Mastering Your Internal Environment
where you choose
to spend your time
are reflections of
what is important to
Mastering Your Internal Environment
How external environments influence us
When people use the term “environment,” they are
usually referring to an external setting or place. Although
many environments are natural and untouched, modern
man spends most of his time in specifically designed
environments. External environments can significantly
impact our behavior and our thoughts. Consider the distinct
differences between the following two examples:
First setting: Imagine being in a dimly lit, smoke-filled bar,
at eleven o’clock on a Saturday night. The trendy over-
dressed, or barely-dressed, crowd consumes alcoholic
refreshments throughout the night. The deafening music
from the live band competes with loud conversations,
many tainted with profanity and sexual overtones. By
simply entering the door of this environment, a person
is bombarded with hundreds of subtle stimuli, which
influence his actions, emotions, and thoughts.
Second setting: Picture yourself on a Sunday morning at
church, synagogue, or temple, where candles flicker,
and incense fills the air. A choir sings uplifting hymns,
or chants play softly in the background. People practice
introspection and monitor conversations for tone and
content. The dress is modest and tasteful. In this
environment, thoughts and feelings are mostly peaceful,
loving and uplifting.
Environment is stronger than will
These two situations are not given as examples of
right or wrong behavior. Instead, they are meant to illustrate
the power of external environments over human behavior
and action. We participate in many kinds of environments
throughout our day, which might include work, home,
entertainment, and the dojo. These environments affect us
strongly, so we must choose them with care.
environment is the
lens with which you
view the world.
Self-control vs. mastery of the self
Most of us don’t realize that we also have an internal
environment. For thousands of years in Eastern culture,
people have practiced mastering their internal environment,
but this concept is not widely understood in the
West. Most people recognize the need for a little
self-control. But few of us comprehend the difference
between self-control and mastery of the self, which includes
control over thoughts and feelings, discipline of the breath,
and command over moods and attitudes.
Our internal environment is made up of thoughts,
vibration and consciousness. It is the lens with which
we view the world. Our internal environment ultimately
determines the degree of happiness that we experience
over our lifetime. Three steps are necessary to master
your internal environment:
A person’s unbalance, mentally or physically, is the
same as a weight.
1. Understand and accept that you have an internal environment.
Both the body and
mind should be able
to change direction
at any time.
You can’t master something, if you don’t even recognize it.
2. Learn to monitor thoughts, feelings and emotions.
To maintain and eventually master the internal
environment, learn to monitor thoughts, feelings and
emotions. Blaming other people or circumstances for your
own attitude, mood, and or even thoughts is much easier
than accepting personal responsibility.
Haven’t we all been guilty of thoughts like, “He makes
me so mad, or she upsets me? He frustrates and
depresses me, or they raise my blood pressure? He makes
me happy or she makes me feel good.” Realize that these
types of statements, whether expressed in words or just
thoughts, relinquish control over your internal environment.
Many times, simple awareness of thoughts and feelings
can affect actions. For example, when we are tired, sick,
angry, or upset, we should probably delay making important
decisions or put off difficult conversations. At the very least,
we should choose words and behavior carefully. People
judge us by our actions, and friends and loved ones will
excuse a bad day, but they will not soon forget it. If we have
too many of these bad days strung together, others begin to
avoid us, or be careful around us, not wanting to provoke
The competitor looks at his opponent, the artist looks
at his partner and the wise man looks within.
3. Take control of your internal environment.
By now, you realize that all feelings, moods, and
attitudes are born from your thoughts. So getting control
over your internal environment requires that you take
control of your thoughts. Monitoring your thoughts, feelings
and moods for a significant period of time and noticing
your reactions to situations is important. But, you must
take action. Use affirmations and visualization
techniques to help construct your desired mindset.
Becoming aware of your thoughts doesn’t require that
you endlessly contemplate them. You might fear that this
will take a lot of time, but nothing could be further from
the truth. Thoughts happen in the moment. You cannot
monitor or change thoughts from the past or the future.
You can only change them in the present. Changing from
undesirable to desirable thoughts is a simple, but not easy,
process. Begin by recognizing negative thoughts, banish
them, and then immediately replace them with positive
thoughts. The most difficult task is to recognize each and
every emerging negative thought, before becoming
attached to it. Attachment manifests as a bad feeling,
mood, or attitude.
External circumstances continuously bombard us, but
we can choose to maintain a steady course internally. We
can use introspection to monitor our internal environment
and reason to guide us. We can use our strong will to
defeat bad habits, push beyond our boundaries, and keep
away distractions. We have the power to master the most
difficult part of our practice, the self.
Learn to listen to that
which is not said, but
We can use the practice to truly understand and
eventually master ourselves.
A person’s heart is
the same as heaven
It was Monday night and the last class had
just bowed out. Students were cleaning and
saying goodbye, when the master noticed Charles, patiently
waiting to talk. The master approached him and asked if he
wanted to join him in the office. Taking a seat in his chair, the
master asked, “What are we talking about today, Charles?”
Charles sat down, dropped his shoulders and sighed. His
eyes filled with tears, and he looked very uncomfortable. Finally
he blurted out, “Sir, I want to say goodbye. I am joining the
Obviously surprised, the master said, “This is very sudden.
When and how did you come to this decision? You have
practiced here for many years and never indicated any desire
to enlist in the military.”
Charles slowly began to speak, “Sir, my life is a mess.
