We Are What We Think

The practice of reflection and contemplation deepens our understanding of a spiritual principle.

It allows the true meaning of a spiritual teaching to magically move from our head into our heart, and thus penetrate our entire being and way of life.

These days people are eager to receive many spiritual teachings and often zip right into meditation, skipping over the practice of reflection.  As such, it has sometimes been called “the lost zone of contemplation.”

We may have the good fortunate to receive powerful spiritual teachings.  But, what will happen if we don’t take time to contemplate them?  There’s a real danger they will easily slip through the cracks of our mind, leaving no permanent imprint whatsoever.

Contemplation is integral to understanding the real meaning of a spiritual truth, which is often multi-layered. It also helps us to bring the teachings alive in all that we do.

We are what we think

Today, I invite you to reflect upon these words from the Buddha.  You can choose a single verse or reflect upon them all.

“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind,
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind,
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakeable.

‘Look how he abused me and beat me,
And how he threw me down and robbed me.’
Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.

Look how he abused me and beat me,
How he threw me down and robbed me.’
Abandon such thoughts, and you live in love.

In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.”

from The Dhammapada

[Translation by Thomas Byrom, Shambhala, Boston & London, 1993.]

Is contemplation a part of your life?  Please take a moment to share any inspiration or insights you found in these verses.

If you liked this article, please share the link.  Thanks so much! Sandra

Share

24 thoughts on “We Are What We Think

  1. Sandra, this was beautiful. there’s a calmness to your blog I love and even your words are very calming.

    The verse from the ‘The Dhammapada’ is beautiful in that it shows the duality of each individual, and ultimately it’s the way we think about life which will determine the life we lead.

    • Steven, I’m so touched by your kind words. Thank you, very much. It strikes me that the first two verses capture the whole idea at the heart of your blog: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. It’s a powerful notion. I agree that the way we think about life, will determine the life we lead.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it so much.

  2. The more I face the amazing USAmericain obsessive clinging to some “positivism” at each philosophical price, I suggest the idea that many,( not necessary”WE” as not everybody lives a reality avoiding self split), are their repressed unconscious too. They are what they are not supposed to think, as it does not fit ready made “success” rules&goals.

    Assuming that reinforcing the head ego with “niceness (nescius/ignorant) is salvation,
    is just one divisive hierarchic distraction more from the senses making sense.
    Another neoplatonist “soul/animal”train pet idea, who fears the true self acceptance not pleasing group belonging club membership “soud good noises” mutual back tapping rituals.

    Enlightement is here&now, not “once” and “does not fit the old order!”.

    • Welcome and thanks for this thought provoking comment. I think you are right, there is a danger that positivism can be superficial. Ultimately, clear seeing is beyond acceptance and rejection. But as one great master pointed out, and I paraphrase as I don’t recall the full quote, “Although my view is as vast as the sky, my actions are as fine as grains of sand.” What we think, say, and do has an effect and a consequence. Therefore it’s important to choose our thoughts and deeds wisely. In that regard, positive intention is of crucial importance. Being positive doesn’t not exclude seeing things precisely as they are.

      Thanks again for adding your perspective to the conversation.

  3. Hi Sandra, it’s more than what we think, it’s the thinking that is silent, the screaming that goes unnoticed. I’m thoughtful tonight, and I’m having an epiphany moment about healing and time. Our thoughts evolve in a cycle and often the cylce is on repeat. Talk soon.

    I love it here.

    • Hi Simon, Interesting thoughts! There are also the seeds and force of our habitual tendencies, which obscure our true nature and lead to harmful actions. ~ perhaps this might correlate with the thinking that is silent!?! Of course, we can overcome these tendencies but they are a force to be reckoned with.

      Thanks for your sweet words. All the best!

  4. Sandra,
    I love this. I’m on my way to the airport. My habit right before trips is to look for a positive topic to focus on — something other than “I hate standing in line at the airport”. Thanks for this. I’m taking your thoughts with me to Toronto.

  5. This is really nice Sandra Lee,

    I was reading this Sunday reflection from a Christian perspective yesterday. It is in the book of Philippians, 4:8-9. Our thoughts can lead us to having a peace within ourselves that is beyond understanding. This is an excellent post and a great blog!

    • I am so pleased to “meet” you, Donna. Thank you for sharing this beautiful quote from Philippians. It points to the fact that true peace is beyond the conceptual mind. Words can only approximate it.

      I admire your passion for spiritual care and the wonderful care you give in the hospital setting, where people are so in need. Your blog is so inspiring! I love the name: empowered peace. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate how our paths have crossed.

