While I don’t believe in an imaginary land inhabited by tormenting demons, where those of us who have made mistakes in life are sent after death to suffer for eternity, I do believe we inherit mistaken ideas about ourselves, other people and the nature of the world in which we live – mistaken ideas that are capable of creating the suffering of “hell” in our daily lives.
As children, we all learn primary definitions of ourselves, other people and our environments. We learn by interacting with our families and later with our extended communities, to define ourselves as good or bad, frightened or angry, happy or sad, successes or failures and as loved or unloved. Our experiences with our families of origin teach us to define relationships as safe or unsafe, and how to create a balance between intimacy and interpersonal distance. The safety or lack of safety in our childhood homes and communities teaches us our primary perceptions about safety in our environments.
When these early definitions accurately reflect the circumstances of our lives, they serve us. When they don’t accurately reflect those circumstances, and we project them into our current experience as if they were real, we suffer the torments of a self-created “hell.” That thought bears saying another way: We create our own “hells” – all of our own unnecessary suffering – by how we are defining ourselves, other persons, situations and our environments as we speak to ourselves in our thoughts.
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday,
and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow:
our life is the creation of our mind.
- Verse 1, the Dhammapada, the Buddha
And we speak to ourselves all the time. The conversation we have inside our head is called our internal dialogue – “dialogue” rather than “monologue” because it seems as though different parts of our personalities are speaking in different voices and are playing different roles.
For as he think in his heart, so is he.
- Proverbs 23:7
The internal dialogue is always there. We never stop speaking to ourselves; but frequently, we don’t listen carefully enough to what we are saying to ourselves, so we can’t determine whether or not the content of what we are saying truly serves us or harms us. This is why the most significant way to achieve healthy thoughts, feelings, speech and behaviors is to consciously direct the internal dialogue at all times and under all circumstances. It is also the key to physical health.
Every time we speak to ourselves in a negative manner, we create unnecessary suffering. We create it first in ourselves; and then, inevitably we externalize that suffering – transferring the suffering to another person, situations, the environments we’re in and even to objects. It doesn’t matter how well we use our intellect to justify the negativity. It doesn’t matter how capable or caring we usually are. The consequences to the negativity are always, unavoidably, harmful. We are all the same in this manner.
We may pretend to ourselves that it does not matter what we think…
But when the test comes we always betray ourselves,
for the thought controls [the speech and] the act.
- Swami Prabhavananda
The information available through this web site will guide you through the process of learning how to bring your thoughts into your conscious awareness. It will show you how to identify the thoughts that are causing you to suffer unnecessarily, the reasons why you learned to think that way and the simple, practical steps you can take, starting right now, to guide yourself out of “hell’ and into the realization of a life lived consciously in the present moment. And all the practices are simple enough for anyone to do.
This is the true power over “heaven” and “hell” – right here, where it counts - in the present moment.
So, let’s get started.