Monday, January 4, 2010

Brought to You by the Letter M


Mind Over Matter

I’ve never really cared for that phrase, to be honest with you [but I'm still glad you suggested it, Tam :)]. It’s always seemed a bit arrogant to me.

When people say “It’s mind over matter” they usually follow it with declarative statements like:

I don’t get sick. I just decide not to.”
Just push through it… you can make it if you really want to.”
If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.”

I hate to be the one to break it to you, people, but none of us has that much control. I am all about the power of positive thinking, but I have a bit of a different take on it.

Maybe instead of looking at mind over matter as a way for us to control our environment and create desired outcomes, instead of looking at it as a way to force the universe to conform to our wants, we could see it as an opportunity to use our minds to make good choices regardless of the “matter.”

Instead of it being a super natural power to create our destiny [the right job, the right house, the right appearance, the right outcome], maybe it’s a natural power to create our response. If mind over matter was a physical choice, I can guarantee you I’d be dancing and singing and travelling the world. Outside. Breathing fresh air. But my mind has instead made a mental and emotional choice to live well within the matter at hand. My mind has chosen, regardless of circumstance, to find joy in the little things. I can’t control the physical, I can’t control the outcomes, I can’t control others’ actions… but I can control my response.

I guess that’s my version of mind over matter.

Even the cases where the byproduct is a physical result, I think it all starts with embracing our realities rather than pretending we are above them. When Lance Armstrong is tired, straining to ride up that last hill, I wonder if he’s screaming at his muscles to do what he wants them to do, or if he’s acknowledging the fatigue and deciding his response. Choosing to be grumpy and defeated will tire him out faster. Choosing to be hopeful and positive may give him a boost of energy. Physically, once his muscles give out, they give out. His mind has no control over that… lactic acid does. But his energy? That comes from his attitude. His mind decides how he responds to the matter at hand.

I had a number of times this past week where my exhaustion and pain has hit hard. It puts me in what I call a “coma sleep,” where I'm aware of what's going on around me but just can't move or open my eyes for the life of me. I will literally say in my mind, “Open your eyes!” and nothing happens. My mind has no physical control over the matter.

But my mind does have the choice to stop struggling and fighting against it, which only exhausts me more. My mind has the choice to not be frustrated by all I couldn’t do in those hours, but instead be grateful during the times when I am rested and my energy comes back.

My limitations continue to teach me valuable lessons. I’ve learned not to live under the illusion that I have control over any part of my life… I’m happy to leave all of that to God. But I will continue to choose to be grateful, to be happy, to be content in my earthly dwelling.

I do this because my mind, and everything else in my life, is a gift from Him.

And that matters.


a to z

Can’t wait to see what you all want to hear about next week… give me some suggestions in the comments for an [N] topic!

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