Once upon a time a man leaned against a wall and fell right through it.
Given the tendency for walls to be made of solid matter, and given a similar tendency for a human being’s composition to be of a comparably solid quality, it is highly unlikely that any real-life stories have ever included a person falling through a wall. In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton published his three laws of motion and the third of these laws stated how for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When the man leaned against the wall in the above sentence, the wall exerted an equal and opposite force keeping both it and the man in place. This concept forms much of our understanding of the physical relationship between objects.
What is not as understood by our culture, however, is that a similar relationship of equal forces can be assigned to our positive and negative thoughts.
What, exactly, does a statement like that mean? What do positive or negative thoughts have to do with leaning against a wall? Over the course of many thousands of years, generations of yoga practitioners have developed a science revolving around how our thoughts are the starting point for every aspect of our lives. Our thoughts create energy, much like a flame might create energy. If we have positive thoughts, we create positive energy. If we have negative thoughts, we create negative energy. However, also like the energy in a flame that heats or burns whatever it comes into contact with, the energy created by our thoughts will create a distinct but complimentary reaction in the world within or around us. In other words, for every thought we offer to the world, there is an equal amount of energy created by the world in response. Sometimes this energy manifests in ourselves, and sometimes it manifests among others. Regardless of where and how it presents itself, it plays a significant role in all of our lives.
The Power of the Mind
The mind is the engine that coordinates the eleven systems of the body into one organism that sustains and propagates life. Each system, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems, depends on the next to perform its job with balance and harmony. Without this balance, the whole body suffers in its attempt to compensate for a failing system. For the body to be healthy, the mind needs to be balanced and peaceful at all times. When looked at another way, the body cannot function on its own without the mind but the mind can keep functioning even if one loses the use of the body–such as when a person becomes paralyzed.
How might a person’s thoughts impact one of the body’s systems? Many of us are familiar with how constant worry and fretting over situations out of our control can lead to peptic ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract. We might be stressed out because of a lack of money, a job that we hate, or problems with our spouse or family members and experience this stress over a lengthy period of time. Eventually, we wind up suffering from an ulceration of the small intestine or some other part of the gastrointestinal tract. A peptic ulcer is a very real, very physical malady that is in part a product of these stress-based, negative thoughts. Ultimately, the negative thoughts we are having about our job or family are creating negative energy in the system, which in turn leads to toxic buildup. This toxicity not only affects our own physiology and well-being, but it affects others as well.
Our Connection to Others through Thought
There is a common misconception throughout the world that we are only connected to each other by physical forces. It suggests that our connection to another person begins and ends with physical touch, and our awareness of another person is limited to whether or not we can see and hear them. According to yogic tradition, however, we are not just connected to others through touch, sight, and sound, but by energy. If we were to go on a date with someone, we could sit across from them at the table, we could have a conversation with them, and we could tell them that we “had a really great time” at the end of the night. However, any person that has been on a date before can tell you whether or not they experienced comfort with the other person, and whether or not they felt what is known in the dating world as chemistry. This desired but often elusive force of chemistry isn’t based on whether or not one of the people felt physically touched, heard, or seen by the other person, but whether or not they felt a positive and comfortable exchange of energy.
Yoga teaches us that every person’s thoughts and actions, no matter how large or small, influence and affect every other person and living thing–including the earth itself–through this exchange of energy. Our thoughts lead to actions, and our actions offer a specific type of energy into the world. If we have hateful thoughts about others and abuse the planet, then we’ll continue to be plagued by a comparable amount of negative energy born from around the world. Even if we are not consciously aware of it, every negative, hateful thought we have against another will come back to us as powerfully as the feeling that we didn’t enjoy an ounce of chemistry with our latest date.
It is therefore up to each of us to take up a lifestyle that bears positive energy and creates community over disparity. If a person practices control over the type of thoughts they create, then they will create greater control over the type of energy they put out into the world. Yogic science dictates that a disease as pervasive and seemingly physical as cancer can be reversed if a person practices control of their mind. Through the regulation of the breath, the control of the senses, and more advanced forms of yogic practices, a person can live in balance and create greater balance in the world around them.
An Exercise in Sense Control
It is commonly stated that we are what we eat. This is an idea that is supported by yogic concepts, as our taste for foods that are rich, indulgent, and unhealthy stems from an ego-based fear that we will lose control if we don’t indulge our senses.
To begin experimenting with creating more positive energy and greater balance, create a list of five different foods you eat each week that you know you are not good for you but you eat all the same. For one week, only eat four of those five foods. For the second week, only eat three of those foods, and so on. After five weeks, you will have gradually eliminated all five foods from your eating routine, and in doing so you’ll have assumed control over your sense of taste. In creating this control, you’ve overcome the fear stemming from your ego. In overcoming this fear, you’ve eliminated negative thoughts from your emotional lexicon and with fewer negative thoughts, you have the opportunity to create more positive energy and make a difference in your life and the lives of others.
It is said that we are what we eat, and while there is certainly validity to this statement, the greater, more relevant notion is that, at the end of the day, we actually are what we think.
And this is true whether we fall through the wall or not.