Everyone knows that thoughts contain power—after all, they guide our actions in every way.
But sometimes we have a hard time controlling our thoughts, perhaps angry or jealous ones, and we act out in hurtful ways. But one rule of thumb is: Thoughts are thoughts. Good, bad, in between. They come, they stay, they go, they morph, they grow. What we think does not come from a simple formula. We each have from 20,000 to 50,000 thoughts every waking day, then an uncountable number of dreaming thoughts while we sleep.
How can we focus on our positive thoughts, often called a positive attitude? This is not the same as wearing rose-colored glasses, one of the fatal thinking errors which leads to unrealistic expectations and poor judgment because everything looks rosy and good regardless of reality. Positivity doesn’t discount the negative, but rather works for a way around it and toward something more profound, productive and pleasing.
Baha’is try to exemplify a positive attitude. As writer and editor friend David Langness recently wrote in the BahaiTeachings Blog Post What’s a Baha’i, Anyway?: “Baha’is generally tend toward happiness, try to have a positive, radiant, healthy outlook on life, and express their love for humanity by engaging in volunteer work for children, the elderly and the poor. Baha’is do their utmost to exemplify the spiritual teachings of Baha’u’llah, which call upon everyone to know and love God and carry forth an ever-advancing civilization.”
Yet, because we’re dealing with thoughts, which come from millions of sources, it’s not as simple as adopting an optimistic “glass is half-full” philosophy. We must still recognize that the glass is half-empty, too. This balanced outlook that Baha’is and others try to have is based on reality, as Abdu’l-Baha said many years ago:
We must investigate reality. We must put away these superstitions. It is a self-evident truth that all humanity is the creation of God. All are His servants and under His protection. All are recipients of His bestowals. God is kind to all His servants. At most it is this: that some are ignorant; they must be educated in order that they may become intelligent. Some are immature as children; they must be aided and assisted in order that they may become mature. Some are sick and ailing; they must be healed. But the suffering patient must not be tested by false treatment. The child must not be warped and hindered in its development. The ignorant must not be restricted by censure and criticism. We must look for the real, true remedy. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 40.
For the record, superstitions are thoughts or views or opinions that are not based on reality; they are false realities. Many come from anecdotal experiences, others from hearsay, others from being taught incorrect assumptions and facts. In other words, the truth, like thoughts, must be tested, much like a scientist tests a hypothesis. So what testing tool should we use? Where is the truth barometer we’d all like to have?
Those questions bring us full circle back to the rational soul, the rational mind, using proofs and evidences and arguments to find the truth of a matter. Abdu’l-Baha was the perfect example for this, which is why we Baha’is quote his statements so often. His inspiration and reality was centered on the the teachings of Baha’u’llah. Both Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha taught that the remedy for all ills and the key to a positive attitude is love, and it begins with loving oneself as a creation of God, with a soul and a purpose in life. A positive attitude and the ability to love humankind starts with love. Repeat: Positive thoughts start with love.
The essence of Baha’u’llah’s Teaching is all-embracing love, for love includeth every excellence of humankind. It causeth every soul to go forward. It bestoweth on each one, for a heritage, immortal life. Erelong shalt thou bear witness that His celestial Teachings, the very glory of reality itself, shall light up the skies of the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 66.