IF YOU DON'T MIND, IT DOESN'T MATTER
Today we bring our monthly theme of "Minding the Mind" to a close as we look at the topic "If You Don't Mind, It Doesn't Matter."
We had a little contest to see who could tell me the unlikely source from which the title came, and I say "thank you" to those who chose to play. Verbally last Sunday, I said that if you were the first to email me the correct answer, you'd get the gift.
Bob Trent is the one who totally and technically got it right when he wrote: "The statement was part of a Mark Twain quote, but probably better known as a Jack Benny quote."
Mark Twain actually said: "Age is a matter of mind over matter; if you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
And later Jack Benny simplified it by saying our theme for today: "If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!"
So congratulations to all of you and thanks for playing!
While this may seem to be a shallow statement, there is actually some deep wisdom in it. Let's dive in and find it.
Our minds can be quite the mischievous imps, can't they? And because of that, a lot of things -- a lot of things! -- can really matter to us. Do you know what I am getting at?
We can get very worked up about things that then take on proportions much greater than they really need to. Our minds can conjure up negative or wasteful thoughts from simple situations and convince us to react rather than to respond. They can very easily make mountains out of molehills (as the saying goes) and they readily make small things big and medium size things gigantic! We can do a great job of "awfulizing"!
Mark Twain once said: "I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened." The rest of which only happened in his mind, so it mattered! In other words, our minds can be very, very unruly! You know what I'm talking about, don't you?
In Huston Smith's book, World Religions he gives a pretty apt description of what the mind often does. In this context, he is discussing the practices of the Hindu religion, particularly meditation, but see if it doesn't apply perfectly to what I just said: "The motions of the average mind, say the Hindus, are about as orderly as those of a crazed monkey cavorting about its cage. Nay, more; like the prancing of a drunk, crazed monkey. Even so we have not conveyed its restlessness; the mind is like a drunken, crazed monkey that has St. Vitus' Dance. To do justice to our theme, however, we must go a final step. The mind is like a drunken crazed monkey with St. Vitus' Dance who has just been stung by a wasp. Few who have seriously tried to meditate will find this metaphor extreme. The trouble with the advice to 'leave your mind alone' is the unimpressive spectacle that remains. I tell my hand to rise and it obeys. I tell my mind to be still and it mocks my command. How long can the average mind think about one thing - one thing only, without slipping first into thinking about thinking about that thing and taking off from there on a senseless chain of irrelevancies? About three and a half seconds, psychologists tell us. Like a ping-pong ball, the mind will alight where its owner directs it, but only to take off immediately on a jittery flight of staccato bounces that are completely out of hand. What if the mind could be turned from a ping-pong ball into a lump of dough, which when thrown, sticks to a wall until deliberately removed? Would not its power increase if it could be thus held in focus? Would not its strength be compounded, like the strength of a light bulb with ringed by reflectors? . . .'When all senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not - that, say the wise, is the highest state.'"a
And that entire treatise by Smith was about meditation, which of course is a powerful, powerful tool for strengthening the mind.
But let me give you another one that you can do in the moment. It's the power of a focusing question. Great, great power.
So, when your mind becomes overwhelmed with something you are minding (often it comes with the "not enough" thought such as "not enough money, time, love, friends, opportunities" or it could be annoyances, anger, etc.), once you notice this (because you are standing guard the portals of your mind), you ask yourself a specific refocusing question. And the question is this: "What would I love here?"
Now, not in a fantasy way, such as "I would love for this person to quit being a jerk and just do as I would like," or "I would love this big bill I just received to go away," but "given what the facts are right here and now, "What would I love now?"
Simple, yet so very powerful. Why? Because your mind goes on a search for what you would love right there in your given situation, whatever it is. It goes looking for it! And what your mind looks for in earnest, it will find!
