Thought to destiny

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This is something I heard in a lecture recently.

Thought drives action.
Action forms habit.
Habit creates character.
Character becomes destiny.
~ Swami Dhanurdhara

So the notion “Change your thoughts, change your destiny” is actually correct, because thought becomes action, action becomes habit, habit becomes character, and character determines destiny. The key here is the process in between thought and destiny: action, habit, and character.

Thoughts are the basic building blocks. Thoughts are always there – it’s as inseparable from the functioning living brain as heartbeats is inseparable from of a living heart. Can we control thoughts? Yes – it is actually one of the few things that we are in control. How to control it? This takes training and practice.

Untrained mind go all over the place and the resulting thoughts are very random. One of the mind’s main function is survival, and thus the untrained mind will go to the default survival mode, where it operates based on external stimuli, and react accordingly to the stimuli. Good stimuli – come closer. Bad stimuli – avoid. Example: apple pie (good) – come closer and eat it. Snake (bad) – avoid (fight or flight). This basic process is key to survival, and our ancestors who could come up with timely appropriate reaction were the ones who survived. This opportunistic and paranoid tendencies were present again in their offsprings (us) –  and the ones who weren’t opportunistic nor paranoid didn’t survive. So we all inherited this attributes. The untrained mind, operating on survival mode, works wonderfully when we were living out there in the wilderness where scarcity of food or becoming food to other animals were live or dead situation. In this modern world, this untrained mind doesn’t work so well.

Thoughts produced by the untrained mind revolves around pseudo-survival situation… and usually it’s in the form of worrying about the future, or evaluating and thinking about the past. Instead of being fully in the present moment, the untrained mind was busy with “What ifs” scenario and keep producing thoughts that are a few steps a head of the current situation.

Can we change how the mind works? Yes. How? We can train it, and we can make sure the mind only take in good stuff.

Just like the body can be trained by exercise, the mind can also be trained. One of the most effective way I know to train the mind is meditation. In meditation, the mind is trained to focus on one thing. The mind is like a projector – and thoughts are frame by frame pictures projected. Meditation is keeping the projected pictures stays the same. It is not about eliminating the picture – as long as the projector is on, there will be pictures; but we train it to project the same pictures again and again.

The projected picture itself is affected by what the mind consumes. If we let bad things come into the ears (eg gossip, negativity) – then the projected pictures could be affected by it. If we selectively only put positive things in, then the projected pictures tend to be more positive as well. So if we want good thoughts, surround ourself with good things. Good music, good books, good people, good art etc.

These two things – training the mind and making sure mind only consume good stuff, is absolutely within our control. We can’t control what happen outside, but we can control our mind, and thus we can control our action towards what happen outside.

Image: Close up of The Thinker by Todd Martin

Inner revolution

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The seventh post of Live Your Legend blog challenge: “What revolution will you lead?”

Definition of revolution from dictionary.com: a sudden, complete or marked change in something.

So in other words this question is similar with the previous prompt “What difference do you want to make?” but with more power and more urgency.

Last week I wrote about how people can only change if they want to change themselves – we can’t force people to walk through the door, we can only show them the door, and if they decide they want to walk through it they will. Now in order for us to notice the door, and get thinking about what’s on the other side of the door, and whether we should walk through it or not, we’ll have to be in a certain degree of non-reactiveness and awareness.

Non-reactiveness and awareness is quite rare these days, as we are bombarded with stimuli all the time from all around. Phone is ringing. Messages coming in through several different platforms. Non-stop emails pouring in. Pressures and deadlines at work. Stressful commuting. And many more. And we react to them. It’s even addicting, having to react to something. When there’s less stimuli, we seek out stimuli because we are bored. Because we want to react.

But if we react all the time, and have no time to be still, to be aware, we won’t be able to see the door of change. The door is not hidden, it’s there in plain sight, but if we don’t take time to pause and be still, we tend to not notice that door.

How to be still? How to be non-reactive? How to be aware?

First step: be comfortable in our own body, take charge of our own body, feed the body with enough nutritious food, keep it fit by staying active, give the body enough rest to recuperate. It starts with the body first because the body is the seat of the mind. Smoothly functioning body will help the mind to progress to the next step.

Second step: take time to train the mind. How? Through breath and meditation (both stillness meditation and moving meditation). The simplest way to train the mind is to watch it. Just watch, witness, and observe. Then we’ll start to see thoughts forming, out of nowhere. Like clouds form in the sky. If we pursue that thought, if we don’t abandon that thought, that’s where the trouble begin – pursuing thought generate other thoughts and before long we are worrying. If we just observe that thought, it’ll move on, or disintegrate, like clouds. After a while, we get better at noticing the thought cloud forming, and we get better at not pursuing the thought cloud. Then the mind sky become clearer, because the thought clouds moved on.

