The title is to grab your attention.
Most of you are probably thinking that I’m referring to controlling other people’s minds á là Jedi Powers right? But no, this post is going to be about controlling your own mind.
At first, this might seem like an exotic, esoteric idea but put in the proper perspective it is quite common which I’ll demonstrate. We’ll get to the exotic later. :-)
The common is often referred to as simply “thinking positively,” “having a good attitude,” and so on. In sports, you have to believe that you are going to win or you probably will not. Put in these terms one might not think of them as “mind control,” but that is exactly what is happening.
We are conditioning our minds to “believe” in a positive outcome and overtime conditioning our own minds to think in a certain way. On the opposite end of the spectrum “negative” people might always complain and the more they do complain the more negative thoughts they have until the negativity has pretty much taken over the majority of the thoughts.
Moving further into mind control it takes a cognizant effort to change one’s own thoughts. We have to stop, identify the thoughts we are thinking and ask ourselves, “Why am I thinking this?” Can I change it? The fact is that you can.
I’ve found that the majority of people let outside influences control them and their thoughts than the other way around. It is as if they have relinquished control of their own minds and let random events and external interactions determine which thoughts they are going to have. The question is, why would we want to let this happen and would it not be better to project our own thought process and “mind” on the world?
I’ve put one foot in the esoteric here but to quickly come back to the common, I’ll give a few examples of how I consciously changed my own thought process.
I. Two Examples
1. Stress while driving
When I first arrived in San Francisco after living for five years in Asia I was quite relaxed and easy going. I took a job and in the beginning had many ride alongs with my boss. I found that his tension levels rose tremendously when driving and he became very angry at other drivers since the traffic can be quite chaotic here in San Francisco.
At that time I told myself that I would not become like that as there was no point in becoming angry over something I could not control. Yet, after just one year of driving here, I found myself doing the exact same thing. If a driver made one small mistake I found that I immediately became angry and would lay on the horn.
Then, I realized what I was doing and told myself to not let myself become angry anymore. I was giving power to these external forces and letting them determine my own thought process. I trained myself to control my own thoughts and now I never lay on the horn and never become angry when driving.
People step out in front of me when they are not supposed to and sometimes drivers cut me off. Yet, it no longer affects me in any way. This is all because I now control how I am going to think instead of letting external forces control my own mind. All it took was a simple decision to do so.
2. Foreign Countries
It is no secret that when living abroad some people will have a wonderful time, others will have a terrible time and still others will be somewhere in between.
When people ask me if country x is fun or country y is a good place to live I find it difficult to give a short answer. The fact is there will be a range of experiences some good, some bad but it is up to the mentality of the individual which will determine if they enjoy it or not.
Living in a foreign country for the first time is an intense experience. The normal path usually followed goes like this:
a. Honeymoon phase
- Everything is new and exciting. This is a very enjoyable time
- People become depressed and are overwhelmed by the new culture. They often have thoughts of returning home
- They bounce back from the crash, have more in-depth experiences with the culture and begin to enjoy it again.
This cycle can repeat itself many times. But we have to ask ourselves, is it the culture that changed or is the way we think about it? The fact is, it is our own mind cycling through these phases. It is true that external experiences will play a big role, but if one thinks in a positive manner then enjoyable experiences will “manifest” themselves more and more.
Now, I’ve stuck my entire leg into the “esoteric” but am not ready to dive in. Let me give a simple example of how I made a conscious decision to control my thoughts in Japan.
One aspect that can bother some expatriates is that they are constantly an object of curiosity. You look different, and ARE different from the general population. This invites a lot of stares. One of acquaintances in Japan complained to me about constantly being stared at when he got off the train. The platform is very long and sometimes I refer to it as a “catwalk.” You step off and have quite a long way to walk alongside the stopped train to the stairs leading the way out. As you are walking by the train, many of the passengers will stare at you as you walk by.
For my acquaintance this was very bothersome. However, for me I enjoyed it quite a bit due to my way of thinking. I understood that most of the people were simply curious and I should be happy for all the attention. So, that is exactly what I decided to do. I decided that I would enjoy all these eyes staring at me and from that point on it was an enjoyable experience.
If we think about this, both my acquaintance and I are in the exact same situation, in the exact same train station in the exact same country. But one of us is enjoying the experience and one is not.
Some may attribute this to “personality,” but I ask, what is personality? Is it something we can consciously change? It may be difficult to change an entire personality without a lot of practice but in it’s essence isn’t “personality” simply a state a continual state of mind?
Some foreigners will thrive very well in a foreign country where others will crash and burn. Would it not be beneficial for those that are having an unpleasant experience to try and keep a positive state of mind? Again, there are some external factors that will come into play and it takes a lot of practice to change one’s mind but is it not possible to do so?
