Treating the Mind as an Inner Temple
One of the most important ingredients of a spiritual practice is the discipline of setting boundaries regarding what we do and do not allow into our minds. Since smartphones enable us to be constantly connected to the internet, we are ceaselessly bombarded by a barrage of images, news stories and entertainment items that draw our attention in a million different directions. Cultural ADD is rampant, and we are becoming ever more passive in the process. I'm convinced that much of our modern depression is a symptom of a sense of personal LOSS OF AGENCY in the corporate-industrial society in which we live. In this condition, we come dangerously close to morphing into completely passive robots powered through remote control by a crazy society bent on exterminating every last bit of free thinking and creativity from our lives. To counteract this, we must schedule into our days blocks of time when we (1) put the phone on airplane mode, (2) practice some form of silent meditation, (3) spend quality time outdoors, (4) journal, and (5) reflect on the ultimate meaning of our lives. In addition, it is important to spend one morning or afternoon each week on retreat - generally on a weekend - and one time each month when we set aside an entire day for such pursuits. These boundaries serve to nurture a sense of agency and an intensifying of the spiritual awareness that is thereby able to well up from within and transform our lives.
In the spirit of this kind boundary setting, I leave you with these words from Henry David Thoreau, written in 1863 in an essay entitled "Life Without Principle":
"Not without a slight shudder at the danger, I often perceive how near I come to admitting into my mind the details of some trivial affair, - the news of the street; and I am astonished to observe how willing people are to lumber their minds with such rubbish, - to permit idle rumors and incidents of the most insignificant kind to intrude on ground which should be sacred to thought. Shall the mind be a public arena, where the affairs of the street and the gossip of the tea-table chiefly are discussed? Or shall it be a quarter of heaven itself, - a temple open to the sky, consecrated to the service of the gods? I find it so difficult to process the few facts which to me are significant, that I hesitate to burden my attention with those which are insignificant . . . Such is, for the most part, the news in newspapers and conversation. It is important to preserve the mind's chastity in this respect. Think of admitting the details of a single case of the criminal court into our thoughts, to stalk profanely through their holy-of-holies for an hour, aye, for many hours! To make a very bar-room of the mind's inmost apartment, as if for so long the dust of the street had occupied us, - the very street itself, with all its travel, its bustle, and filth, had passed through our thoughts' shrine! Would it not be an intellectual and moral suicide? . . . We should exclude such trespassers from the only holy ground which can be sacred to us. It is so hard to forget what it is worse than useless to remember! If I am to be a thoroughfare, I prefer that it be of the mountain-brooks, the Parnassian streams, and not the town-sewers . . . If we have thus desecrated ourselves, - and who has not? - the remedy will be wariness and devotion to reconsecrate ourselves, and make once more a temple of the mind. We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and naive children, whose guardians we are, and be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention. Read not the Times. Read the Eternities . . . Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven. Yes, every thought that passes through the mind helps to wear and tear it, and to deepen the ruts . . ."
Henry David Thoreau
"Life Without Principle"
OK; NOW I am headed up to the mountains for the day . . .
Photos: Aspens near Kebler Pass, CO, September 26, 2015
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.