Monday, April 16, 2012

The Power of the Mind

The power of the mind is phenomenal. As Marcus Aurelicus once said centuries ago ‘Our life is what our thoughts make it.’ Similarly many learned people across the ages have observed the importance of the mind and how it has an extremely significant bearing on the way people live their lives.

The ultimate aim of all human beings, as we know it, is happiness. Yet the very concept of what is happiness is elusive because it is relative and personal. To some people happiness is material well being, to others it is emotional security, and yet to others spiritual growth. Would a person be happier if he had more wealth, more fame and more security? Often happiness is associated with results, with greater achievements, more glory, more wealth, always something more, and something better. However, does this actually guarantee happiness?

I have never ceased to be surprised when I pass by people living in sparse conditions, having little possession and living hand to mouth – yet seemingly happy with the life they have been born in and what fate has dished out to them. Then on the other hand, there are many people who have been blessed with so much material possession and have fame and prestige in society, yet seem so discontent in life. The question that often arises in my mind is why this difference?

It has also never failed to amaze me that two people born of the same environment and value system can look at the same situation and see it differently. This different light in which the situation is perceived is the result of the human mind and the attitudes of the people. Happiness, as I see it, is a state of mind. It is all in this little space in our head that determines whether we are happy with what has been given to us. Ultimately, it is a choice we are making. As the great poet Milton wrote nearly four hundred years ago ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.’

In the end, your state of happiness is what you make of it and how you choose to perceive a particular situation. After all it is not so much the situation that matters but rather how you choose to look at it. I recall reading a story sometime back of a man who once got robbed of all his belongings. He chose to look at his loss lightly and saw it as a good opportunity to have gotten rid of his old belongings. However, his friends and neighbors kept telling him how sorry they were for him and how unfortunate it was. Then having heard it once too often, he too began to feel the sorrow and loss of his belongings.

This story made me realize just how much one’s thoughts influence one’s perception of situations and of life in general. It is not the situation but rather our mental attitude and our perception that causes the suffering. Once that is realized, you will find that happiness is within your grasp.

This I think is comforting – the knowledge that happiness is within our grasp and that it is not the situation or achievements that will make you happy but rather your perception of the situation and your choice on how to handle it. Then, you will find, your life is as happy as your thoughts allow it to be.

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