Thursday, March 13, 2014
To make the most of our mobile windows
In the Message version of Matthew 6: 22-23, Jesus says, "Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have."
I used to think this referred to people being able to stare into our souls through our eyes, as if they were windows, but I considered myself good at concealing my thoughts and feelings from others. Nobody uses my eyes as windows, thanks very much. The line which says, "Your eyes are windows into your body" might have been what confused me and got me thinking about Peeping Tom sort of behaviour from other people.
Perhaps if it read, "Your eyes are windows looking out on the world" I would have got the point quicker. It's all about us looking through those windows at what is outside, rather than other people peering in at us. Our eyes are the windows we're standing behind. We get to choose the things outside of those windows that we focus on. There's plenty of both good and bad to be seen, and the theme and flavour of our life will depend on what we choose to look at.
Recently I learned a bit more about the ancient eastern contrast between healthy eyes and unhealthy eyes. Apparently generous people who looked on others kindly, were said to have a 'good eye'. Those who were greedy, envious and covetous had an 'evil eye'. In this way, our eyes and our hearts are connected. When the eye focuses on something, it becomes the conduit which fills the heart with what it has focused on. So perhaps that is what Jesus meant, when he said that our eyes are windows into our body. We can take our choice and focus on either joy filled things which God values, self-pityingly on all the good things that belong to others and not us, or fearfully, on all the potential worst case scenarios which could knock us down.
Modern scientists have been saying the very same thing without even knowing there is a scriptural link. In 'The Mind that Changes Everything' Dr Ian Gawler explains that what we focus on significantly affects our outcome. If our focus is on something we fear or want to suppress, we give power to that very thing. (When we try hard not to think about a white horse, what immediately pops into our head?) What we turn our focus toward has far more importance than what we're attempting to turn away from, so he exhorts us to always focus on the positive, creative side of life, and when we realise we've deviated, to draw our attention back to where we want to be looking.
Today, I was mopping, sweeping and cleaning, annoyed at the kids for dumping towels and clothes on their floors instead of moving two steps to put them in the hamper. My mind was full of words like lazy bones, skunks and free-loaders. That got me thinking how I see red whenever they have the nerve to tell me I'm not doing the washing quick enough. And then, I thought how aggrieved they act when I express all this to them. It feels as if I can trace a thought from one brain synapse to another, and they grow into something steadily bigger as they move to the next one. It's enough to set up a bad mood for the rest of the day. Then I remembered what I was planning to blog about today. What's the point of focusing on all this, however true, when it makes me depressed and angry? Those are the moments to switch immediately, and choose to change my focus.
So often, I've seen different advice on what to do when we feel blue. I'm not talking about full-blown, clinical depression, but just the type of low moods we're all susceptible to at times. We could eat food that's said to contain happy-making properties, such as dark chocolate or bananas (or bananas dipped in dark chocolate). We could do some rigorous exercise or run to the shops to buy something brand new. Sometimes these physical changes don't even work very well. I often forget that the most simple thing, which happens inside my head and takes a fraction of a second, is simply to change my focus. When I do remember, I find it does work.
At least, if our eyes are windows, they are mobile ones. We're mistaken, if we think we're stuck looking at the same view all the time.