The Thought Machine

Here’s a great quote from the Buddha who said, “We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world.”

I love this quote because this helps us understand more about the way we think. Therefore, if we think something is true then we believe this must be true. Meanwhile thoughts are neither true or false. They’re only thoughts. There can be a thousand variances and still, thoughts are only thoughts. Nothing else.

This understanding helps me formulate a simple deduction. On average, I have read details that we think an estimated 70,000 thoughts on any given day. I suppose this makes the mind a busy place to be.

Our mind is a great hub that networks and makes contact to which we are linked to multiple devices, connections and personal services. Some of our thoughts are obvious and some are deeper. Some of our thinking is more subconscious and this runs like a program in the background of a computer. But let’s stop and think about this for a moment.

What happens to a computer when too many windows are open and too many programs are running in the background? We all have personal hardware that runs like a program. We move in an automatic sense. We are all creatures of habit. We have routines. We leave our keys in specific places. We put our phones away in the same place before we go to sleep. We set our life in a habitual form to keep things easy and mindless. This way our mind can consider more important programs such as, “What am I going to do?” This question can be about anything. What am I going to do about work? What am I going to do about the 200 unanswered emails? What am I going to tell my boss tomorrow?

Our thoughts are incredible because they travel through different circuits and connect us with memories and experiences. We connect them to feelings and opinions. Essentially, our thoughts lead us to judgments in which we pick and we choose. We decide what to do or what to say. We think until we feel and then we respond. The math is simple.

Our thinking is amazing to me because our thoughts impact the way we feel and the way we perform. For example, if we are the sum of our thinking and yet, we find ourselves in stages of doubt or disbelief, then almost systematically, our output is only as good as our input. Then it’s like the Buddha said, “We are what we think.”

Our mind has been programmed and conditioned by the data of our past, which does nothing else but keep us connected to old experiences and memories. This does not allow us to move forward or improve. We move in the same directions. We think about the same conversations. And why? The answer is because we move in the loops of daily habits. And what is a habit? A habit is something the body can do without the input of the mind. So, if we are used to living with a defeated mindset; then we are always defeated. If we think; and therefore we are, then by default we become the outcome of our default settings. We find ourselves tied to unresolved tensions and base our judgments on the records from the past. Meanwhile, today is brand new. In spite of the similarities we share and regardless of our daily life, each day comes with new possibilities, unless we fail to believe it. Otherwise, our mind is on autopilot and linking us to an unrewarding routine.

It is safe to say that most people want to be happy. It is equally safe to say that most people are caught in their own cognitive loop. We find ourselves moving in an automatic cycle reliving the same thing each day. We find ourselves in a loop that starts from the moment we wake up and ends when we close our eyes to go to sleep. This happens consecutively, day in and day out. We have a start, middle and end but yet, our mind is constantly looking for the accountability for thoughts and feelings that go unresolved from yesterday’s endeavors. As a result, we find ourselves maneuvering through the next day with past tensions and unresolved ideas. In this case, we live in the problems not the solutions. We have subconscious programs using up data in the background, which makes it hard to focus on the forefront and be mindful of our tasks at hand.

Throughout the day, we run into people and see them as certain fixtures. We associate them with different ideas and opinions, thoughts or feelings. Our mind is always working and that hub is always networking to make connections between multiple devices and personal services. Our senses are the antennas of the mind. We have our sight, sound, touch and smell and all of this connects to past recollections that may leave us with a taste of contempt.

For example, each time I smell a honeysuckle bush, I am automatically directed to a memory from my childhood, which is partly good and partly uncomfortable. When I hear a song, I can literally picture a memory and sense the emotion and feelings from a time in my past. I remember the first time I touched a chenille blanket. This reminds me of my Grandmother. She passed away when I was young so my memory of her is unclear. Her hands were wrinkled, soft and comforting, just like a chenille blanket.

From another perspective; I can still hear the hustling noises of a room where teams of salespeople worked in cubicles. I can feel this memory. As a matter of fact, I can think about the voice of an old sales manager and feel him too. I can nearly see his curled up lip as he would snarl and be quick to complain. If I think about this long enough, I can sense a rush of old thoughts and old resentments that stem from abusive conversations. I can almost hear the old ringtones from the office and to be clear, this was not a good memory for me. As a matter of fact, I heard a phone ring the other day with a similar ringtone and of course, this took me right back to the old rabbit hole of thinking about my old job. I thought about this until finally, I caught myself taking on the old emotions. I had to say “STOP!”

If our intention is to be better than the 85% of people who do not like their job or what they do for a living, then how do we become the 15%? How do we overcome the influence of our environment and redirect our thinking so that we arrive at a place with new data instead of running the same old program? How do we remove ourselves from old and unrewarding routines so that, at least for the meantime, we can find a way to create new content and update our thinking?
This is the trick.

If our thinking is connecting us to a network that no longer serves us, then how do we find a new way of thinking ourselves in a better direction?

In an effort to change our thinking, we must change our behavior and by changing our behavior we can change the way we feel. If we find ourselves thinking about constant struggles and arguments then we will become the sum of our thoughts. If we say we are unhappy, then we become unhappy. If we say “I hate it here,” then this must be true. We hate our jobs. We hate the people around us and so long as we believe this then it must be true. Of course it’s true. If it wasn’t true then why would we think this way?

Hence, this is the challenge with the thought machine. We find ourselves caught in the hub of a network that needs an update in its software.  How do we change the habitual mindset and habitual thinking? Better yet, how do we remove ourselves from the emotional mind and allow our analytical mind to gain some clarity?

Think about the word “STOP!”
Think about what happens in a classroom when kids are running around and a teacher shouts the word “STOP!” Suddenly, all the kids freeze. Think about a child who’s carrying on and then a parent says the word “STOP!” out loud. What happens? Well, in fairness to the crazy kids in this world and as someone who might have been a little wild in the classroom, not everyone stops for a long period of time. But, at least there is a pause. There is a lull for a quick second and from there, the adult can give the child a new direction.

I love the word “STOP!”
I use this word when I find myself caught in the mesh of counterproductive thinking. I can say “STOP!” in my head or even out loud if it’s necessary. I can stop myself and redirect my thinking because if the Buddha is right and I am who I think I am, then I have to think better in order to feel better.

By understanding our internal narrative and changing our thought patterns, whether times are pleasant or uncomfortable, we can learn how to navigate our thinking to new heights. We can think better and respond better. More aptly, we can feel better and thus, now that we feel better, our environment can become less toxic because we’ve learned to respond better. This does not mean the world will be a better place. This only means that we can change the way we respond to it.

We can change our focus from problematic thinking and switch to affirmative thinking.  We can face forward, eyes up front and rather than viewing our day with eyes in the rearview mirror, we can see what’s in front of us. We can say goodbye to the past and face our possible future with a better sense of attention. We can improve our mindset and improve our performance. We can improve our internal network to make better connections. In fact, we can literally alter ourselves from unhappy and stagnant to moving freely and thinking effectively.

Sometimes, it’s not the job we hate so much. It’s the order of operations. It’s our responses and our memories that connect us to old patterns. But if we update our thinking and adjust our focus, we can make changes.

I remember being in the middle of a terrible day. I was at the end of my rope. I was angry and frustrated. The mail room in my brain was screaming and delivering messages. The network connections to my thoughts were on overload and my anxiety shot through the roof. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I literally had to shout the word “STOP!” out loud.
And it worked too. I scared the man who was sitting next to me.
But still, it worked.

I think this was the day that I decided that I didn’t want to be part of that 85% of unhappy people anymore.

By the way, there’s another empowering word.
It begins with “START!”
And this is how I switched directions.

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