A few nights ago before retiring to bed, my elderly mother asked me a curious question – did my mind churn with thoughts before I fell asleep? I admitted that it did and enquired about the reason behind her question. In quiet resignation, she confessed to being haunted by the heartache of my father’s passing and the life they had once shared. These thoughts kept her awake and she wanted to know whether she could stop them? Regrettably not, I said. However, it was possible to substitute those thoughts with more positive recollections.
I asked my mother to think of a childhood memory which brought her great joy. She immediately remembered carefree summers spent at her grandparent’s village. I asked her to expand and she spoke wistfully of the day-long journey which took them from the city to a remote village nestled in the green pastures of fertile farmland. Although the journey was exhausting (and often dangerous), the warm welcome which awaited the weary travellers, made it all worthwhile. Throughout her stay, my mother was indulged in a manner befitting doting grandparents. She spent the ensuing months roaming freely in the glorious countryside, escaping the restrictions of a disciplinarian father (who remained in the city) and relying on nothing more than ingenuity for recreation.
Delighted by this reminiscence, I asked my mother to use it when she retired to bed and recall every delicious moment – the sights, sounds and smells, carefully poring over seemingly insignificant details until she was reliving the entire joyous experience. At the very least, these memories would keep the more harmful thoughts at bay, which indeed they did.
I later reflected on the complexity of the mind. How it is indisputably equipped to accomplish colossal feats, yet also capable of catastrophic harm. All because of the power of thoughts. Apparently, we have 70,000 thoughts a day and although most are trivial, some can be deadly. As we’re intrinsically programmed to go into fear when misfortune strikes, we can easily fall prey to a tsunami of negative thinking, because we’re at our most vulnerable. Suddenly, the mind transforms itself into a self-destructive missile, rapidly escalating an innocuous thread of discontent and amplifying it to such astronomical proportions, that eventually, a mental or physical breakdown becomes inevitable.
What we need to remember is that the mind is a poisoned chalice. It was designed to perform tasks – learn new skills, solve problems and innovate. But beyond that, it requires careful discipline. Negativity is carcinogenic and must be nipped in the bud. Even if a thought is wholly without foundation, if permitted to roam unfettered, it can gather momentum and create unimaginable damage.
Over the years, I’ve learnt to deploy faith to counteract negative thinking. Faith teaches us that God has dominion over this world; not the narrative of our minds. Why waste time worrying about things that may never happen? Why try to change events beyond our control? Why make plans which eventually come to nothing? I finally realised that whenever I tried to control events, I came unstuck. Instead, I learnt to master my mind and trust the flow of life.