I was recently blessed to spend Easter in beautiful Colorado, visiting with family there, when my daughter introduced me to a collection of readings for Lent called "The Way of Gratitude." It was written by numerous authors, but I was struck by the one written by Thich Nhat Hahn entitled "The Sun of Awareness" about the powers of the human mind.
This author writes, "Our minds create everything. The majestic mountain top, brilliant with snow, is you yourself when you contemplate it. Its existence depends on your awareness. When you close your eyes, as long as your mind is present, the mountain is there. Sitting in meditation, with several sense windows closed, you feel the presence of the whole universe. Why? Because the mind is there. If your eyes are closed, it is so that you can see better. The sights and sounds of the world are not your enemies. Your enemy is forgetfulness, the absence of mindfulness."
There's a lot to be said about the mind. I have ministered to people with memory loss through either Alzheimer's or vascular failure, and have always been amazed. Usually, these people cannot remember much about short-term events but often are able to remember many things from the past. My mother-in-law had vascular dementia and I vividly remember our experiences with her during this very difficult time in her life. It's horrifying to attempt to remember something when your mind is a blank in that area. And, to be honest, I suspect memory loss is one of the most feared things about the end of life.
More at home, it's interesting how we people living in Bella Vista too often have what we call "a Bella Vista Moment" when we can't remember something important, but there are other times when we can close our eyes and remember in vivid detail things from the past. For instance, I can remember my mother and father in detail and have the privilege of visiting with them through my mind at any time I wish. If you're like me, you can also remember many significant events from the past. Sometimes my grandchildren will ask me to share those memories, but not often. They belong to me and my mind.
People who practice meditation know the power of the mind. Using various techniques, they spend time just exploring both the past and the present through the unique powers of the mind. I'm sure such practices would benefit most people if they learned how to turn off the sights and sounds of the world around them, and just let their minds provide the life memories that have the ability to take them to another time in real-life experience.
In addition to the past, the world around us is full of wonderful experiences if we just open our minds to receive them. Is the glass half empty, or is it half full? Are the animals a nuisance, or are they a blessing from God? Does your yard look beautiful, or do you just see grass needing to be mowed? Normal Vincent Peale specialized in the "Power of Positive Thinking." He pointed out that the way we see the world around us may be positive or negative. When we encounter people, do our income taxes, get sick, or just consider what is happening around us; do we see the positive side of things or the negative?
I like to travel and prefer to get to my destination faster by flying in an airplane, but flying scares a lot of people. They worry about it crashing and ignore the reality that they are far more likely to be involved in an automobile accident than in a plane crash. I love a thunderstorm. It shouts out to me that God is still in control and the world is dancing before him. Others are scared of a thunderstorm and run for their basements in fear of a tornado.
The book of Psalms has a passage that says the trees "danced before the Lord," and several of my colleagues believe that the trees actually pulled up their roots and danced. That is nonsense, but I have stood at the edge of a wooded field and watched the trees dance before the Lord as the wind moved them. I have stood overlooking Niagara Falls and felt the power of cascading water without worrying about drowning, and I have even stood on a tee box in our beautiful city and watched a golf ball actually go where it was aimed (a miracle). It's a beautiful world around us and we only have to open up our minds to receive and appreciate it.
Yes, as we grow older, we do begin to be more forgetful, but God has given us our minds for more than writing books, discovering new things and planning for the future; He has allowed us to remember and, for that alone, I am grateful. I hope you are, too.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.