"A mans mind may be likened to a garden which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must and will bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless 'weed seeds' will fall therein and will continue to produce their kind." ~ James Allen
French psychotherapist Emile Coue (1857 - 1926) came up with this famous saying; "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better." He wrote "If our unconscious is the source of many of our evils - it can also bring the cure. You have in yourself this instrument of your cure." Sometimes this simple technique of Coue's, worked miracles in cases of health improvement for persons using this daily suggestion. We are all born with a clean and sterile "garden" of a mind. Everything we plant in this garden is from our own efforts and thoughts. And as the good book said - "as yea sow - so yea reap." You many times hear a phrase thrown around in 12 step circles, "Stinkin Thinkin" which is another way of describing negative self talk. I often hear addicts beating themselves up with their own mouth continually programming themselves with many of these comments:
"I am no good"
"I'm a failure"
"Diets don't work for me"
"I can't lose weight"
"What's the use in trying"
"With my luck only bad will come out of it"
"I'm too old to try"
"I can't stand the snow"
"I can't remember anything - my brain is sh*t"
"What do you expect - I'm just a drunk?"
"I'm too fat to do it"
"I'm in a daze all the time"
"My marriage is on the rocks"
"I'm a mess"
"My house is a mess"
"I am always late"
"There is something wrong with me"
"I'm a screw-up"
"I feel like I'm dying"
"What a pain in the ass"
"I'm always bouncing checks"
"I can't help myself"
"I always get sick this time of year"
"I always pick out an abuser"
"I'm always upset"
"I feel like sh*t"
"Everything I touch turns to crap"
"I can't remember anything"
"I shop till I drop"
"I can't do any thing right"
"I'm no good with directions"
"I always hurt the one I love"
"I can't read a map"
"I can't cook anything - I burn water"
"No one likes me"
"I'm no good with names"
"I never win anything"
"I'm not very smart"
'I can't figure it out"
"It's my cross I have to bear"
"I'm not too sharp"
"I'm no good with computers"
"I'm always late with the rent"
"I can't balance my checkbook"
"I can never get any sleep"
"Whenever it rains I feel blue"
"I wish I was dead"
"I can't save a penny"
"I'm no good with numbers"
"I know it is good for me...but I still wont do it"
"This is a pain in the neck"
"My back is killing me"
"I can never figure women / men out"
"It's my Karma"
"My head is splitting"
"Everything I eat turns to fat"
"I don't like fruit or vegetables"
"Why doesn't anything ever go right for me?"
"I'm so stressed out"
"I'm always hungry"
'Why does (it) always happen to me?"
"I always end up offending people"
"My boss always ends up hating me"
"I'm no good at sports"
"I'm a klutz'
"I hate to exercise"
"I'm always making the wrong choices"
...and on and on.
Notice anything repetitive about these statements? Many are in absolute terms that specify always, everything, every time, never. While many of these statements can apply to some of us one time or another, few of them are hard and fast 100% rules in our lives. Yet, we are working overtime to make sure they do become us 100% at every turn. This type of thinking just programs our minds and our bodies to accomplish these tasks as we ask our subconscious to do these things. Sometimes this programing starts passively by another's offhand comment to us or even when we are kids and our parents or other adults tell us such things. Then little by little they creep into our mind and take hold. Now we don't have to be perfect with changing our talk or our life, but we can be aware of how we talk to ourselves and make an effort to change our thoughts so they can work for us instead of against us. To develop a desire to change, we must first recognize there is a problem or sickness in us. Recognition or awareness is the fist step leading to the desire to change.
All of the above examples are negative auto suggestions or negative self talk that can be overcome - we have it in our power to change these ideas - maybe not perfectly, but we can change them in a positive direction. Philosopher David Hume defined a miracle as "the suspension of natural law." While the subconscious can do many amazing things, if we ask too many unrealistic "miracles" of it on a continuous and daily basis that violate physics or natural law we can get disappointed when it does not come through. A common complaint with persons seeking spirituality is that they ask God / HP for a daily suspension of natural law so they can keep violating the 3 branches of laws that govern us and get disgruntled when God / HP does not answer the requests. Entitlement is something we all can suffer from, it stems form our ego. So, they get their ego hurt and give up spiritual ways with a sigh, "What's the use." The "use" or "answer to their prayers" is in themselves with how they live and think. We should not forget that life on earth was never promised to be heaven on earth and as we live - we die and as we die - we suffer. This is the suffering of impermanence the Buddhists talk about in the 4 Noble Truths.
