sprout between hands

Progress – Choosing Our Thoughts

“There are two types of seeds in the mind: those that create anger,
fear, frustration, jealousy, hatred and those that create love, compassion,
equanimity and joy. Spirituality is germination and sprouting of
the second group and transforming the first group.”

~ Amrit Ray


Press play to hear an audio enhancement as you read.


We can choose our thoughts, just as we choose what channel to select on the remote control for our television.

In one of my recent books I told the story of a disciple asking his master how long it would take him to reach enlightenment if he meditated two hours every day.

“Five years,” his teacher replied.

“And if I meditated four hours every day?” pressed the eager student.

His master chuckled and replied, “In that case it would take you twenty years.”

Spiritual progress does not accelerate with extra effort. You can’t strive to let go! Instead, you can relax from the deeply ingrained habit of efforting, you can unlearn and deprogram… ultimately, you can shift to an entirely different operating system.

The old OS equates work over time with results. More work plus more time, equals more results. The new OS is not linear. More is not necessarily better. What matters is quality, not quantity.

As Amrit Ray wrote in the opening quote, we do have different kinds of seed thoughts and what we choose to focus on will grow. Seeds, of course, always become what they inherently are. A carrot seed has never become a watermelon! And a hateful thought cannot be changed into a loving one. It’s a choice: think the hateful thought or think a loving one.

Our thoughts do influence our progress, if we want to call it that. They also influence other people. In his book, The Shape of Thought,” H. Clark Barrett writes: “Investors’ beliefs about the state of the economy influence stock prices, which in turn, influence others’ beliefs, goals, and behaviors.” 1

They say that birds of a feather flock together (and fools seldom differ!). Our thoughts birth the words and behaviors that attract/repel others. In this way, all of us create a personal world of relationships based on which thought seeds we nurture. We end up with our own mutual support network.

There are pivotal moments in every life where a person takes stock and realizes some sort of deep change is necessary. This could be, and often is, stimulated by an emergency, like a dire health diagnosis or an ultimatum from a partner: “Change that behavior or else!” Confronted with an urgent crisis like this, we often try to change that behavior in order to get different results.

It seems to make sense and this is known as first order change. It can work, temporarily. But there’s a more effective long-term strategy, known as second order change which focuses on shifting our mind set. Athletes know very well that changing their mindset is what changes behavior to develop improved results. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is a popular success strategy.

This works in many aspects of life but not relative to our spiritual life. We can’t fake experiencing the truth of ourselves! We can choose which thoughts to entertain. And, like seeds, they grow… if they are nurtured by our attention.

The most effective mindset for making progress in the truly important aspects of our lives – experiencing meaning, growing loving relationships, etc. – is to embrace our inherent worthiness. Self-esteem problems routinely sabotage even the most concerted efforts to grow and change.

But self-esteem issues can’t be solved with proclamations to the contrary. For instance, manipulating thoughts into affirmations like “I am worthy, who I am is perfect,” is a mental imposition based on judgment. Who would repeat such words to themselves? Certainly not someone with high self-esteem! Likewise, trying to solve financial problems by repeating words like, “I am wealthy; money is pouring in from the universe,” is not a strategy a wealthy person would adopt!

Toiling in the jungle of ego ambition is futile and it’s the virtual opposite of what we’re discussing relative to choosing our thoughts. No, we choose from those thoughts that present themselves, understanding that we are not required to manufacture thoughts but rather to select from the momentary thought menu, just as we choose where we go, what we do, and who we engage as friends.

Our thoughts are emerging, not just because of influences from the physical environment that our senses detect but also in response to our inner connection with Source, in relationship to our own unfolding destiny.

The Bible refers to “the still, small voice.” In this series of blogs we will explore how to culture that inner knowing in order to change our thoughts at that deep level and generate real progress in life.

1. The Shape of Thought: How Mental Adaptations Evolve (Evolution and Cognition) by H. Clark Barrett, page 128


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