "reps” in the gym, each time you refuse to embrace / feed an unhealthy mental circuit (choosing instead to divert that energy toward creating and feeding a healthier one), you’ve done a “rep.” Over time, the unfed circuit weakens and dies, and the new one you’ve nourished takes its place. From then forward, the new circuit becomes self-sustaining. It becomes the new default.
If you respond in a way that is contrary to what you want, you're simply dealing with a program in your mind that needs to be deleted. (A "program," as I'm using the term, is basically a habitual response to something. There isn't a program that you've picked up that you can't put down or change.)
Awareness is enough. No need for anger, no need for fear, no need for anything that causes harm. To the best of your ability, observe without producing negative energy.
The provocations we encounter, perceived as good or perceived as bad, are necessary. They are the catalyst for our growth. They provide us an opportunity to choose a reaction; ranging from excellent to horrible; healthy to deadly. The more we move toward health, the closer we come to remembering who we are, why we’re here, and what we’re capable of.
Patience is medicine. Love is medicine. Gratitude is medicine. These states of mind can drastically reduce or completely eliminate our suffering.
Certain emotions deduct value from the quality of our life. Aggravation, hatred, depression, fear, etc. These emotions come at a high cost, and we’re offered the opportunity to pay that cost on a daily basis. If we seek greater peace and happiness, we must learn to reject the offer. And if we’re not yet strong enough to reply with a firm no, then we must negotiate a discount. We can ask ourselves “How could I view this situation so that my cost is 20% lower? How could I view this in such a way that it cuts my cost in half? Can I find a perspective that produces no cost at all?” And if we fail to reduce the initial intensity of the emotion, then perhaps we can save by limiting its duration. “How long should I accept this state of mind? 5 more minutes? 5 more hours? 5 more days? 5 more weeks? 5 more years? Should I nourish this state until I die?
Begin observing and assessing the value of your reactions. This is the first step in learning how to change the way you habitually respond to the world around you. The next step is to understand that any reaction (good or bad), can be made better or worse. So, begin experimenting with that idea. If you respond negatively to something, play the experiment out in both directions. Ask yourself: “Ok, how could I have made my response significantly worse?” After you realize how far you could have gone in the wrong direction, ask yourself: “How could I have made my response significantly better?” The purpose of the exercise is to begin developing and strengthening an important concept: The initial negative response is just one of an infinite number of responses that you can choose from.