Hole in the Head

A few days ago I told the proprietor of a small women’s clothing store, ” I need another item of clothing like I need a hole in the head.” Then it struck me, “I probably do need a hole in the head!”

Jesus’s words in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 5:29-30 come to mind:
29 Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. 30 And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump. (The Message)

So what do I do if my mind or my brain is the offender rather than my hand or eye? I understand Jesus is not talking about literal, voluntary amputation or gouging. But a metaphorical hole in the head seems like a good way to release the gases of my toxic thinking. The hole could also spread fresh air and ventilation to some starving, damaged cells.
So along with the practices I described in Inner Gossip, I’ll add some intentional breathing with a visual. I’ll imagine an extra hole in my head where ruach, the Holy Spirit, can circulate and surround my brain and my thoughts with fresh, living air.

Bookmarks

A week ago, a friend sent me the two bookmarks with prayers for Peace, Joy, and Love. What great reminders bookmarks can serve as prompters for prayer. Every time I open my book, I see the word Peace on the bookmark. It reminds to take a breath and to receive the Peace of Christ.

The two bookmarks in the middle are ones I drew with the names and initials of  friends. Every time I see them, they remind me to pray for the people. If I stuffed all of the books I open in the course of a day with bookmarks, I could have a veritable prayer marathon.

Bookmarks: Carol Welch, Sybil MacBeth

Inner Gossip

“My mind is a dangerous neighborhood and it’s risky to go there alone.” One of the dangers of my inner neighborhood is gossip. I know the devastation of gossip in the real world outside of my head. A year ago I wrote about its exponential growth in a post called The Mathematics of Gossip. I’ve learned to resist (most of the time) the urge to say aloud damaging words I’ll regret. But it’s much more difficult to tame the invisible tongue in my head than it is the nubby, four-inch muscle in my flesh and blood mouth.

The stories I tell and the rumors I spread in my own thoughts are just as destructive as those on the airwaves. When my internal tongue wags, the neighborhood in my head becomes full of resentment and chaos. All of the characters in my mind throw in their two cents. Real and imagined scenarios and stories about the object of my gossip grow larger than life.

Quelling the inner gossip takes enormous discipline. In her book Start Where You Are : A Guide to Compassionate Living (pp. 34-35), Pema Chodron says we tend to “act out or repress” in response to those messy inner feelings. Both responses are detrimental to the serenity and health of my inner neighborhood. Instead, she suggests we acknowledge the feelings, but “drop the story line.” Until I read her words, I didn’t realize how much of an internal storyteller I can be–and how those stories become epics of obsession. My friend Page says it another way: “Don’t let the train (the story) leave the station.” Because as it leaves the station, it picks up steam and adds new cars.

So here is my new discipline. When the thoughts come into my head I notice and name them–“resentment,” “anger,” “jealousy,” “shame,” “fear”…. Then I let them go. Maybe I’ll have to do it again 15 seconds later. But I’m going to resist creating a story and spreading gossip. It’s not good for the loving community I’m trying to build in the neighborhood of my mind.

By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue – it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer.With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image.” (James 3: 6-9 MSG)

Birthday Card for USA

I love my country, but I am not a blind lover. When I wrote USA in the middle of the page and started to draw, I let the words come unfiltered. Negative and positive attributes of our country walk hand in hand–just like in me and probably everyone else I know.

But the bottom line for me is I trust in God. I trust in God to change, heal, chastise, love, protect, encourage, guide…me and my country. Now if I would just listen!

Happy birthday, my country!

Drawing: Sybil MacBeth 2010