Thoughts at times absorb my attention and create images in my mind. The thought, “I want to go away for a silent retreat, but I can’t” kept sprouting in my mind. Over time, it created a feeling of discontentment in my heart. My friend planted the seed of that thought in my mind. From a seed, it grew into a plant, and a tree, towering over the attention of my mind.
The thought had to come to a crashing halt, causing great disappointment in my heart because flights were halted due to the pandemic. I had become a slave to a thought without awareness, and it was causing unease in my heart. But as with every thought, whether pleasant or unpleasant, it does come to an end. At that point, I wasn’t a master of my thoughts, and I was not aware I was a slave to it. How to know if you are a slave or master of your thoughts? There are 3 ways to know.
By that time, I had become a slave to the thought that I wanted to travel and be away. I became a slave to the thought. It took some time for that tree to grow. To cut it off took just as long. Are you a slave to your thoughts or a master? There are 3 ways to find out.
1. When We Act on Autopilot
Do you act in autopilot mode? Meaning, whatever you feel like doing at the moment, you take the action? Examples include craving certain foods and purchasing them quickly. If you noticed, the craving often creates an image in your mind that drives you to think more about the item. Daniel Kahnemann, a psychologist who won the Noble Prize in Economic Sciences pointed out that our instinctual and emotional mind drives our behaviour including speech and action. We are not the rational and deliberate thinkers we believe we are. Without an awareness of our instinctual emotional drive, we would always be driven by our mental habits – most of which are negative and causes stress.
2. Unawareness of one’s thoughts
Are you aware of how your thought moves? Are you aware of how your thought drives your emotions which in turn causes your behaviour? If your answer is no to all of these questions, then the belief that you are a master and not a slave to thoughts is delusionary.
3. Can You Change Your Thoughts?
Are you able to change the direction of your thoughts when you realise they are unpleasant? The ability to calm your mind from pleasant thoughts is also crucial. That’s because both unpleasant and pleasant thoughts cause stress. Unpleasant makes you wish for something that you don’t have. Pleasant thoughts make you wish that something you have will not come to an end. Both are causes of stress.
Being a master of your thought requires you to become aware of the quality of your thoughts. When you are aware of them, you are able to become the driver of the thoughts produced by your mind. If you can do this, you have become a master of your thoughts.
What is the secret to becoming a master of your thoughts? There is no big secret out there. Mindfulness is the training of the mind to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and perception. Only by being aware can you become a real driver of your mind – only think what you wish to think about, pay attention only to what causes well-being, and not to be absorbed by unpleasant or pleasant thoughts.
Mindfulness-Based Strategic Awareness Training is a secular mindfulness program that offers insight into the entire human experience. You learn the interrelationship between your body, feelings, and thoughts. With this insight, you learn to be above them and one day direct them, rather than be driven by these processes.