Mohandas K. Gandhi is quoted as saying: “The only devils in the world are those running around in our own hearts. And that is where all our battles ought to be fought.”
Is this true? Or are there spiritual forces originating from outside us which bedevil us? Sometimes I perceive that there are spiritual forces present around us which do try to exert influence upon us. To push us this way or that. However, in order for them to succeed, we have to be providing them with the opening, the thought/feeling processes, which they can then add impetus to within our minds, our hearts. In other words they can energetically “nudge” us the direction they desire us to take. Sometimes possibly more strongly than others.
Even if this is true, it in no way lessens import of Gandhi’s statement. Because if we are paying enough attention to our own mind, our own thoughts, our own feelings, we can own our own direction. Truly be the Captains of our own ship. If, on the other hand, we do not pay enough attention to our own thoughts, feelings, we can be exposing ourselves to being manipulated via “handles” we didn’t fully realize we were subject to.
By engaging in a process of paying attention to our own thoughts and feelings, we can provide ourselves with true autonomy. True freedom. We can decide if we really want to be kind, considerate, empathetic, or rude, inconsiderate and heartless.
On our path to such a state of autonomy there are challenges we face. Most, if not all, of us have been through traumas, times when we have been hurt bodily, or emotionally. We can have gone through times of chronic stress, anxiety. Or times during which we have had certain thoughts, feelings, values imposed upon us by others. Those times leave an imprint on our psyche. Those imprints can influence our lives, our behavior for years, decades, after the condition or event which resulted in the imprint has past. These types of imprints can be some of the hardest challenges we face.
Often, to us subjectively, these imprints can be so deeply imbedded, and/or so old, have been with us so long, we may not recognize them for what they are. We may consider the thoughts and feelings stemming from such imprints as “normal”. We may believe that everyone carries a similar orientation as a part of their innate being. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
If we have, somehow, had fear, hate, a judgmental orientation toward something, maybe a people or a place, or a behavior, deeply ingrained within us, we can truly believe that the thoughts and feelings we experience when we are exposed to those people, places or behaviors are entirely normal. That they are truly an innate part of our being. And being such, they are from the source of our life. From God, divinely ordained.
How much suffering, how many wars have stemmed from exactly that illusion being mistaken for reality?
And it isn’t just that carrying around such imprinting may cause us to harm others. Carrying around such imprinting can also result in our regarding ourselves in an unrealistic, negative, derogatory manner.
Engaging in an ongoing practice of examining our own thoughts and feelings can be difficult. We may not like what we find. Sometimes these revelations can be emotionally, even physically, painful. Yet, even when that is the case, there is cause for gratitude: because we have found it. When we have found it, we can enter into the process of changing it.
One thing we should all know about such processes of change is that they usually (always?) take time and repetition. Deeply ingrained feelings/thoughts tend to occupy networks inside our mind, our spirit. We will find ourselves facing the same, old, thoughts and feelings over and over. They gradually emerge out of the nooks and crannies of our mind. We need to endeavor to be aware, as often as we can, of what is happening and to consciously intervene in our own lives at those times. We need to edit, replace the old thoughts with those we want to replace them. By doing this, over and over, gradually we will retake ownership of our own lives. We will have “cleaned house”, so to speak. Sometimes it takes less time, sometimes more. But it is inevitable once we make the firm decision to mindfully take back the control of our own life.