If you do not conquer self, you will by conquered by self.
– Napoleon Hill
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose your mood?
Going through life being a slave to your emotions is no way to live. You’re allowing the external environment, which is not under your control, to mold your inner environment, and your inner environment, your mind, is your entire reality.
You’re letting luck determine your happiness.
Fortunately, you can control your inner environment. That means no matter what happens in the external world, you can still be happy and live a joyful life. And by being happy and joyful, you will see the external world in a softer light. The two feed off of each other.
Being able to control your emotions doesn’t mean being an emotionless rock. You still experience them, but you can choose which emotions in which to immerse yourself and which ones from which to keep a healthy distance.
Passively Observe the External Environment
You can do this right now, wherever you are. But for the sake of clarity, let’s assume you’re on your porch overlooking the street.
There you are, things are happening around you, and other than giving you sensory data, they have no effect on you, and you have no effect on them. You’re passively observing everything around you.
You let them be their own things, and you let them pass by without engaging them. You’re simply observing.
A bird lands on the power line and rests. Tumbleweed rolls by. A walker passes. You’re just sitting there, observing.
Passively Observe your Inner Environment
Now you do the exact same thing, but instead, you’re observing your inner environment, i.e. your thoughts and emotions. Your mind.
“What thoughts am I having right now?” Then wait until the next one springs up, observe it, and let it pass.
“What am I feeling right now?” Assess how you’re feeling, which emotions you’re currently experiencing, and observe them. Observe the effect they have on you. If it’s an emotion you don’t wish to experience, you can allow it to pass through you. If it’s an emotion you enjoy, by all means, immerse yourself and enjoy it.
You watch your thoughts and emotions rise up, and you watch them pass. You don’t engage them, just as you didn’t start a conversation with the walker mentioned above. You are detached from them, letting them have no effect on you, and having no effect on them.
You are not your thoughts and emotions. They are just things you experience. You are pure consciousness. Pure awareness.
Just like sitting on your porch observing the physical environment, you can extricate your awareness from your mind and simply observe your thoughts and emotions with detached indifference. Then you can either go with them, immersing yourself in them and experiencing them completely, or you can choose to let them come and pass through, just like the piece of tumbleweed. You can choose which to do.
3 Pieces of Good News, 1 Piece of Bad News
Good News #1: Not only is the skill, and it is a skill, of passive observation of your thoughts and emotions possible, but it’s guaranteed if you practice enough.
Bad News #1: It’s not easy. It takes practice and can often be very difficult to do, especially at first.
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
Henry David Thoreau
Good News #2: Even if you only start by passively observing your mind once per day, that will still make your life better.
Good News #3: If you practice once a day, it will be impossible to keep doing it only once a day. You will start to do it more and more because you will enjoy having control of your mood, of your reality. And the more you do it, the more you will program yourself to operate as a passive observer of your mind until you don’t even have to try anymore. It will become automatic.
One day, someone will cut you off in traffic, nearly causing an accident, and you won’t even react beyond what’s necessary to avoid the accident.
Without even trying, you will notice the emotion of anger spring to the forefront of your mind, and instead of immersing yourself in the anger and cursing at the bad driver, you will simply allow the anger to pass right through you. You will continue to be happy just as you were before you were cut off because happiness will have become your default state of being. You will be able to choose to be happy.
When you achieve this, you can handle anything life throws at you, and easily.