Holmes tells us in the SOM: "One of the most important things for us to remember is that we are always causing something to be created for us. And that whatever cause we have set in motion must produce some kind of effect."b
Let me give you an example of the power of a focused question, this one not actually in the direction one would want. Rev. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center in LA once told this story on himself.
On his drive to church each morning, he would regularly pass a homeless man on the corner. Michael would stop and give him water, food, etc. and would speak with him. Michael soon discovered that this man was smart, articulate, sharp.
Michael then started asking himself a very powerful focusing question, "How does someone like that - smart, articulate, sharp -- end up homeless and on the streets? How does that happen?"
Not too long after he posed that question to his mind several times, he received a big envelope in the mail from the IRS with a tax bill of many, many, many thousands of dollars!
"Oh," he said, "that's how something like that can happen! I think I need to watch the kinds of questions I ask my mind to find the answers to."
Yes, that is very, very true because we are creative beings, and an answer the mind goes searching for, it will find!
An empowering question that sets in motion an effect that is in harmony with goodness, life and love is: "What would I love here?"
Here's the deal: Unless we create clear boundaries for the mind and train it to stay within those limits, it is going to continue to waver and create disturbance and confusion.
If we allow a thousand trifling things to overtake our mind, we will constantly be upset, aggravated and unhappy. But if we decide not to give something trivial our attention, then it will cease to bother us. In fact we probably won't even notice that it's there!
We need to conquer the mind, not the situation. Situations will come and go, but if we realize that it just doesn't really matter, then you can let it go.
There was an article years ago in a Sunday paper about Clint Eastwood as a director: "Eastwood lives in the moment, seems undaunted by any setback and can turn any situation into a positive. 'He embraces everything,' an actor on the set of 'Flags of our Fathers' says, recalling a day when 500 extras and a complement of fighting vehicles were confronted with rain. The director moved cameras to another location to shoot a dream sequence. 'The rain let up in a few hours and we went back and continued on,' the actor said. 'I mean, nothing's a problem with him, it's always an opportunity.'"c
Earl Nightingale created a program years and years ago called, "The Magic Word." The whole program was designed to help you discover what the magic word was. When you discovered what it was, you had power. Finally after a series of activities and exercises, you discovered that magic word. Lucky for you this morning - you don't have to go through all of that because I am just going to tell you what the word was. It was attitude.
He told his participants that when they finally understood the power of their attitude, they would understand the power that they could wield.
Today, let's each recognize that we hold the magic word and it really is the authority and power with which we see things.
It's the way in which we create our lives --our attitude. Let us choose carefully, for in that is the power of the day. So, let me illustrate that point! Listen to this article entitled ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING written by Francie Baltazar-Schwartz:
Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I'd be twins!"
Jerry was a manager in the restaurant business, and a unique thing often happened with him. He had waiters follow him around from restaurant to restaurant. Why? Because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation. Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, "I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?"
Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, 'Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.' I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life."
"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.
"Yes it is," Jerry said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life."
Soon after than conversation, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. Jerry and I lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of just reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never, never supposed to do: he left the back door of the restaurant open one morning. As a result, three armed robbers held him up at gunpoint. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. One of the robbers panicked and shot him.
Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.
I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?"
I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. "The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," he replied. "Then, as I lay on the floor bleeding, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live."
"Weren't you scared?" I asked.
Jerry continued, "Not at first. The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room, and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, then I got scared. In their eyes, I read, 'He's a dead man.' I knew I needed to take action."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes,' I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!' Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."
Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything. Choice is all there is.d
Ernest Holmes tells us: "Prepare your mind to receive the best that life has to offer."
Prepare your mind by minding it! Decide to let go of the things that don't really matter. Draw clear boundaries for your mind. As a master, choose what you prefer to focus your attention on and stay there by asking "What would I love here?"
And remember... if you don't mind, then it really doesn't matter!
aHuston Smith World Religions, p. 48
bErnest Holmes Science Of Mind, p. 194
cSunday paper (10/15/06)
d>ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING Francie Baltazar-Schwartz