Monday, July 4, 2011

Limited or unlimited

When we refer to someone by name, we generally attribute the name to a physical human form. This human form is a collection of many trillions of atoms. There is a hidden glue that keeps these atoms together as long as life exists in the body. Essentially everything in the universe is built from atomic structures, just arranged in different ways to create everything from the creatures in the ocean to the air we breathe. Luckily for us, on a day to day basis, we don’t have to deal with orchestrating the dance of the atoms within our bodies. As we wake up and go about our day, we simply carry our atoms with us, without giving it much thought. We don’t often acknowledge the impressive internal order between atoms, cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems. Instead, we usually focus on the body as a whole. 

From the vantage point of a single atom, the human body seems like a veritable universe. However, this universe is known to be finite, and is confined within our bodies. However, while the physical body itself is limited in its capabilities, the scope of the mind is unlimited. When you look at a mirror, there is only one reflection that you see. Keeping a mental image of your form in the mirror, close your eyes and you can fill the dark expanse of your mind behind closed eyes with countless forms of yourself. Trying to get a sense of the vastness of the mind is a daunting prospect. Where is the beginning and where is the end?

When I open my eyes to the outer world I feel myself as a drop in the sea;
but when I close my eyes and look within,
I see the whole universe as a bubble raised in the ocean of my heart. (Inayat Khan)

Every human has a body-mind spectrum that begins with individual atoms, extends to the body, then on to individual thoughts, and finally to the mind as a whole. Where we live on this spectrum depends on where we choose to focus our energy.  Does the human race seem to be content simply meeting the basic physical needs of the body with food, water, and sleep? No. This is because the potential within each individual’s mind is unlimited. Thoughts can be extremely powerful when you consider the words and actions that may follow.  The mind is just an interface to express this power.  Negative thoughts can become a force capable of ruining lives.  On the other hand, positive thoughts can become a force to restore hope in those who are suffering.

A man once heard that the secret to going to heaven was to think of heaven at the time of one’s death. Since he was a busy businessman, he did not have time to dwell on thoughts of heaven. Instead, he had an idea. He thought of different attributes of heaven and named his children after these heavenly attributes. His idea was that at the time of his last breath he could call upon any one of his children and by doing so, he would harbor thoughts of heaven as he departed the world. He soon forgot about this and after several years, his children were grown and were helping him in his business. One day, he fell gravely ill and his doctors gave him very little time to live. On his deathbed, he remembered what he was told about heaven. He was happy that he had named his children after the different attributes of heaven. One by one, his children filed into his room. He called everyone of them by their name and when he was done, his last remark was “if everyone of you is here, who is looking after the business?” On saying this, he passed on.

The moral of the story is to practice filling yourself with good thoughts on a regular basis, not just when it’s easy or convenient. By doing so, the unlimited power of these good thoughts will be readily available to you, and can lessen the burden of any difficulties during trying times. Of course, this is easier said than done; to change negative mental habits requires patience and practice. Initially, most people face obstacles such as lack of willpower to practice, and lack of patience to delve into the ocean of thoughts that fill their mind. However, a great place to begin can be by simply adding more positive thoughts to those already in your mind. Done on a regular basis, the negative thoughts will become weaker, and the benefits will become apparent. The opposite is true as well. If one does not continually make time to weaken negative thoughts by strengthening the positive, their mind will be like a beautiful flower bed that has become overgrown by weeds.

Since we have no choice but to inhale and exhale all day long, the breath can serve as a good cue to remind us to practice filling ourselves with good thoughts.  Obviously, we have to breathe in both in good times and bad. The more often we are able to focus on positive thoughts with each incoming breath, the more effortless this becomes over time. If you have trouble beginning, just imagine breathing in the light of all things that are good in the world. In due course, you will be able to utilize the unlimited power generated by your own good thoughts to fully realize your potential.