July 11, 2019

The Mind is both the entry to life as well as the exit for all our problems. So to change our life and resolve out problems, we must start with the Mind–the source of all phenomena–by changing our thoughts.* Recently, I caught myself whining that my children were not using particularly nice table manners. Familiar nagging noises came out of my mouth, “Were you raised by wolves?” “What will you do if the Queen invites you to dinner?” “You’re making this meal a very unpleasant affair for your father and me.” Blah blah blah. I was the reincarnation of Charlie Brown’s teacher, and no one heard a word. Since my work as an editor is all about words, when I get lazy or tired, rather than trying to fix a problem or even understand it, I just sit back and lob words at it. Problem is, the more I say, the less happens. My words, and the whiny thoughts behind them, just spin their wheels, digging trenches filled with self-righteousness and martyrdom. Thank goodness my job also constantly exposes me to new ideas that can get me out of those ruts. Since I’ve been working with Miao Tsan on his books, I’ve started trying to look at situations in new ways and to ask What preconceived notions am I bringing to the table? I remembered this, and I stopped whining at my family. I sat back in my chair and thought What am I so worked up about? Do I really care if they’re eating broccoli with their fingers? If that broccoli were raw, I’d call it a crudite and move on. I was projecting a world of thought onto the broccoli. It wasn’t going to stop there. Bad Table Manners might lead to Bad Attitudes, and so on, through Anti-Social Tendencies all the way to Serious Juvenile Delinquency. I took myself out of this frightening imaginary future and sat my mind back at the dinner table. Perhaps feeling alienated from a mother who nagged every night was a worse problem than defining finger food broadly. What if instead of spending the entire meal–that precious little time we have to spend together–pointing out what was wrong, we refocused out thoughts on more positive things? We have a new tradition at our house now. Before dinner, we go around the table and we each say one thing we’re thankful for. It can be big or small, personal or for the whole family. Sometimes if one of us is particularly uninspired it can be as simple as I’m thankful for this spaghetti. That small change in our thinking pattern has gotten me out of my whiny rut. My next challenge is putting that thought process to work on problems a little bigger than broccoli. * p.35 Just Use This Mind