James Allen (1903) wrote a suggestive treatise on the power of thought called “As a Man Thinketh.” Long has this topic been on my mind as I have witnessed how responsibility and accountability for one’s thoughts, as they become actions, is neglected, dodged, and avoided. Every choice a person makes holds natural consequences; this is an incontrovertible truth. Yet, many continue to think only their actions have consequences, so what occurs in their heads is nobody else’s business. Except, thoughts become things; thus, the need to discuss controlling one’s thoughts.
Thoughts and Circumstances
I had the pleasure of working with a person, incredibly smart and ingenious with his hands. As a singular point of reference, I have never met better in all my travels and interactions. This man could read a blueprint, a CAD drawing, draw a blueprint, and then follow it to create masterpieces. We got to talking one day about college; here he is, a successful middle-aged construction worker with a large family, who was worried he had not developed his mind enough and was considering college. I hope one day he does go to college; I hope he takes his practical experiences, his lifetime of success and failure, his tenacity, and his chutzpah into a college classroom. I want to be a fly on the wall the first time an instructor tries to tell him there is an academic way and a practical way to live life. I imagine that conversation is very pointed and not won by the instructor.
Because this man has understood a principle, control of thought leads to control of behavior, actions, and consequences favorable. Let us be clear, and quote James Allen, “A 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.” Weeds or fruit, veggies or grass and thorns, the garden and the mind, are similar and easily understood by the actions of those tending or neglecting.
Consider the following, my wife’s Grandmother spoke no English when she came to America. Her sons were almost immediately sent to war. She learned to speak, read, and write English out of pride for her sons serving and honor America for giving her freedom. She was well-read in English and her native tongue. Some would have the audacity to call her unlearned; I have always called her a hero and counted her children and precious friends. Her choice to naturalize into America was pivotal to her success in learning a new language to write to her sons serving in the military. No excuses, no please for an interpreter, no whining for fairness, no looking back to the “Old Country” and living in America to spite America and Americans. Her consequences were a mind well cultivated and successful children.
Choices have natural consequences, enough consequences pile up, and a lifestyle is produced. For example, research reflects that the majority of Americans will never pick up a book, let alone read one after K-12 graduation. Even those going onto additional education will barely read, and upon graduation, will still not pick up a book to read. I had the misfortune of being treated by a Neurologist who last picked up a book in the 1970s when he graduated with his medical degree. He never touched the research constantly flowing in his field, never read for fun, never read to his children. When he treated me in 2016, I knew more about his field of study than he did. Why? Because I desired to know what the neurological issues are in my body. Here he is, chief of Neurology for the Albuquerque VAMC, and his residents and patients knew more about current issues in neurology than the chief. Now, some may contend this is bogus or a singular incident; choose to believe as you will. But, I talked to other patients who had similar experiences with this doctor and comparable results. I sent this doctor research and was told the research was to be disregarded until another doctor, not a neurologist, suggested the same treatment as discussed in the literature.
The circumstances related stemmed from a single choice, cultivating an inquisitive mind carefully or neglecting the mind, allowing all sorts of vile weeds to choke out the good and run amok due to negligence. Worse, the choices of this doctor led to an entire department of medicine to reflect his preferences and neglect learning for personal opinion. The mind’s thoughts provide as consequences the environment to abuse others and fail as a professional. Ever see a garden in winter, the seeds replicating are on or under the ground, awaiting their time to germinate and grow. Weeds or flowers, veggies of thorns, fruit or tree, and the seeds will bring forth more of the same.
Never forget, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves and also that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires – and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.” Do we understand the consequences and circumstances bred from thoughts? What will we do with this information?
Thoughts and Health
As a kid, I chewed on everything. Pens, pencils, markers, if I could fit it into my gob, I chewed on it. Then, as a teenager, I started smoking, and all of a sudden, I stopped chewing on things, stopped needing something in my hands to play with; cigarettes gave me a tool I needed, and my mind was clear for the first time. I loved smoking; I wanted to learn how to smoke a pipe, for I thought that might be a better option than cigarette smoking, and I could move further along in controlling and quieting my hands, mind, and mouth.
When I joined the US Army and went off to Basic Training, quitting smoking was hard! I yearned for something to chew on, not possible. I longed for something to play with for my hands, not happening. But the most challenging aspect of Basic Training and not smoking was not the lack of tobacco, the heart racing when I walked through second-hand smoke, but the mental addiction. Smoking had given me liberty, and then it was taken away, and I did not know what to do with myself.
Thus I learned a valuable lesson, and when James Allen discussed the power of thoughts on health, I knew the lesson well from personal experience through smoking. “The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed. At the bidding of unlawful thoughts, the body sinks rapidly into disease and decay; at the command of glad and beautiful thoughts, it becomes clothed with youthfulness and beauty.” Continuing, James Allen reinforces the following idea, “Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought.”
My mother-in-law fell, breaking a bone near her hip, requiring surgery, and she spent the rest of her life in a long-term care facility for she struggled to recover. I respect my mother-in-law as a knuckle-fighting, butt-whooping, hard-charging no prisoners taking person. She fought from her first day of life until she softened due to circumstances in the long-term care facility. She struggled to change her mind and thoughts as a 90+-year-old woman of incredible experiences. One of her roommates was nearing a century, she was blind in both eyes, but she shone with dignity, power, and the happy experiences and choices of a well-cultivated mind across a lifetime. The difference between my mother-in-law and her roommate in health, mental ability, and physical ability was palpable; two women I deeply respect and admire, but who perfectly reflect the principle of the power of health being connected to thoughts.
James Allen expresses this connection thusly, “Strong, pure, and happy thoughts build up the body in vigor and grace. The body is plastic … which responds readily to the thoughts by which it is impressed, and habits of thought will produce their own effects, good or bad, upon it. Thought is the fount of action, life, and manifestation; … Clean thoughts make clean habits.” My wife’s uncle and his spouse reflected the opposites in this statement from James Allen. Nevertheless, the wife always had something kind, friendly, good to say about anyone, as an extension of her choices of thought and a well-cultivated mind.
On the other hand, the husband struggled with the thoughts of WWII and his actions in the war, which made him susceptible to every cough and cold; he was miserable and very irritable, as an extension of his refusal to cultivate his mind. The wife read books, the husband watched TV. The wife engaged in society, and the husband hid at home. The wife had clean thoughts and positive consequences; the husband struggled with addictions; when he finally overcame the physical addiction, the mental addiction made him more irritable.
“If you would perfect your body, [first] guard your mind. If you would renew your body [first] beautify your mind. Thoughts of malice, envy, disappointment, despondency, [etc.] rob the body of its health and grace. A sour face does not come by chance; it is made by your thoughts.” Let us take this advice to heart. Let us begin today cultivating an inquisitive mind, filling it with carefully selected thoughts, memories, and feelings. Then, we can choose to be better people by committing to changing our thoughts.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
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