The Development or Thought-Control
We often hear it said—"I may think as I like; it doesn't matter what I think." The first part of this statement, taken by itself is true, and a fact of much more importance than we usually attach to it. We can think I exactly what we chose within the present temporary limits of our own mental development. The freedom which we hold in our own thought-realm is surely the greatest privilege we enjoy. We can "let the thoughts wander," as we say, or focus and direct them into any particular channel if we have some definite object in view. It may sometimes appear that thoughts come to us unbidden; but it is doubtful if we receive any thought that we have not at some time attracted. However this may be, one thing is obvious; we have perfect freedom to reject the thought, or to foster and encourage it. And you, fellow-seeker—if you have pursued the same path with me in these truths we have been considering—will know something of the power of thought-control. In our progress together we have seen that the real heart-thoughts are forces; the thoughts of the present are molding the future; the Ideal of today will become the Real of tomorrow if wisely developed. So that in the light of these facts, while it is gloriously true that we may think as we like, what we think does matter; in fact, becomes of vital importance. If we are seeking healthier bodies, healthier environments, or simply seeking to express a nobler manhood just where we are; if we are seeking to be of some use in the world through the medium of song, picture, or poem; whatever may be our method of expression, we need so to control, focus, and direct our thought-forces that we may realize the highest truth of the "kingdom" within. How best can we develop this control, and most economically direct the everyday thought? To a very large extent everyone must answer this question for himself in his own way, for in thought-culture, as in physical development, methods vary. Here some find the necessary health and strength producing thought in the daily use of dumb-bells, some in the morning swim, while others attain the same end by the practice of deep-breathing exercises. If we have truly realized the importance of thought-control, we shall quickly find our own means of development. However, the following method is suggested, not in any way as a hard-and-fast rule, but simply in the hope that it may help each reader who is seeking the higher life to find and practice his own method.
Set aside some time at the end of each day for the careful analysis of the thoughts of that day. Classify the thoughts under these headings:
Now the aimless thoughts, however good they may be in themselves, may be dismissed as useless for real progress. Then take the purposeful thoughts and again mentally classify them, this time dismissing all except those charged with the very highest purpose. After this process of analysis the result may be very small, but like the residue of a precious compound to the chemist, it is very valuable. In this result, however poor it may appear, we have the purest and best of today upon which we can build the life. On these thoughts we should meditate, for they are just what we need at the present moment for our development. They are our present ideals, and though we may be conscious that they need improvement, the quickest way to accomplish this is to live them to their best. They are the good, purposeful thoughts, and our silent meditation will help nourish them into life.
Is it our purpose to make some friend the happier in some quiet and simple way? Just to make one soul the brighter is worth much effort. Let us realize just these simple purposeful thoughts, and all the others may die for lack of attention.
Having analyzed the daily thought, we must proceed to control and live the result. Let us take these thoughts where the soft morning breeze moves the pines; where the quiet voices of the woods whisper in harmony to the music of the heart. Here, while the birds are singing their joyous song of praise, we can saturate the mind with beautiful thoughts. Here we can develop the necessary thought-control to accomplish our purpose, whatever it may be, or gather power that may help us through days of service. Or, if we cannot reach such ideal conditions, we may seek their counterpart within. There was never a voice in Nature, but whispers now in the soul, and only awaits our recognition; never a glorious landscape that the thought cannot picture. We will nourish these ideals into life in the garden within, and we shall live to see them bloom in the world-garden at the right season.
In thought-control, as in all other personal reform, difficulties meet us at the beginning. We may not at first be able even to recall the daily thought for analysis. Yet every time we try makes the task easier; every difficulty overcome means a corresponding gain in strength. The sincere seeker will always find, in this as in everything, attainment comes by development, and every sign of progress will cheer him on. We will seek only the ideal thoughts, and these will eventually express ideal health, and a well-balanced life of service.