I can finally stop and take a breath. Of course, I've been breathing all along, but these past couple of weeks have been so busy, I've hardly had time to sit and think. So I'm finally able to take one of those long, deep breaths - the kind where you sigh a little at the end and can let yourself relax because you have time enough to think.
Contemplation is an art. My mind is at work all the time - even when my head hits the pillow, if I'm not utterly exhausted then I am considering the next day's schedule: meetings that I will be attending, birthday parties I need to plan, etc. But contemplation; the type of thinking that is lingering and meditative - that type of thinking doesn't happen on busy days or when there is a ton of background noise or even just the constant media clutter that we are bombarded with on a daily basis.
Sometimes I feel myself drifting into the world of deep thought and introspection while I'm running. My feet pad away, and I'm in my own world with no responsibilities but the task of staying safely on the treadmill. It's a quiet place for me - for although I'm surrounded by other gym-goers, I'm quite alone. No one is asking me for a snack or expecting me to pick up after them! So it's a safe place to commit my thoughts to my hopes, fears, concerns and in essence pick up on what God is saying to me. I find my lips moving in silent prayer to God more, when I get in that "alone" state.
I feel like I need to slough off some mental junk, however. I think there is a lot about our world and culture that coats us with it's sticky slime and slows us down. I wonder what it would look like if I were to keep a media diary the way a nutritionist would ask a patient to keep a food diary. It's very tedious, keeping a food diary - every bite and slurp must be accounted for to get an accurate picture of what is affecting your health. This can be challenging for someone wanting to lose weight - and not just challenging but utterly necessary for someone who has to "diet" for various health reasons. I remember my best friend had gestational diabetes when pregnant with her first child. All sweets and treats became poison to her body, and she had to be quite strict with her meals until her baby was born.
Consider a professional athlete, like a gymnast who depends on a particular physique to compete effectively and, hopefully be the best and win a medal. Obviously they don't tend towards binging on ice cream and pizza whenever they want. Everything is planned out for them in accordance with their caloric requirements and the vitamins and minerals that are essential for repairing tissue, building muscle and keeping off fat.
So what are we doing with ourselves mentally, emotionally and to a greater degree, spiritually, when we look at our visual/audio/media related diet? There are times when my thoughts are sluggish and I feel like I'm sinking into quicksand, down a negative pathway. That's a good time to ask what my mind's "diet" has been. If I were to write down most of the things that my eyes have focused on over the course of a week, would it mostly be "junk food" for my soul or would I be consuming what is wholesome, good and life-giving?
Phillipians 4:8 tells us "Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse." (the Message translation)
Also, the Bible talks about being spiritually minded vs. being carnally minded.
Romans 8:5,6 "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; " (NIV)
One way to look at it, is to consider what is in your life that is of eternal significance, and what is temporal. I can spend hours a day on Facebook and reading news articles and watching videos on YouTube, and it does little for me. I'm not even talking about the "bad stuff" (subjective, of course - whether it is watching a horror movie or MTV - I prefer not to fill my head with that kind of media). So if it's not bad, then perhaps what you need to ask is how much good that consumption is doing for you? Does it have a positive effect, encouraging you towards your goals and dreams and inspiring you with new vision? Or is it like filling yourself up with mental popcorn, all fluff and no substance at all? Or maybe it is that "bad stuff" that I mentioned, and your mind is filled with a negative sludge because of the continual foul language, sinful behavior and foolish ways you've filed away in your memory due to hours of today's most popular reality tv show.
I might not actually write down my own "media" diary, calculating the hours and minutes of consumption. However, I'm thinking that this follows the theme of my life lately - to trim down my life from excess, to simplify and create a more meaningful pattern of existence for myself and my family.
One way, could be by just turning the computer OFF. No screensaver or hibernation - just pull the plug (figuratively) and keep it off except for the brief email check at the beginning and perhaps the end of each day. It seems like the computer can be an annoying friend - every time you walk into the room it's exclaiming about one thing or another that you really must pay attention to, and forget whatever it was you were doing before!
Another way of controlling my mind sludge would be with books I read. Typically, I'm an avid reader and I love to get lost in a good novel. Lately, though, I've found myself reading a lot more non-fiction and just feeling generally uninspired by fictitious tales that promise to take me to another world. I have too big of a job to do in my world. I can't afford to be emotionally drained and overwhelmed by something that is not even real! I'm not saying that this type of media is wrong - but I feel like it can take the edge off my concentration and commitment to my purpose and vision.
So I hope to shed a little mental weight and see greater levels of peace and contentment in my life. If anything, I know that a little bit of "portion control" when it comes to media, will allow me to meditate and focus on the right things. I believe it will give me a clearer connection to the thoughts and plans that are a lot closer to God's heartbeat. I'd like more opportunities to sit down and not be bombarded by the most recent mental popcorn jumping into my thoughts - rather, I can commit my thoughts to the Lord and meditate on His goodness.