I am disorganized, undisciplined and unhappy. The military will
provide the structure and discipline that I desperately need.”
The master nodded in agreement, “Yes, Charles, the
military is a powerful path for those who are drawn to it. It is
a noble and respectable career. But, would I be correct in
stating that you are choosing the military out of desperation?”
Charles straightened in his chair. “Yes sir, but I sincerely
feel desperate. If I want to accomplish the things that I want to
in my life, I need control.”
“I would agree that you need discipline and control. But
why the military?” the master asked.
Charles, growing uncomfortable and a little defensive said,
“Sir, you have often warned that environment is stronger than
will. I feel that being in an environment where I am given very
little choice will be best for me.”
The master walked over to the window and looked out at
the outdoor practice area. He spoke in almost a whisper,
“Charles, many people live under the supervision of others,
from spiritual institutions to penal institutions, and everything
in between. Even some corporations demand conformity
among employees in both behavior and dress. Many will
blindly follow orders or perform rituals, often for many years,
without making any real progress. If you do not freely
embrace the environment and the principles behind the
organization, you will only resent the confined existence of
a chained man. You must be “called” to a restrictive
Over the years, I’ve noticed that you have some difficulty
with authority, even here in the dojo. Yes, I have often said
that environment is stronger than will.”
He turned to look directly into Charles’ eyes, and
continued, “Charles, there are two kinds of environments:
One is external and one is internal. Wearing a military uniform
and obeying rules and regulations will give you external
discipline, but you need to take control over your internal
environment. I am referring to your thoughts, attitude and
moods. To truly be happy, you must maintain control of the
internal world, regardless of your surroundings.” The master
returned to his chair.
Charles sat quietly for a moment, gathering his thoughts
and began to speak, “I think that I understand, sir. To
deepen my practice, I must include my thoughts, attitude
and behavior. I have been a poor workman, finding fault with
How successful are
you at controlling your
and ponder is
important, but to
you must learn
to just be.
Monitoring your internal environment
Using a tape recorder or small notepad, record your
thoughts, feelings, attitudes, moods, and emotions several
times throughout the day for 2 weeks. Be specific, giving
as much detail as possible at each entry. Strive for a
minimum of 5 observations a day. Obviously the more
times a day you track your internal environment, the better.
Try not to miss or skip days, but if you do, resume the
activity immediately. Each entry should take no more than
a few moments.
At the end of each day, read or listen to all of your
entries for that day. Identify your most frequent and power-
ful thoughts, feelings and emotions. After monitoring your
internal environment for 2 weeks, write a paper on your
discoveries. Include the most frequently recurring thoughts,
feelings, attitudes and emotions, for example, anger,
frustration, or happiness. Reflect on what you’ve learned
When you have completed this activity keep a copy of your
work for future reference and make a copy to turn in to your
At all times, it is your thoughts, feelings and
emotions, which determine your happiness.
Controlling your internal environment
The secret to control
After monitoring your internal environment, you should
clearly see how your thoughts are influenced. Rather than
blaming outside forces for your moods and behaviors, you
can gain control over your internal environment. The secret
lies in the breath. Most of us have heard that taking several
deep breathes when angry helps to calm you down. This
common childhood advice is more powerful that most
similar to the
moon and sun.
The breath and the mind are inseparable
The suggestion seems so simple, that we dismiss it,
in search of more advanced or complicated control
techniques. But the breath and the mind are inseparable.
The condition of one directly reflects the condition of the
other. When you are angry, frustrated, upset, breathing
speeds up. When you are calm, relaxed, meditating or
sleeping, breathing slows down. So by taking control over
the breath, we effectively take control over our internal
environment. Centering ourselves, we are able to return
to a calmer, more peaceful state.
To control your internal environment, use diaphragm
breathing taught in Lesson One. Throughout the day, when
you see or feel yourself becoming upset, frustrated or
angry, immediately take 6-12 deep diaphragm breaths
before proceeding. Before beginning a stressful period in
the day, attending a meeting, facing a verbal confrontation,
or even driving in rush hour traffic, perform diaphragm
breathing to help relax your body and calm your mind.
A martial artist should
position himself in the
center of the storm.
he is actively calm.
Catch it early
Imagine that you are on a very steep mountain with a
large boulder resting at the top. The boulder is about to roll
down the mountain, and will probably destroy everything in
Your job is to stop the boulder! Where do you want
to be standing? Obviously, the sooner you can stop it, the
better. Once it gains momentum, you lose control. The
same is true in your life. Without control, you will begin
rationalizing and justifying irrational behavior, thought and
The great ones say that you should master the
self…referring specifically to your internal
• To control your internal environment, you must identify the
negative thought or feeling early. Once you become attached
to the thought or feeling, staying in control will be difficult.
You are likely to get swept up in the thought and feelings and
feel justified in your behavior. Remember, this is not about
being right or wrong. It is about staying in control.
• Take deep-relaxed breaths, not quick, short breaths.
• The more that you practice this technique, the more you
condition yourself to take deep breaths before responding to
The manner of drinking
and spitting is either
hard or soft.
• Overall better relationships
• Happier, less stressful days
- The ability to react calmly and rationally
You cannot be aware of your thoughts in the past
or the future–only in the moment.
In ancient times,
were known to
write and read
great books. These
activites, along with
practice, led to
greater wisdom and
*The Prophet–Kahlil Gibran
Zen Keys–Thich Nhat Hanh
Book Of Five Rings–Miyamoto Mushashi