My garage is not a thing of beauty. Over the years it has acquired enormous clutter and superfluous rubbish that has accumulated alarmingly to the point of becoming an unkempt mess. For example, apart from being a writer and editor, I am also a woodworker, in possession of sophisticated woodworking machinery. Perhaps it’s just as well that I don’t have time anymore to pursue this hobby, because in the garage there are a number of unusable woodworking tables piled high with clutter. What makes it worse is that I’ve never really noticed the clutter. Perhaps it’s a subconscious reaction to avoid thinking about it.
But the ‘mess’ was vividly brought home to me recently when my granddaughter asked me to build two miniature horse stables for her, which I happily agreed to do.
There was no clutter on the table saw worktop, so the cutting of the boards was relatively easy and satisfying. But then I had to screw them together. That needed a workbench. I had several from which to choose but none of them had any open space on top. Clutter all over the place.
Eventually, after some words of frustration and a few expletives, I piled some clutter from one part of the workbench onto adjacent clutter and managed to gain some space to complete the next phase of my project. But I hadn’t bargained on what came next.
I have a particular set of clamps that I always use for gluing and screwing. They were not in sight. But I knew where to look. Under the piles of clutter on three workbenches. I wasn’t in a particular good mood when I began looking and that can only invite trouble. If you know anything about the mind, you’ll know that when it’s in a state of frustration or stress, accidents will happen on the outside. I finally found what I was looking for but not before I had bumped and bruised my hands and suffered several abrasions.
During the project I was disgusted with what I saw around me. There was a time when my workshop had been pristine. Every nail and screw in place and everything clearly seen and accessible. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words struck home with meaning and force, ‘As a man thinketh, so shall he be.’ I also recalled words from a philosophical text I had read somewhere, ‘As within, so without.’ I feared my mind had become corrupt in some ways and the result was lying around me. I resolved to set things right and clean up the mess.
After a few days, I returned to the garage to do just that. My heart sank when I surveyed the scene. This was going to take days, not hours. My negative thoughts took hold as I brooded over the distressing prospect. Looking back now, it’s remarkable how little we know of the mind’s subtle influence. You will become, and things around you will become, literally what you put into your mind. Emerson and that philosophical text were right. That’s the way it works: think a positive thought and there’ll be a positive outcome. Think a negative thought and the corresponding outcome will occur.
I was being assailed by thoughts of drudgery that led me almost to despair. Fortunately, I gathered myself and began to think about it. Till that point, I had been feeling it with some strong negative emotion.
Thinking about it, calmed me. And when I look back, I realise thinking about it was a positive approach that reaped positive results. It displaced my earlier wallowing attitude.
But I still couldn’t decide where to start. Perhaps table one, which had the most clutter? No, table two might be preferable because I felt it had more usable things that could be packed away. I was undecided. Thoughts of negativity began to intrude again and invade my positive space. The beast of clutter still held me in its grip.
I was standing in front of table number three looking at the mess and wondering how long this was going to take when I had one of those rare, precious ‘light-bulb’ moments that displace darkness. A veritable positivity had risen up in my mind to show me the way.
Just before this happened, I had looked at a nail lying in the dust on the table. It was the nearest thing to me. Next to it was a small block of wood, and next to the wood was a broken plastic container. I suddenly realised I had to start somewhere, so why not the thing nearest to me. I picked up the nail, decided it wasn’t usable and threw it in the bin. I then picked up the block of wood, which was usable, and placed it in a particular corner of the garage where I store scrap wood, for later use. I then proceeded to the next item, a hammer peeping out at me, which I thought I’d lost.
You only have to see the next step – not the top of the mountain.
As the items, one by one, were appropriately dispensed or placed, I saw that I no longer thought about that huge mountain of clutter. I simply and quietly just reached for the next item.
I began to enjoy it. As more space appeared on the workbench, a deep satisfaction arose within me. I cleared the tables in two hours, after having thought about them for over a year.
I reflected on what had been an interesting experience. Two clearly distinguishable mindsets were involved. One that wasn’t in favour of the clutter being moved and the other that saw the need and wanted it done. For ease of reference, I’ll call the one not in favour the negative mindset, and the one in favour the positive mindset.
There was a game of war being played out in my mind. Regarding the garage clutter, I had used the negative mindset for over a year and it triumphantly held dominion. I would always provide reasons (to myself) for not moving the clutter (mostly the chronic excuse – that I didn’t have time). Not only did the clutter stay put as a result, it grew. Clutter begets clutter. Emerson and the philosophical text were right – ‘as within, so without’. While the negative mindset held dominion within, it’s corresponding physical manifestation, the clutter, lay and grew without. The only way to get rid of the clutter would be through action on the part of the positive mindset. But, in this particular case, I persisted in using the negative mindset. As a result, the negative mindset had no enemy and reigned supreme within my mind in the matter of the clutter.