An older Christian lady talked to me about "her cross" she had to bear. She was starting to suffer from old age at 79 and felt this was a "cross" for her from God. As I spoke with her I could see she had a very low level of acceptance with many areas of living. She also told me about a water heater that went out after 10 years of service and how that upset her so much. I thought to myself well, I'd be ever so grateful to get 10 years out of mine, as our heater went out with just 6 years of service. At the time, I was grateful to get 6 years of service since I had talked with a fellow that had a water heater go out in 4 years. She had no insight or acceptance into the impermanence of things. Everything that lives gets old and suffers more or less the same way. It is natural law and without this law nothing could grow and we would not know life as we know it on our planet. Our babies would not grow, there would be no rain, sun or nighttime and we could not even taste foods or even digest it. She was not singled out to "bear a cross" to suffer from old age at 79 years of age. In fact, from my view she lived a life of little suffering with health issues up to that point, since she lived a life that was unhealthy, yet did not suffer much from this anti - health lifestyle and was rewarded with moderately good health. No, her problem were not due to God giving her a cross to bear - it was simply due to natural law, the same law that applies to us all. And, if anything, she had much good fortune with her life, yet had a hard time seeing it and being appreciative and grateful for it. All problems are creations of the mind and all that is created in the mind can also be removed. It seems that many of us get stuck with looking for hope of change someplace else other than within us. All change is ultimately internal in nature, but we have hopes that someone else will do it for us, rather than we doing it ourselves. Many religious practitioners feel that any good change in their lives will come from the outside -- as a gift from God / gods without much effort from ones own self to change.
Unrealistic use of the subconscious? If we give ourselves positive self talk or suggestions that we are thin when we are fat and the reason that we are fat is that we are eating 6000 calories a day, our mind can only do so much with countering natural law. So, we should not say that positive self talk does not work if we are constantly working against it by violating the laws that govern us all. If we are working a program of recovery and pointed in the right direction of weight loss and food addiction recovery then giving such auto suggestions to ourselves would be of benefit, just as all the other tools we use to restructure our life are of benefit. We are suffering from a case of egoism when we think we alone should be exempt from the laws that govern everything else. The same would go for a person that beats themselves up for not being able to slam dunk a basketball into a 10 foot hoop when they are only 5 feet tall. There might be someone, someplace that can do it, but it might be 1 out of many millions. Sometime we get stuck with defining our self worth with the unattainable and when we do not reach these lofty goals our ego says we are a failure. This was a problem with me in my prior life - seeking the unattainable and defining who I was by the failure or success of reaching unattainable goals I set out for myself. As I wrote in an earlier post entitled "On Meditation and Finding Universal Truth, "People are too busy developing what sounds good to the ego instead of what is good for the body and soul."
Many years ago after squandering much money trying to "buy" happiness I learned that "one thing only goes so far with giving a person a good life." True happiness and serenity is composed of many qualities and not just one. Positive thinking as well as everything else falls into this category requiring us to live balanced lives. Positive thinking is important and useful, but it must be coupled with realistic and attainable goals as well as doing the footwork to reach those goals. If the goals are never realized with our best effort, (Efforts that are within our personal and recovery programs limits) then we can gratefully accept that it was not meant to be and move on without shame or regrets. We can go too far with positive thinking just like anything else the addict abuses. The perennial positive thinker must spend much time and energy to displace negative thoughts that pop up in their mind and this causes blindness to the big picture. This unrealistic view could be dangerous in some cases when caution is thrown to the wind and thoughts of temperance and caution are viewed as negative thinking when a "can do" attitude gets overblown with egoism. An excess of positiveness can also block creativity and problem solving by displacing those thoughts we view as negative. Moderation in all things as the ancient Chinese sages said. On pages 122-125 of AA's 12 and 12, it goes into detail about living right size. If realizing and staying within boundaries was not an important issue, the 12 and 12 would not mention it. So, no matter how we program ourselves, we all still have limits as humans...and especially as recovering addicts.
There are many things required to cultivate a garden and the seeds we plant are only part of the equation. If we have good seeds but do not water them they will not sprout and grow. If we have plenty of water but dead seeds, it yields nothing. If we only have one crop and it fails due to bugs or a crop disease, we will starve, so it is good to have diversity. There is a saying in Buddhism that a clay Buddha cannot get through the water - as it will sink. A wood Buddha cannot get through a fire - as it will burn. A bronze Buddha cannot get through a furnace - as it will melt. But, a clay Buddha can get though a furnace to become stone. A wood Buddha can float on the water and not sink. A bronze Buddha can get though a fire without melting. In the same way, we can use positive thinking and affirmations to give us a diversity of tools to supplement our "crops" in our recovery work and in our search for a peaceful life. But we must also not forget to do our physical footwork required in recovery and restructuring our lives as well as doing our spiritual recovery or 12 step work to make our garden flourish.
IF YOU CAN DREAM IT YOU CAN DO IT