  6. Instead of positivity, I propose authenticity.
    the love for the real, instead of the love for particularity.

    I have seen too often, specially in “spiritual”circles (as elsewhere!) that the world perception was split into what fits”and “what does not fit”.The “broomed under the carpet avoided “non fitting, might rotten there into a true “danger waste”. I welcome reality as it is with curiosity, if I wouldn’t I could not have handle the “lost children of the mind “who had been rejected for so long (neuroses).Some shiny surface smile is more ugly than a neglect shadow welcomed home.

  7. Hi Sandra,

    I just adore Buddha.

    Buddhism came into my life about 13 years ago and as I always tell people…it saved my life. I am so thankful for my time on the monastic path and all that I learned…I am forever grateful.

    Meditation/contemplation is such a powerful tool. People underestimate how much it can impact your life because it seems to simple and yet it is not as easy as it appears. The great thing about it is that there is no right way to do it.

    Our thoughts create our reality…and one way to know our thoughts is to observe them and meditation helps us to do that.

    Great post!

    • Nadia, Your first line made me laugh and smile!

      I too find that meditation is a powerful tool that can help us so much in the modern world, just as important in business and is being in a monastery. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm, your experience, and how much meditation has benefited your life.

  8. Hi Sandra, I’m clicking over from Nadia’s site.

    I re-read the words of the Buddha for The Dhamapada. Each verse is a testament to how powerful our thoughts can be and yet leaves the door open for each of us to choose to change our thoughts.

    But what I found myself contemplating is the last verse. In my profession, running a grantmaking foundation and political advising, I constantly face actions by human beings that live in the hate camp. The -isms, the atrocities inflicted on the environment, the way many citizens around the world get left behind in poverty, health care and education. This line: “Only love dispels hate”, in particular is so resonant with me because, while I see what the problems are, I also see that there is no shortage of well meaning and loving people who dedicate their lives to eradicate these problems.

    Thank you for a chance to reflect.

    • Welcome Belinda,

      It’s so wonderful and inspiring to hear how strongly you believe in the power of love while functioning, at times, in the midst of anger and aggression. I appreciate how you celebrate all the good people who dedicate their lives to transforming problems! Thank you for bringing these perspective to the conversation.

      It’s really nice to “meet” you. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it.

  9. Hi Sandra,
    I bought a bracelet with the words “I rest in God” on it. Yesterday I was struggling with bad thoughts and put it on. Like you said it’s a force to be reckoned with. I’ll do what it takes!

    • Hi Tess,

      I love the idea of the bracelet. Habits are a force to be reckoned with and every little reminder – like the bracelet – are important parts of setting us free from them. Thanks for sharing this brilliant idea. These small steps can be such a big help and inspiration!

  10. Hi Sandra Lee. I agree the act of calm reflection or contemplation seems to be lost in our shallow thinking modern world. I think most people are becoming so used to quick and shallow that they have lost the ability to slow down and contemplate anything deeply.

    This was beautiful and I’m going to contemplate it for a while :-)

    • Hey, Thanks Stephen. So nice to see you here! Liberating ourselves from the rat race gives us more time to slow down and contemplate. So glad you are guiding the way.

  11. Hi Sandra,

    Thank you so much for this inspiring article. I think that the character defines who we are, and at the same time, defines that we are what we think. Our actions, words, thoughts, feelings and emotions reflects all that part that we have. The most important is, to show our selves and show that we’re growing in time. About that beautiful reflexion of Buddha, I think that, explain our humanity with deep words and reminds me that I have to think good thinks of myself.

    Beautiful article.

  12. I love your bright spirit, Viviana! Thanks so much for sharing your insights. I agree that our character is made up of all these different aspects and the wonderful thing is that we can change and grow. I love the expression “explains our humanity with deep words.” Wishing you all the best.

  13. Hi Sandra. I agree – it’s so important to fill our minds – and think about – with the right stuff. This is why I don’t just consume on the web willy nilly… also I why I don’t watch TV and will turn certain movies off after five minutes. The most important messages are always between the lines, or written into themes too…

    I just received a progressive translation of the Koran from Majeeda which I’m about to pour over my soul! Very much looking forward to this.

    Keep up your beautiful and simple reminders i’ll start expecting them now :)

  14. Hi Ali,

    The choices you’ve made are really smart. It’s much better to occupy our mind with love and wisdom rather than violence and hatred. It doesn’t mean having a blind eye to the reality of the world by any means, but directing our mind in a positive way.

    How wonderful you have this new translation of the Koran. Perhaps you will share a few gems with us on your blog.:)

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s made a big difference for me. And thanks for taking the time to comment.

Comments are closed.