There is an old comic strip with two aliens looking down on earth and seeing a man walking a dog, picking up the dog’s poop. The caption on the comic depicts the question one alien is asking the other: “Which one is master?”

Clearly the man is in the service of the dog and not the other way around.

I think about that comic when I consider the way our thoughts stream through our head. Many of the thoughts we have relate to either worrying about the future or regret of the past.

The thoughts are like a river that we jump in and get swept along.

Clearly we are at the mercy of wherever our thoughts take us. Which is quite unfortunate.

Whenever we are anxious about what may come or feeling disappointed about what has past, we are wasting this particular present moment. Plus these thoughts won’t change the past and only serve to muddy the future.

When we let our thoughts control us like that, we are no different than the man dealing with the unpleasant dog excrement. Our thoughts have become the master.

The truth is that we control the thoughts in our head.

This is such a simple, yet profound, statement. Our thoughts don’t “just happen”. We choose them.

Wayne Dyer was fond of saying that nearly all of our problems are in our heads and not reality. There is a good bit of truth to his insight.

Two questions that immediately come to mind when we are confronted with the reality that we control our thoughts:

(1) If I’m in control, then why am I choosing all these crappy [pun intended] thoughts?

(2) How can I change my thoughts and have a better experience in the world?

Let’s start with the second and come back to the first.

The first step is the recognition that we choose our thoughts. One of the easiest ways to catch this is by watching our emotions.

We’re so conditioned to believe that our emotions are the result of what’s going on in the world and our bodies. But with a little practice, we make the amazing insight that all of our emotions come from our thoughts.

So, when we start “feeling our feelings” we can begin to see the thoughts that preceded every emotion. The more we practice this mental observation, the easier it is to see the thoughts as they are forming. And from here, it’s a small step to choosing a different thought – one that would lead to peace instead of conflict.

Now, back to the first question of why we choose the negative thoughts in the first place. This one is a lot deeper and more subtle. It relates to the mechanics of our ego and its incessant drive to prove that we can suffer but it’s not our fault. As a result, we identify with all our pains (physical and emotional) and can easily point a finger directly at the source: our body and what’s going on in the world.

The ego would never have us look at the true source of pain – which has nothing to do with what’s going on in the world. The true source – the master of pain – is the choice for ego thoughts. Which is the real reason each of us is our own worst enemy. Not because we are inherent masochists, but because we’ve chosen the ego thought system.

Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see. It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work, if your perception of the world is to be changed.” — A Course in Miracles

Once we recognize that we control our thoughts, then everything changes. With practice, we begin to see the painful thoughts we’ve been choosing and start the process of making a different choice.

We are the master of our thoughts, and this realization is the key to incredible peace and happiness.