The Power of Metaphors
Metaphors are powerful ways of capturing an idea, attaching it to something well-known, then delivering that message to our memory banks to be retrieved as needed to inspire and instruct us as we travel the road of life.
The Power of Thought
Our thoughts are powerful things as well. They shape and form who we are, like so many hands molding clay. Each thought is an impression, an indention into the clay of our minds. And each indention in the clay of our minds is an indention into our lives.
Joyful thoughts change us; we become more joyful because of them. Sad, angry, resentful or hateful thoughts change us too. In fact, we become what we think about over time.
If our thoughts are mostly ugly, our hearts harden and our minds grow slow with frigidity. In the midst of beauty, we see ugly. Sometimes, only the ugly.
If, on the other hand, our minds are alive with hope and gratitude, with faith and confidence, with compassion and forgiveness, then our lives become light and happy, filled with immeasurable joy. Then in the midst of ugly, we spot the beauty. And sometimes, we only notice the beauty.
But what of those thoughts that seem to intrude on our minds, breaking through the “Keep Out” signs we’ve hung on the door of our memory and beat us up in the back alleys of our imagination?
Sometimes even in the midst of sitting quietly with a good book or doing something fun or enjoyable, thoughts of painful pasts or guilt or judgment can jump us from behind and leave us emotionally bloodied and battered.
But we are not without defense. We have options. We are not passive bystanders to life. We can stand at the door of our minds as the bouncers of our thoughts and determine who gets in.
It’s time we start.
3 Metaphors of the Mind
Life is just too precious and too short to sit around hoping our thoughts will be happy and uplifting and optimistic and inspiring. If we sit at that door and simply hope the right “people” come in, it won’t take long before we notice, they don’t. Like the right people, the right thoughts must be pursued too. Mental metaphors can help instruct us in that effort.
Try these out for size …
#1: The Key
Our memories of the past have only the power we give them to exercise influence over us. We lend our memories energy by remembering them, by spending time with them, by indulging them and letting them in when they come knocking on the front door of our minds. We’ve even given some of our memories the key to the door so they don’t even have to knock anymore. They simply come and go at will.
Well, no more! Take the key away. For now on, you are the guard at the gate of your mind. YOU choose what memories will enter and which ones will be banned, outcast, ostracized and banished. You hold the key to the thoughts of anger and suspicion, doubt, embarrassment and pessimism.
Lesson: You hold the key: You are the steward of your mind and can choose what thoughts and memories to let in. No thought can enter the door of your mind without your permission. So stop granting permission to those thoughts that undermine who you are inside, at your best.
#2: The Garden
Note: This metaphor is inspired by James Allen’s, As a Man Thinketh (I recommend it!).
Your mind is like a garden. You are the gardener. In this garden are all the things you might find in any garden: Beautiful flowers and vibrant growth as trees and bushes are nourished by the sun. But underneath it all are aphids and grubs of all sorts munching and crunching on the roots, leaves and pedals that beautify your garden. There are weeds as well springing up underneath the brush. But you are the gardener. You manage the garden. If left unchecked, there will be overgrowth and bug infestations and weeds that choke out the plants that make your garden beautiful.
You, as the gardener of your mind can let your mind wander where it will, the weed-thoughts of pain and humiliation and negativity drifting into your mental garden, planting themselves there, growing at will. But as the gardener, you can put on your gardening gloves, pick up the shovel and weeder and go to work plucking out the ugly weed-thoughts, spraying the thought-bugs that eat away at the beauty of your life.
Be an active gardener and pluck out the weeds before they have a chance to propagate themselves, spreading and digging in.
Lesson: You are the gardener: You can debug your mind and remove memory weeds that choke out the good and the positive and the beautiful. You can remove undermining thoughts. You can plant empowering ones. So plant them!
#3: The Stage
Note: This idea is inspired by the educator-turned-religious-leader, Boyd K. Packer.
Think of your mind as though it was a stage. On that stage are performers acting out scenes all the time. You are the director and the screen writer. You produce the plays and hire and fire the actors. You are in complete control even if you’ve relinquished that control over the years to the actors who currently run wild choosing any old scene they like to act out at will.
But the reality is that you are in charge. At any moment you can resume that authority. So do so now.
Choose which actors you want acting out which scenes on the stage of your mind. If creepy characters pop up trying to act out scenes of past pain and anger and despair, dismiss them immediately.
But this is key: The stage of your mind will not stay empty for long. It won’t. And if you don’t choose the scene played by the actors of your choosing, the creepy actors will sneak back onto the stage and play out scenes of despair or doubt or fear or disappointment or anger or loss or hate or lust or revenge.
So begin to choose.
Select the scenes to be acted out. As creepy images of the past slither onto the stage, as the director, dismiss them and redirect the play to your liking. Don’t beat them up. Don’t disparage the writer. Simply dismiss the actors you don’t want there and replace them with those you do.
Replace screenplays of ugliness and pain with higher scripts of gratitude and joy and deep enjoyment of the beauties of life. You’re the director, so direct!
Lesson: You are the director and the writer: You can deliberately choose which thoughts populate the stage of your mind. You write the script. So write it well.
What we think can play tricks on who we decide we can be. Our thoughts can limit our faith and confidence, derailing hope and desire.
Our thoughts can drag us to a crawl and even sink us in the mud and quicksand of our self-limiting doubts and fears and anger. Memory is the vehicle by which such thoughts can run us over and shut us down and hold us back from reaching our potential.
Don’t let it!
Instead, choose which thoughts will be let into your mind. Be patient with yourself as you begin retraining the way you think. Like creating a streamlined body, it can also take a while to change how you habitually think. But you can streamline your thoughts as well.
So get rid of your self-defeating thoughts as they intrude. And stay vigilant as you constantly retrain your thoughts to be positive, grateful, kind and generous.
As you do so, the world will begin to look very different than it does today. And, my friend, you will like it.
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Flicker Credit: Anu Viswan