Monday, July 1, 2013

The 'Mind Vice' (Recovering the Faculties of Faith)

I believe that when you have a problem, you talk it over with your priest, or your tailor, or the mute elevator porter at your men's club, and you take that problem and crush it with your mind vice. But for lesser beings like curly-haired men and people who need glasses, therapy can help. – Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock

Eight, nine, ten times a day I'm checking the realtor.com listings in our area.  Adjusting the search settings one-by-one, tweaking location, price and size.  Despite the responsibility of four kids seven and under and the ever present demands of laundry and dinner, blogging and LIFE, I've spent endless hours trolling the web.  It's not healthy, I know, and when I step away from the screen, back into the reality of actual physical life, my eyes are glazed and dim, my mind in a perpetual state of distraction. 

Later in the day as I stand at the sink with the dishes, running water and soap wiping away the grime of another meal, I recognize in an instant an old, familiar pattern.  The phrase "mind-vice" sums it up as I remember an episode from 30 Rock where Jack advises Liz to crush her relational problems in her "mind-vice" thereby circumventing icky things like feelings.  

Somehow I keep thinking if I sit and search long enough I can crush this house-hunting problem in my "mind vice." 

Standing at the sink, though, I reminded of how we started this whole process, how my husband and I both felt an invitation into a dream born somewhere deeper inside the body that had little to do with the mind and its linear logic. 

The mind is good for some things, but not all things.  Cynthia Bourgeault puts it this way,

The intellectual center carries the "denying force;" it's natural aptitude is for reasoning, doubting and making fine discriminations.  In their own right, these discriminatory skills are legitimate and profoundly necessary, built into the structure of the human mind itself.  But in terms of the spiritual journey, trying to find faith with the intellectual center is like trying to play a violin with a saw: it's simply the wrong tool for the job.  This is one reason why all religious traditions have universally insisted that religious life cannot be done with the mind alone; that is the biggest single impediment to spiritual becoming. "The Wisdom Way of Knowing," 31

There are so many things the mind is good for and, then again, so many things it isn't - like Love and Hope, Joy and Surrender. 

I can keep hunting, keep searching obsessively, but something tells me my mind is on a false trail, barking up the wrong tree, if you will, and though the hunt gives me the illusion of productivity and control, it also keeps me from the fullness of life in the present - it's terrifying uncertainty, it's open-ended possibilities. 

Receiving a dream isn't like solving a math problem and, as Bourgeault says, "the spiritual life cannot be done with the mind alone."

Like the sunflower turning it's face toward the sun, I feel the invitiation to return to faith that's guided by someting deeper than mere sight.

Laying on the floor, I feel the ground, solid benath me and I'm reminded again of that Love that holds my family and I.

I listen for bird song everywhere and smile as it floats in through the open transom lighter than the sunshine filtering through closed blinds. 

I watch the robin, plump and happy who's so taken with our back yard. 

I listen and look and watch and wait and as I exercise these other faculties, I feel it growing, this seed of hope, though my mind sees no reason for it. 

This post is linked with Playdates with God.

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