Trying to govern your health only by exercise and by what you eat and drink, without controlling your thoughts and emotions, is like trying to keep your computer in good shape by managing the hardware but not the software. So it’s important to realize that your thoughts and emotions are things you can choose, not something outside your control. While thoughts may arise without your choosing them, the way you respond to them is entirely up to you. It’s not easy to control your mind as you desire, but it’s definitely not impossible. You simply need practice. There is nothing in the world that doesn’t get better with practice.
How can you use the power of your mind to control your thoughts and emotions? The most powerful means is by observation—the most essential and powerful ability that the mind has. By lucidly watching thoughts and emotions without chasing after them, or intentionally ignoring or denying them, the mind causes them to evaporate like fog in sunlight.
The most powerful change in perception we can experience through observation is that we can see ourselves as separate from our experiences. This means that we observe our sensations, thoughts, and emotions as objects, instead of identifying ourselves with them. The mind that quietly watches all the thoughts and emotions arising within it has the power to return everything to a state of balance—its natural state. In that state, you become able to make wiser, more considerate choices instead of acting in a way that’s dictated by a negative thought or feeling.
This also goes for the pains and diseases of the body. If I’m suffering from a tumor in my lungs, instead of identifying myself with a body that has a tumor, I can objectify my body. When I identify myself with my body, I may experience negative emotions about the pain and prognosis from the tumor, such as fear, anger, and frustration. Once I’m able to objectify my body, however, such emotions change into compassion, and the mind has sympathy for the one suffering. An energy of unconditional love toward the suffering object—the energy of fundamental healing flowing beneath all vital phenomena—starts to flow from this compassion.
I’m in the habit of advising people to repeat out loud these affirmations as a way to develop the mental power to observe their bodies and minds without identifying themselves with them: “My body is not me, but mine. My emotions are not me, but mine.” When your body causes you to suffer, when you’re confused and swept away by an intense whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, try to focus your attention and repeat these two affirmations. Try saying them out loud right now. “My body is not me, but mine. My emotions are not me, but mine.”
With practice, you can develop the strength to return to a calm, solid center even amid all the emotions of your life, the power to recover harmony even amid all the changes and uncertainties of life, the power to restore ceaseless passion and hope for life even amid all kinds of trial and error, failure, and frustration.