Self-Control: Everything Begins From Within

 Topic: Self-Control: Everything Begins From Within

Today we are talking about this quote from Lau Tzu, a Chinese philosopher:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny”

This quote, which is also on the wall here in the Temple of the Path, really encompasses three Virtues: Self-Control, Effort, and Mindfulness. For now, we are focusing on the Virtue of Self-Control.

Lau Tzu points out the natural progression of thought to word, to action and to habit, and then to character and destiny, and reminds us that all of these things are under our control. While luck may play a part in the shape of one’s life, character and Self-Control have a much greater influence.The Wheel of the Virtues always begins with Self-Control, because the practice of every other Virtue and every Core Tenet starts with controlling your own behavior, from your thoughts to your habits. You can only be Compassionate if you can control the way you react to the actions of others. You can only be Mindful when you are in control of your thoughts. You can only be Serene when you deliberately choose peace. And of course, you can only practice Balance when you control your consumption.

We are encouraged to take responsibility for what we choose to say and do, to recognize our control over our Selves. Our actions and reactions always begin within, and we can train our brains to react in certain ways to different stimuli. As an example -and as an interesting exercise- when you see somebody in public wearing something you do not like,  you can choose to either look in another direction or Mindfully find something positive about them to focus on instead. The point is that what you choose to think about really is up to you, and entertaining negative thoughts about others will make you a more negative person in general. Maintaining a positive attitude, on the other hand, helps you to weather difficult circumstances with grace.

Control over our thoughts can be challenging, especially for those who are neuro-atypical or who suffer from certain mental illnesses. For instance, my OCPD sometimes hijacks my brain and I start dwelling on the most catastrophic scenarios I can come up with, like “What if I lost my job and then could not pay my bills and then my whole life just fell apart?” or “What if we got kicked out of the house for some reason and I had to find a new place to live?” After some therapy, and with the help of the Path and its teachings, I am learning how to exercise Effort to recognize those anxiety attacks and control the negative thoughts that follow.

Path doctrine teaches us that the practice of all the Virtues and Tenets begins within the Self, with mastery over our thoughts and therefore our words and actions. Do you see the effect of Mindfully practicing Self-Control in your daily life?


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