The negative mindset came under threat only when I began my granddaughter’s project. I was now in the same room as the clutter and didn’t like what I saw. But it wouldn’t give up without a fight. I was still under its control when, to create space for the project on the workbench, I simply picked up clutter and dumped it on the heap alongside. The search for the clamps and the resulting mishaps, bruising and injuries opened a small window of light and allowed my positive mindset to influence the situation. I was angry with the mess.
But even when I came to clear it several days later, I dilly-dallied, thinking of the mountain of work involved. It was only when I consciously used my willpower to pick up the first item, that I took control with my positive mindset and got the job one.
The experience helped me realise that I control my thoughts and make the choice whether to be negative or positive. Naturally, I always try to be positive because it enhances my quality of life and attracts ‘good luck’. Negativity does just the opposite, although we’ll seldom admit it. But it’s difficult to always try to be positive. Envy, anger, resentment, self-pity, jealousy, hate, frustration, irritability and other negative states of mind are deeply lodged in our brains and surface frequently. And most of the time we don’t realise what’s happened until it’s too late and we’re having relationships collapse, accidents and ‘bad luck’.
First, know this. You have the power to consciously think what you like. Sew negative seeds and you’ll reap a bad harvest, sew positive seeds and your harvest will be good. This isn’t fanciful ‘stuff’. It’s real, and can be proved.
The vital thing I learnt from my experience is that when negativity strikes, the positive mindset must come into action immediately. This isn’t easy, but if we want to live successful, happy lives, we must make the effort. No one else can do it for us.
There are two steps to get positive results.
Watch yourself thinking. The mind is like a chattering monkey that never stops. Thoughts rush in and out of the mind at a rate of thousands a minute. It’s almost impossible to control this thought process, but that is not as important as just watching them. Some will flit by in a split second. Others will be more pronounced because of emotion they’ve triggered in you. This emotion will be mild or intense and depends on how much the thought affects you. Regardless of the degree of their intensity, these thoughts are important because they affect your well-being and health, either in a positive or negative way. When they emerge, just watch them as quietly as you can, even if you’re affected emotionally. It will be as if another part of you is watching that part of you which is thinking and feeling.
Don’t judge, analyse or think about the thoughts. Just watch. That is all that’s required.
Initially, you’ll quickly forget to watch your thoughts. You’ll have to remember to do it and return to the procedure again and again. In time it will become a natural process and you’ll frequently remember to do it.
Make this procedure a part of your life. It will help you to better understand yourself and others and it should enhance the overall quality and success of your life. But I repeat, don’t judge, analyse or think about the thoughts while watching them. Just watch.
This procedure will greatly assist in bringing the positive mindset into play. If you spot a negative thought emerging, you can do one of a number of things:
- Just watch it, be aware of it and take no action.
- Stop watching and indulge in it.
- Change it into its opposite using the positive mindset.
By just watching it, being aware of it and taking no action, you quietly disengage emotionally from the thought and maintain your composure and serenity. Composure and serenity are positive qualities from which only positive things will flow. The more composure and serenity you have in life, the greater your happiness and success.
If you stop watching it and indulge in it, you are at the mercy of your emotions. Emotion is a powerful force that usurps the mind. Reason is pushed aside and instinct takes over. The negative thought in which you indulge will breed other negative thoughts. For example, envy could breed hate; hate could breed obsession; pride could breed overweening vanity; Excessive lust could breed sexual perversion, and so on.
George Gurdjieff, a Russian philosopher, used the analogy of a horse-drawn carriage to describe the interrelated effects of our physical, emotional and mental make-up. The carriage is our physical body, the horse our emotions, the driver our mind.
When the horse is obedient to the driver’s will, and under control, the carriage proceeds harmoniously, without incident or accident. The three elements work together in excellent harmony. All destinations are reached and all goals achieved. However, if the horse reacts to an incident (as we do when indulging in a negative thought), and the driver has insufficient will to control it (as we do when we stop watching our thoughts), the horse runs amok. The consequence is: destinations not reached, goals not achieved, accident, injury and, perhaps, even death. This is not unlike what happened to me in my garage. I wallowed in a negative thought about my clutter for a year and a half, followed by accident and injury when I did my granddaughter’s project. My horse had bolted and my carriage took a beating.
We do not realise what terrible risks we run when negative thoughts gain a stranglehold.
The third thing we can do if we spot a negative thought emerging is change it into its opposite.
If you are pessimistic about something, you can become optimistic about it in an instant – simply by thinking it. This is the power of the human mind. It has the capacity to think what it wants to think, to take control, and turn its life around. Usually this doesn’t happen because we allow the rampant horse above to control us. Our negative emotions govern us. Instinct, instead of reason. We leave the driver, who has the power to steer the carriage in the right direction, helpless.
You can prove that this technique works by simply doing it.
Born in the mental realm, thoughts eventually manifest in the physical realm of life. We are, and will become, what we think. All that we are at this moment is the result of how we thought. With our thoughts, we create our world.
It’s not a quick-fix. It will take time. But keep in mind – you only have to see the next step, not the top of the mountain.
© 2015 Bruce Cooper All Rights Reserved