As Robert Greene points out in this video, you can’t control your thoughts but can control which thoughts to ‘listen’ to, act on, or believe. For most, mindfulness training or meditation is the first step in successfully doing this. Once you are aware of the thought stream, you can curate which thoughts you wish to ‘use’ and which to discard.
One of the qualities of a spiritually ‘asleep’ individual is identifying with every thought that pops into their head. They will believe, defend, and even die or endure self-harm to prove that the idea in their head is ‘right.’ From personal experience, I know this is a painful way to live.
An ‘awake’ individual is aware of the ‘thought stream’ we experience but is not identified with it. As I said above, usually, this is through meditation or mindfulness training. Once aware of the thought stream as a separate phenomenon from self-identity, one can stop defending or believing every thought that pops into one’s head and instead use each idea as a tool the mind provides in a given situation. You pick the valuable tools and discard the ones that are not.
Even though Robert Greene has cleverly turned this around in this title for clicks and future book sales, we want to discard many of the ‘negative’ thoughts that occur. Why? Because evolutionary biology tells us that, as humans, we are wired to see neutral and even positive situations in a negative light.
But why? Don’t we just see things as they are? Wouldn’t that be best for our survival? It turns out the answer is no. A brain that sees things as they are is not necessarily wired for survival.
Our brains are wired for survival in the African savannah of over two million years ago, not modern city living. You might think your stressful thoughts about your job, spouse, kids, house, friends, car, and status keep you safe. However, it is more likely that those thoughts are doing just one thing, robbing you of the peace and joy possible in the present moment.
So listen to Robert Greene and start throwing out those useless negative thoughts and beliefs and start seeing things more accurately and living with more peace and joy.
-Douglas Johnson E-RYT 500, YACEP, OM, Certified KI Facilitator