Friday, August 15, 2014

Your Mind is Divine

"My mind is a center of Divine operation. The Divine operation is always for expansion and fuller expression, and this means the production of something beyond what has gone before, something entirely new, not included in past experience, though proceeding out of it by orderly sequence of growth." ~ Thomas Troward


Keeping your thoughts in good order is one of the Thirteen Goals of a Witch, along with celebrate life, breathe and meditate.  This is a difficult goal for many people but it is an important one.  Our bodies are wondrous things that the God and Goddess have blessed us with.  We should respect the bodies and minds we have been given and keep them in shape. 

Water_by_Varges.jpgOur words health, whole and holy are all derived from the Anglo-Saxon word root 'hal'.  "Healing" is derived from the same word root and means to restore to a state of wholeness, soundness, or integrity.  "Holy" comes from the same root and signifies wholeness and purity of mind and spirit.  Taken in its fullness of meaning, therefore, "health" has come to mean completeness and perfection of organization, fitness of life, freedom of action, harmony of functions, vigor and freedom from all stain and unholy corruption.  In a phrase, "health" is a sound mind and spirit in a sound body.

Conceptions of mental health in the Old Middle Ages in Europe was a mixture of the divine, diabolical, magical and transcendental.  Theories of the four humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood) were applied, sometimes separately (a matter of physic) and sometimes combined with theories of evil spirits (a matter of faith).  Madness was often seen as a moral issue, either a punishment for sin or a test of faith and character.  Bodily remedies in general used included purges, bloodletting and whipping.

Lunatic is an informal term referring to people who are considered mentally ill, dangerous, foolish or unpredictable; conditions once called lunacy.  The term may be considered insulting in serious contexts, though is now more likely to be used in friendly jest.  The word derives from lunaticus meaning "of the moon" or "moonstruck", by the Goddess Luna. 

What if your duty was to take care of a temple, its ground and interior?  Undoubtedly, you would do so with utmost sincerity.  You would sweep daily the walkway of leaves and debris.  The lawn would be freshly mowed, flowers deadheaded, shrubs modestly trimmed;  you'd re-plaster the outside and occasionally repaint the sides and trim.  Inside you would dust the alter, wash the windows, vacuum or sweep the floor and tidy the seats.  Perhaps you would keep a candle burning and light some incense.

Even if you are not a religious person, it is helpful to consider your body an important structure, it is indeed the foundation on which your good health and well-being is based.  Replace the word temple with shrine, palace, sanctuary, hof, amusement park, home or any word you are comfortable with and would care for. 

DivineMan.jpgYou would accept these duties with reverence and honor.  Indian Sanskrit has a wonderful word for temple - mandir.  Take a moment and look in a mirror.  What do you see?  Has it ever occurred to you that the person you see in that mirror is the only one responsible for your life?  This is a silly but profound thought - you're a sacred place, a worthy being, a divine sanctuary for your soul.

There are many halls or rooms in your personal temple.  The one focused here is the Hall of the Mind.  Sometimes you have to wonder who is really running the show in there.  Here’s how you can find out: pull up a seat, sit down, and close your eyes.  Now see if you can stay focused on the inhalation and exhalation of your breath at your nostrils.  Try it right now for a few minutes.  What happened?  Most likely after a few seconds you forgot all about your task and was totally absorbed in random separate thoughts, as if someone started a movie in which there was no cohesiveness to any of the frames.

It has been estimated that the average person has sixty thousand separate thoughts a day.  I don’t know about you, but I usually stop counting after the first few thousand, and that’s before I’ve gotten out of bed!  We don’t need scientific evidence to prove or disprove it, the fact is, our Hall of the Mind is like Grand Central Station.  It is noisy and busy, the Hall’s door opening and shutting with a new visiting thought every second or so.  The Sage Yogananda says that the mind is like an unruly child.

Added to this weight of unruliness is the fact that the mind is an incredible recycler.  To experience time, the mind has to think of past and future.  Each and every day many of yesterday’s thoughts cycle back around, as do thoughts about tomorrow or anything else about the future.  Is it no wonder that with so much clutter in the mind, you might feel a sense of separateness, literally pulled in a million and one directions?  And do you wonder where, in all those thousands of daily thoughts, your divinity lives?

Imagine that you are able to stand in the Hall of your Mind unnoticed.  You are able to recognize four distinct altars.  It is your obligation to care take each of the following altars:

The Judgments Altar, perhaps cluttered far more with judgments, opinions and criticisms than with love, compassion and kindness.  The Fears Altar, overflowing with shame, guilt, anxiety and insecurity.  The Desires Altar, stacked high with desires.  And the Goals Altar, a hodgepodge of both unclear, shallow, noble and stupid goals.

In real life, a high proportion of your mental energy is expended toward moving around dozens of thoughts on these altars each and every day.  And you wonder what ever happened to your peace of mind!

