To Think Good Thoughts Requires Effort

I must miss Japan. Tonight for dinner I found myself in a Japanese restaurant here in Kunming, China which offered everything China is not: tranquility, impeccable service, quiet voices. What a nice reprise from the grime of China daily life! While gorging myself on lots of sushi and hot sake, I came across this excellent quote in James Clavell’s colossal novel Shogun, which is about the Shogun era (1600) in the Asian Saga (set in Japan — yes, I must really miss that wonderful country):

Always remember, child, that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing un-happiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that discipline — training — is about. So train your mind to dwell on sweet perfumes, the touch of this silk, tender raindrops against the shoji, the curve of this flower arrangement, the tranquility of dawn. Then, at length, you won’t have to make such a great effort and you will be of value to yourself, a value to our profession — and bring honor to our world…

Do you have a stash of "good thoughts" you turn to when the going gets rough? One image I have in my head is a white swan swimming gracefully across a pristine, blue lake. I have no idea how why that has stuck but I turn to it when I need a quiet mind.

Optimism is a habit. Practice it!

Related Posts:
Do You Believe Tomorrow Has the Potential to be Better Than Today?
Cultural Pessimism Remains Flip
Quote of the Day About Optimism

5 Responses to To Think Good Thoughts Requires Effort

  1. Jesse says:

    Maybe this is a tad too philosophical, but I don’t think that it’s been accurately established that it’s somehow “easier” or more compelling to actually think in a negative manner. On the surface? Yes. But look deeper and I think you see a number of cognitive biases (my girlfriend is the most beautiful girl in the world, my car was really the best choice, etc., etc.).

    So yeah…positive thinking is good and all, but I don’t think it’s reflective of more effort exerted by someone.

  2. Nikhil says:

    I too disagree with the statement about mind’s tendency to nose dive into un-happiness.I believe that we’re born wired to live,and most of the time its only our excess thoughts getting in the way of our living that trap us in un-happiness.
    I don’t remember who it was who said,’get out of yourself and live’.Its only when we lose focus from what we’re doing that negativity tends to overpower us.

  3. helen chen says:

    Hi Ben,
    Are you passing by Taipei?

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