New Thought Editorials > Riding Herd on Your Head


Autumn 2011

Riding Herd on Your Head

One of my favorite cartoon sketches is from Richard Bandler’s book, Using your Brain for a Change. The book ends with a delightful sketch of a brain wearing a saddle, onto which has been stitched, in Frankenstein fashion, a person’s head and neck. People do tend to use brain and mind interchangeably, and it gets the point across that we need to ride herd on our thoughts.

There is overwhelming evidence from psychology that what we give our attention to grows.

Audio publisher Earl Nightingale’s famous "Strangest Secret" is "We become what we think about most of the time." Such habitual thought becomes a belief, for better or for worse. We install new beliefs by constant repetition, like an annoying television commercial. So whether it’s a question of channeling our thoughts productively or becoming unstuck from an undesirable persistent thought, we need to discipline our thinking, to shepherd our thoughts and retrieve the wayward ones just like sheep that stray. II Corinthians 10:5 advises, "Take every thought captive in obedience to Christ", and since Paul has already informed us that "we have the mind of Christ" (I Cor 2:16), we have what we need to do the job.

First, we need to work on the things that we can do something about. Jesus said, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" (Matt 6:27) This comes in the middle of a passage in which he is telling us to avoid worry, a particularly useless form of thought, but rather to put God first "and all these things [that you have been worrying about not having] shall be added unto you". We can’t think ourselves taller, but we can change the character of our thoughts by choosing carefully what we read, study, and meditate on—or don’t. Also, the only behavior we can change is our own, so that is where we need to aim our thinking. We may be able to influence others, but such influence must begin by our setting a good example. In the neutral environment that is necessary in order for us to have free will, God persuades, never coerces. We should do the same.

Next, the only time in which we can act is now: "Behold, now is a very acceptable time" (II Cor 6:2). The past is dead, and the future hasn’t happened yet. Any study of the past in order to learn from it, or any planning for the future must be done in the present. That means that we need to be fully present in whatever we are doing, noticing what is going on around us that may have bearing on what we are concerned with. Objects that are in place all the time tend to disappear from our notice, which may or may not be a good thing. The same is true of habitual thoughts. We need to pay attention to what we are habitually thinking that may not be useful to us, just as we need to pay attention to what may be sitting on the kitchen counter that doesn’t really belong there. We need a spiritual shampoo, or perhaps a broom to sweep out the mind.

Finally, having become aware of our thoughts, we need the discipline to bring them into line, to choose where to put our attention. New Thought author Florence Scovel Shinn writes, "We must all have a watchman at the gate of our thoughts. The Watchman at the Gate is the superconscious mind." She compares thoughts to stampeding cattle or sheep, and remarks, "But a single sheep-dog can control the frightened sheep and guide them into the sheep pen . . . by gentle determination, not force." She suggests repeating an affirmation constantly while our thoughts are "on the rampage", and reminds us, "We cannot always control our thoughts, but we can control our words, and repetition impresses the subconscious, and we are then master of the situation." She adds, "You nourish negative thoughts by giving them your attention. Use the occult law of indifference and refuse to be interested. Soon you will starve out the ‘army of the aliens.’ Divine ideas will crowd your consciousness, false ideas fade away, and you will desire only that which God desires through you."

Turn the other cheek: give your attention to what you really want, not what you don’t want. Nip those thoughts into line.