I read a New Age book 35 years ago that changed the way I look at life. In this book "Seth Speaks" by Jane Roberts, Seth said that our thoughts and beliefs change our reality. "Your scientists are finally learning what philosophers have known for centuries -- that mind can influence matter. They still have to discover the fact that mind creates and forms matter."
This was a totally new concept to me, yet in my deepest heart, it rang true.
It wasn't until about 10 years later I discovered that the first verses in the Dhammapada, the Sayings of the Buddha, say the same thing. "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakeable."
In both, we are encouraged to become more aware of our thoughts. It's within our power to see what kinds of thoughts we have, to learn how to change them, to discover how following them can lead to insight and inspiration. Since I have an active mind this kind of stuff appealed to me.
One of the exercises suggested is to become aware of a thought and then follow it backwards as far as possible, perhaps seeing where it originated, perhaps seeing a pattern.
Here's a recent example:
Driving home from a nearby town, I was thinking about our local roads, and a little annoyed at the way the municipality has handled them. "I've lived here over 40 years and the only time they plowed this section of road properly in the winter was when one of their plow drivers lived here and needed to get home."
But I caught the rant before it could gain steam. Even justified anger depletes me if I indulge it. So, "What I was thinking about right before the "roads" thoughts?" The feeling of sadness hit at the same time as the memory. I'd been thinking about someone I loved who was in pain. I couldn't make it better. I felt helpless, vulnerable and sad. My crankiness about the roads wasn't really about them at all. It was about suppressing the sad and helpless feelings.
I may not always have the room/courage/time to process the difficult feelings, but it's useful to know how my mind operates. I came into this world with a busy mind. I may as well use it to my advantage.