61ff2e380251.jpgYou need to vigilantly care take these altars regularly in the Hall of your Mind, clearing negative energies from aisles, sweeping up unworthy behaviors that clutter the floor, cleaning insecure ideas of the Ego that soot the altar, and throwing out self-centered thought-moguls that prevent you from loving and serving unconditionally.

The task is truly formidable and you need help: a different perspective on your duties.  Over 350 years ago, the French philosopher and scientist Pascal said: “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”  Pascal was talking about the mind.  Stilling the mind is about bringing more space into the hall.  It is the first shift in perspective you need to clean up those four altars of thoughts you are so fond of entertaining.

Imagine now that there is a sacred place inside the Hall of your Mind in which you can simply be.  Here you can just relax.  In fact, you might just call it the Relaxation Corner.  It is a special place of attention and focus that allows you to turn your back on your clamorous mind and altars.  You need to care take this part of yourself devotedly.  You need to outfit yourself with the knowledge and strategies for limiting stress in your life.  Such activities as yoga, walking, breath work, biofeedback techniques, prayer, journaling, meditation, gardening, holding a pet, daydreaming or taking a leisurely stroll are highly beneficial in relieving mental indigestion.

Activities and experiences that are pleasant and relaxing are like little sanctuaries inside the busy Hall of your Mind.  They may serve not only to give you peace but encouragement to seek experiences that foster creativity and intuition as well.  But more than this, such experiences are your gateway to the Mind of the Divine.

spirit elements.jpgBy becoming absorbed with the Divine, you don’t necessarily lose your connection with the world and what makes you happy.  Rather, you become more of One Mind, one overarching force that binds the universe together.  Psychologist Hillman concurs: “The soul of the individual and the soul of the world are inseparable, the one always implicating the other.”

When we surrender to the idea that our Mind is of the Divine, we step outside our human dimension of time and space into the realm of Divine.  The Prophet Paul calls this “putting on the mind of God.”

The Monk Brother Lawrence, speaks of “practicing the presence of God.”  The Upanishads say “the Self becomes the enjoyer only when he is united with the body, the senses and the mind.”  There is a quaint story that makes the point here:

One day Dahinda came to a master and asked how he could find God.  The master told him to go home and meditate on God as an island in his mind.  “Ply the boat of your concentration to that island and you will find God,” the master spoke.  A few weeks later Dahinda returned distraught.  “Master, help me!  I no sooner enter the waters of meditation and I sink under the weight of hoards of thought-passengers who jump in!”  The master replied: “Then imagine you are already on the island, standing on the shore, then you will find God.”  

A few weeks later Dahinda returned again distraught.  “Master, help me!  I made it to the shore, but there was such a clamor in my mind, for all the thought-passengers made it too and their noise drowned out any hope of hearing God speak to me.”  The master replied: “Okay, I want you to concentrate on the image of God now.  Everywhere you turn in your mind, there will be God.  Concentrate on the image of God as a buffalo, that should do.”  Several months went by and Dahinda had not returned to the master, so the master set off to Dahinda’s abode in the woods.  When he arrived at the door he called out: “Dahinda, your master is here, please come out to pay respects to your visitor.”

At this point Dahinda replied from inside: “Oh beloved master, I sincerely apologize for not greeting you at the door.  But you see, my horns have grown so big that I cannot ever hope of getting through the doorway!”

This is the great power and insight that one of the most important temple keeping aids can give us: meditation.  The Indian sage Easwaran likens meditation to a kind of spiritual screwdriver, intended for loosening identification with the body, mind, and your sensual relationship to the world.

The screws are your senses and thoughts, and it takes long patient effort to loosen them, to release the tension that keeps you tightly connected to the world.  Even Gandhi found the task practically insurmountable, saying it requires the patience of a man trying to empty the sea with a blade of grass.

8A0E2737_large.jpgNevertheless, you should strive to still the mind.  Sanctuary, as you might surmise, gives you a tremendous advantage in keeping the Hall of the Mind noble in spirit and intent.  It puts thoughts and things in perspective and order.  The Sanctuary Path allows your mind to find refuge in the Divine.


Water is considered a purifier in most religions.  The waters of life run through our bodies in our blood, which is as salty as the oceans.  According to Norse mythology, Ice was one of the two Primordial Elements. In the beginning, before the world was created, there existed only the great yawning void of Ginnungagap. On either side of the void was Muspelheim, the primordial fire, and Nifelheim, the primordial ice. it was only when these two came into contact that the world was created.  Call on the water element to cleanse your thoughts and allow for the Divine to enter.

Make time for stillness and meditate.  Pursue meaning over pleasure.  Read to help keep your brain sharp.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  And let your mind wander and daydream.


As I imagine water all around me and within me,
I picture your vast, pristine oceans teeming with life,
your sparkling shorelines and the clear blue water of your lakes

basking under the brilliant sun.
Your streams and rivers flowing with vibrant, radiant energy.
I feel what that feels like as part of me – my mind revitalized with clean, pure water.


Excerpts from forthcoming book: Islands of Grace: Creating Sanctuary in Daily Life. By Dr. Christopher Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell



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