“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
Modern science has shown that the brain fires thousands of thoughts in the time it takes the eye to blink one time. Fortunate for us, most of these thoughts are occurring at a level of the mind below our conscious awareness. Every once in awhile, a thought signal is strong enough that it reaches the level of mind that we can perceive. These are the thoughts that we experience throughout the course of the day – and most noticeably in the meditative practice. The nature of this thinking lends itself in two directions; reflecting on the past or anticipating the future.
Thankfully we don’t respond to every thought we receive. The ones we deal with already are more then enough. We tend to grasp onto just a few categories of thought. Often it is about fear, regret, anxiety and doubt; but they could be positive as well. Of these, most dissolve quick. The ones that generate enough momentum become a feeling. A feeling is a visceral experience of a thought. It is not just words and images in the mind but an energy that can be felt in the body. Feelings affect the entire human system on the subtlest of levels. We have hundreds of feelings every day. It would be easy to be overcome by them, but we are lucky in that they usually come and pass [much like thoughts]. The ones that stay, become emotions. Emotions are a feeling with something added. Usually a story, expectation or anticipation. The strong emotions become desires. Desires are the objects we long for; health, wealth, happiness and stability. They are both what we want and what we want to avoid. They are the driving force behind our actions. Positive actions reinforce positive thoughts. Negative actions reinforce negative thoughts. This is the karmic hamster wheel. That is why it is so important to be careful about what we are thinking.
Thoughts become feelings. Feelings become emotion. Emotion becomes desire. Desire drives action. Action reiterates thought. Because not thinking is not an option – right thought is the only solution.
According to the 8 fold path outlined by Shakyamuni Buddha, right thinking is the second stage on the path toward awakening. He taught that we must practice appropriate means of thinking. This means tactfully catching the thoughts that wander and without judgement bring our attention back to the breath. It means working with the mind to cultivate only thoughts bred from peace, open-heartedness and love. It means being available and present. In doing so we will create right thought, positive feeling, appropriate desire and skillful action. With the mind pure and focused we will abide in a deep sense of peace.