II. What World Do You Live In?
In the previous example I used living abroad as it is a complete change from what we are used to and our mindset is going to play a tremendous role. Now, let’s come back to our domestic countries and ask the same question.
I live in San Francisco which is a large city full of many inhabitants. Many love the city and have a wonderful time. Others would prefer to live somewhere else and are full of complaints. In both cases, the individuals are experiencing the exact same city and have the freedom to explore, gain new experiences and enjoy themselves if they wish.
It is without argument that there are many diversions with which one can entertain themselves so it is not a question of being a “boring” city. Some live in less desirable neighborhoods while others live in better. It can also be said that those living in the “less desirable” areas can be quite happy and take advantage of all there is to offer. While those that live in “better” areas can be quite miserable.
The truth is, it makes no difference where you live or what things you have in order to make one happy. It is simply a state of mind. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, a majority of people will let life determine how they are going to think and what their mindset is going to be. Again, my question is why would we let these external forces control us? Why would we not want to make a conscious decision to be happy and enjoy life no matter what the circumstances?
This was proven to me when I visited a very poor village in Vietnam and then a high powered law office here in San Francisco. It was quite obvious that the poor villagers smiled more often and were more friendly than the high powered lawyers who rarely smile and seem unhappy.
One would think that it would be logical that the poor villagers would be unhappy as they have very few prospects to “advance” while the high powered lawyers have the world at their fingertips. Yet, the reverse was true. We could get into all the varying reasons as to why this is with one perhaps being the poor villagers, when comparing themselves to others, simply do not know that they do not have very much. Perhaps they have less stress? It may be a variety of reasons but the important thing to realize it is simply a state of mind.
If the lawyers are chasing money which they believe will make them happy but never seem to reach the goal of actually being happy, then why would they continue? This brings to mind a story I once heard about the MBA graduate and a fisherman. It goes something like this.
There once was a poor fisherman who enjoyed life in his village and everyday would catch his fish. One day an MBA graduate came to him and said, “Why do you waste your time fishing for only you and your family’s needs?” “I have an idea where you could hire others to fish for you, and then you could supply the entire village!” ”After that has been accomplished, you could travel to wall street, sell your business to the highest bidder and make millions!”
The fisherman asked “And what could I do after I have made my millions?”
The MBA replied “Then you could come retire in your village and go fishing.”
Now, I understand the logic here is very simplistic and that the fisherman would be protected should the fish run out. However, we also have to ask ourselves if the new corporation would fish so much that there would be no more fish and then the village left devastated. Kind of feels like what is happening today with what the major corporations are doing doesn’t it?
The moral of all this is going to have a twist, which is everyone, the MBA, the fisherman, the lawyers and the poor villagers can all be happy. It does not matter what their individual circumstances are, they all have the ability to make a conscious choice to be happy if they wish. It is simply a state of mind.
So, we have to ask ourselves what world do we live in? Are we a poor villager, a high powered lawyer, or in one of the other millions of professions? Does it even matter? What world have we constructed for ourselves and how do we choose to perceive this world?
Coming back to San Francisco, I think of the city in a certain way. For some, they will say San Francisco is “x,” but for others, San Francisco is most definitely “y.” I realize I have a certain mentality about San Francisco but I consciously try to break this mentality from time to time and form a new one. To help with this, I like to travel to different places, read up on the history and discover new things. I use external stimulus to break my former mindset and then make a conscious decision to enjoy these new experiences which contribute to a whole new mentality about how I will think of San Francisco.
III. Material Things
One trap that I find many people fall into is the belief that material objects will bring happiness. Happiness is simply a state of mind and one can simply choose to be happy. Yet, with the purchase of material things we often discover that the happiness is temporary. Thus we become addicted to accumulating more things in order to bring back the temporary joy.
Would it not be beneficial to look at what we already have and tell ourselves that we have decided to be happy with what we have already? If a trinket brought joy at one time and then faded, why can we not simply choose to bring back that happiness with a conscious decision? Once we have accomplished that, we could ask ourselves if it is not possible to be happy with no trinket at all?
This has been discussed as of recent as we are going through the “Great Recession.” There have been many articles, one of which is called “But Will It Make You Happy,” which was in the New York Times.
If you do not have time to read the article, I’ll tell you the answer. No trinket will bring you happiness, it is simply a state of mind that can continue if you simply choose it to.
VI. The Esoteric
The post has become long and I am in no mood to write a novel. So let us dive headfirst into this “esoteric” and “exotic” pool regarding Mind Control. The best part is it is not esoteric at all but the path to happiness is right out in the open. It is simply a change in the state of mind and there are even road maps about how to get there. As there are many, I’ll only cover my favorites and those which people will already be familiar.
A.) The Secret
Recently, there was a book put out called “The Secret.” The Secret is nothing more than a commercial version, packaged for profit to show in a book what has already been known for millennia. The basic premise is that we control our own world through a state of mind. If you believe something will manifest itself then it will.