Another way to train the mind is to anchor the mind’s attention to one thought. So where there were many thoughts, we train the mind to hold just one thought. And that one thought can be breath, can be mantra, can be sound, can be a form, can be anything. By placing all the attention to that one particular thought, all the other thoughts moved on, cleared away, then the mind sky become clear.

When the mind is clear, the water is still, the ripples are gone, the mud has settled down, then comes clarity. We can see through the clear water. We can access the inner wisdom that’s in everyone of us. We are in touch with the buddhi. We notice there’s the door of change, and we can see what’s on the other side of that door, and decide whether we want to walk through the door or not.

The revolution I want to lead is an inner revolution. I want to inspire and help people to pause and be still, to overcome reactiveness, to arrive at clarity, to allow the inner wisdom, the buddhi, come forward and make decision. Then they’ll be able to change, perhaps to change something in their life so they can live a happier and more meaningful life.

Image credit: wallpapersdesign.net

Difference I want to make

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Sixth post of the Live Your Legend Blog Challenge, the writing prompt is “What difference do you want to make?”

I had to take a step back and ask myself “Do I want to make a difference? Why?”

Do I? Nothing is permanent and everything is perpetually changing anyway, nothing is static, even if I don’t do anything things change and will be different. And whether the changes are perceived as positive, negative, good, bad, they’re all depend on the experiencers, the situation and condition we’re in, etc.

“Things do not change. WE change.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

If we want to make a change, we can do it only through the thing that we can be in control of, which is ourself. We have only limited control of the outside environment, but we are capable of being in full control of ourself. Until we realize that we are actually in full control of our response to the outside stimuli, we are reactive.

Many problems are caused by humans being reactive to outside stimuli. The common mechanism towards a stimuli is as below:


Stimuli > Perception > Reaction


This mechanism is actually key to survival. Example: there’s a snake (stimuli) > snakes are dangerous (perception) > avoid the snake (reaction).

However in current modern times, where there aren’t too many immediate physical dangers around, if we still rely on this mechanism in interacting with the world, we’re in trouble. Example: someone bumped into me while I’m walking straight ahead (stimuli) > he is breaching my personal space, an attack (perception) > attack back “Dude are you blind or something?” (reaction). From there many things could happen – angry glares, verbal fight, or even physical fight.

Even if nothing ensued, for example that person who bumped into me apologized right away, there was already that adrenaline rush, the fight or flight reaction happened. Adrenaline rush is necessary at times to prepare the body to face a high-stress situation eg: preparing to run away the snake. But the body couldn’t tell the difference between the adrenaline rush generated by a real danger, or the adrenaline rush from someone accidentally bumped into us, or the boss or customer yelling at us, or the traffic, etc. And being constantly on the ready to fight or flight condition is not good for the body.

So, what to do? Remember that we are able to control our response, we are able to take back the driver’s seat. How? By modifying the mechanism, instead of jumping straight into reaction, insert a space, then in that space the buddhi*, the higher mind can think and decide what’s the best thing to do for that situation, and choose the response. Not reacting is also a response.


Stimuli > Perception > [ s p a c e ] > Thinking > Decision > Response


Example: this person bumped into me (stimuli) > he is breaching my personal space, an attack (perception) > [ s p a c e ] > he didn’t mean to bump into me, that wasn’t an attack, he wasn’t breaching my personal space, he may be distracted, he may be rushing to go somewhere, etc (thinking) > I will not let myself get angry over such a small thing (decision) > smile and shrug it off (response).

How do we insert that space? By slowing down the thought process, through awareness and mindfulness. By training the mind itself. Training the mind to sustain a one pointed attention for as long as we could, for example breath awareness. Through meditation, be it meditation in stillness, or meditation in movement eg yoga, walking, running, etc.

So. Coming back to the question. Do I want to make a difference? Yes I do. Why? Because there are many unnecessary and avoidable problems caused by the reactiveness of humans.

What difference do I want to make? I want to help people take back the driver’s seat, to help them empower their buddhi. I want to help people remember that we only have one vehicle (this physical body), no trade ins or upgrade so we better take care of it nicely if we want a nice ride. And since we can’t trade in the vehicle, we better be comfortable in it, feel at home in it, love it. I want to help people remember that we are actually in control of the vehicle and we are actually the driver.

I believe if more people realize that we’re actually in full control of their response to outside stimuli, the more people will take a more compassionate, less violent response, there will be less avoidable & unnecessary problems in the world, and the world will become a much happier place. Instead of spending our energy to solve those unnecessary & avoidable problems, we can focus on other more serious problems eg: taking care of mother earth, using resources sustainably, distributing food to the hungry, etc.

*Buddhi is the determinative faculty of the mind that makes decisions, it is the doorway to wisdom. More info on buddhi at veda.wikidot.com 

Image credit: Welcome new light by Alice Popkorn