This might be a big jump for some so let us back up a bit. In The Secret, I find they spend too much time talking about how to acquire money. In this they miss the point which is simply finding happiness. They claim that you have an “inner power” to make things come about but unfortunately concentrate on manifesting material things.
This sounds like a big bunch of nonsense to some people but we could refer back to simply having a “positive attitude.” In our sports example, if you do not believe you will win then you most likely will not. If you do not believe that you will not do well in an interview then most likely you will not. If you are certain you will not have a good time, then you will not.
It is your state of mind that affects the outcome and not the other way around. In the secret, they rely on the mysterious forces of the universe that will align themselves around your goal and make it happen. I personally like this thought and have not discounted it. But as it might be too much for some people, let’s bring it down to earth.
If you believe you can do something, then you will take the steps necessary to bring the result about. Let’s say you have your mind set on attaining a fit body as an example. I’m not sure if the forces of the universe will align themselves to make this happen, but what is certain is that you will “magically” find yourself at the gym more often and paying attention to what you eat. Before you know it, you are now fit and it had nothing to do with the universe but rather your own mind which made a conscious decision to make something happen and it did.
Skipping past all the other material, physical examples let us get straight to the root which is happiness. If you believe you will be happy then “magically” you will be. This might not be easy as you have to train your mind to be happy and like a strenuous workout it can take time to shed those negative thoughts. Yet, returning to our main theme, it will not be difficult unless you believe it is which comes back to your state of mind. Just believe it will be easy, convince yourself of it and so it shall be.
Now, as a caution, there are certain things I cannot simply “will” myself to be. I cannot tell myself I will be an NBA player and it will happen. However, I have to ask myself “Why do I want to be an NBA player?” I think the obvious answer is that it will make me happy. Yet, why not just skip to the goal and tell myself to be happy which is certainly something everyone can attain. We have to power to do so as our mind belongs to no one but us.
B.) Religious Aspects
I have found a very clear road map to happiness in the Buddhist teachings. This does not mean that I am going to start wearing a shawl and shave my head. But it does mean that I have an open mind and listen to what the teachings are saying.
My favorite aspect is that you have to understand yourself. In order to do so you need to concentrate on your own mind and control it rather than letting it control you. To get there, they do chants, Yoga, and various other practices to help attain “happiness” or “enlightenment.” Without getting into what “enlightenment” is, let us just stick with happiness for simplicity.
In the Buddhist tradition, your mind is most important. Your mind is you and is the root of your entire existence. All material objects, experiences and so on are completely dependent on your own mind and how you choose to perceive things. For those that understand and control their own mind well enough than no material things are actually needed except what you need to sustain yourself. These things include shelter, food and good health. Everything else is a distraction.
You may ask why I chose Buddhism over all the others. I am not an expert in “all the others” but what I do know is Christianity. Yet, I do not even know Christianity that well even though I spent 12 years in a Catholic school. To put things simply, and wrongly, it is often in the Christian tradition that we are asking an external force “God” to make things happen. If we are sad, then simply pray about it and perhaps God will grant you a favor and simply make you happy.
I believe that this is seriously misguided and not what Christianity is about at all. There must be some mistranslation somewhere or misinterpretation of the teachings in that we have to rely on a supreme being for happiness. Or perhaps, I simply have never read the right teaching? From all my years in school, the fact remained that you had to pray in order to make something come about. You simply couldn’t do it on your own.
But what is prayer? For some, it will be asking a divine being to make something happen. I believe it is a form of mind control in which we can bring things to pass, but it is our own doing, “mystical” or not, rather than a divine being somewhere giving us a blessing. In Christianity, relying on a “divine being” more-so than ourselves is what many clergy teach. But if we dig a little deeper, I think Jesus tried to tell us that we have the power by the following examples: \
a. “You are the light of the world – let your light shine.”
b. “And Jesus said unto them … , “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to younder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”
c. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”
To me, this is Jesus telling us we have the power. We are connected to the “higher power” and are part of it and part of everything. Therefore, we need only ask (ourselves) and things will come to pass.
I believe Christian “prayer” is along the same lines as the Buddhist tradition but in Buddhism it is much more clear. You are the one who has the power to make yourself happy, it is simply willing yourself to make it so. If you can do this, things fall into place and a kind of balance is reached. I think Christianity tried to teach the same thing but certain institutions wished the population to become reliant on their services and corrupted the teaching.
This religious debate is worth at least another post, if not a novel, or an entire library so let us quickly return to the main point of this post which is controlling your own mind.
There are many guides out there to help us along the path to happiness but they all boil down to controlling your own mind which controls your life experience. The question is, “Can we control our own mind?”
I would say it belongs to no one else and is something you have complete control over so long as you choose to do so.