2,000 Percent LIVING

You'll learn how to live a much more fruitful life for the Lord through gaining Salvation (if needed), re-dedicating your life to Him (if needed), and being more focused on sanctification. Establish more Godly objectives, help lead more people to gain Salvation, and engage in your calling from Him in more effective ways through the Bible-based directions in 2,000 Percent LIVING, my latest book.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

2,000 Percent Living Lesson Two: Free Your Mind

Cleanse your mind of distractions, accusations,
worries, fears, and annoyances
through twice-daily meditation.

But in a great house
there are not only vessels of gold and silver,
but also of wood and clay,
some for honor and some for dishonor.
Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter,
he will be a vessel for honor,
sanctified and useful for the Master,
prepared for every good work.

— 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NKJV)

What thoughts flitted across your awareness the last time
you let your mind just wander? Were you glad you had all
those thoughts? Did having those thoughts help you? Did
any of those thoughts lead you toward 2,000 percent
living?

Researchers report that most people have more than ten
thousand thoughts each day that they can recount, and
they probably have a lot more thoughts that they cannot
remember. Given that most of us are awake for about
sixteen hours a day, we can infer from the research that
most people are having several different thoughts during
each waking moment. With that much going on in your
mind, how much can you hope to focus on any one
thought — no matter how important or valuable?

What’s worse, most of those thoughts we have are
identical to yesterday’s thoughts, as well as to those of
the day before. It’s almost as though our minds are
filled with broken music players that cannot be stopped,
similar to when those catchy advertising jingles get stuck
in our minds and keep playing over and over again.
Imagine how much more you can accomplish if you can
eliminate 96 percent of your unhelpful thoughts. Let’s
look at the primary sources of unhelpful thoughts.

Be Aware of and Eliminate
the Sources of Your Unhelpful Thoughts

And this I say for your own profit,
not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper,
and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.

— 1 Corinthians 7:35 (NKJV)

While every person’s thought life is different, my
experience has been that many of my unhelpful thoughts
simply arise in response to distractions. There are lots of
good reasons to be distracted. For example, a television
network may want people to watch a certain program.
Thousands of hours of research and work may go into
creating a very arresting set of images and sounds that
will take most people’s attention away from anything else
and shift their attention toward the program. You have
very little chance to resist unless you have no interest
whatsoever in the program’s subject.

As a result of such powerful distractions, some people
report that they can sit down to work on something and
later be surprised to find that thirty-seven minutes have
passed, but nothing has been accomplished. And they may
not even remember how they spent the time while their
minds were adrift.

Most of us have regrets. Accusing voices remind us of
missteps and mistakes that we’ve made. A certain mistake
may have occurred in less than a second, but the mental
recriminations may last for decades … chewing up
enormous amounts of time and attention. In addition to
our own regrets, others may have condemned us, fairly or
unfairly, and we often mentally repeat those accusations
as well. In these accusations our own voice and the voices
of others make us feel terrible. It’s no way to live.

Beyond distractions and regrets, most people have some
real worries. When lots of people are being laid off at
work, it’s natural to be concerned that your job will be
lost. Such concerns can easily blossom into worries that
leave us feeling uncomfortable, worn out, and defeated.
If later your job is lost, the worry can blossom into an
anguished wail: “What am I going to do now?” When was
the last time you made a positive breakthrough while in
such an upset emotional and mental state?

Some people are more completely chained to worry: They
have no faith that matters will work out well. As a result
they live in discomfort, desperately trying to stave off
what might go wrong.

Everyone has some fears, typically of speaking in public
or of falling from a height. Based on painful experiences
and exposure to difficult circumstances, many people
have developed other fears. Fear can be a good thing
when it causes us to avoid a danger that would
otherwise harm us. Unfortunately, fears can also be
triggered just by our thinking; there needn’t be any real
danger nearby. Irrational fears present a special
problem: Our bodies overreact to perceived dangers,
causing a great desire in us to escape or to feel
immobilized and unable to cope. It also takes a long time
to get back to normal after a fearful episode. Following a
panic attack, just starting to breathe easily again with a
slowed heartbeat can be quite an accomplishment.

One thing can almost always be counted on to break
through distractions, accusations, worries, and fears:
an annoyance. Just notice a mosquito taking a bead on
your head while hearing that irritating high whine, and
you’ll be soon swatting away until the mosquito either
leaves or you kill it. No other thought will get much of
your attention until the annoyance is gone, which is one
reason why avoidable automobile accidents can occur
while a driver is swatting away at an annoying bug.

There’s a helpful lesson we can learn from the examples
of fears and annoyances: When you concentrate on
something arresting, everything else fades away. When
you pick an arresting focus that’s positive instead, your
mind will be filled with helpful, constructive thoughts. For
example, many Christians report that when they are
thinking about all the great things that God has done for
them, their troubles and discomfort fade away to nothing.
Instead, they feel suffused with warmth, light, and joy.
In addition, faith that God has a good plan for our lives
can help us to remain happy and calm in the face of all
our real dangers and adversities.

We can also eliminate the sources of many unhelpful
thoughts. If we don’t watch television, listen to the radio,
or surf videos on the Internet, the sources of many
intrusive distractions are eliminated. If we need to
not concentrate on something important, we can ask
others not to disturb us, close the door, and ignore the
telephone. When our hearts are filled with condemnation,
we can repent and ask Jesus to forgive us. Then, we can
go forward fully forgiven so there is no need to feel
condemned again for the same reason. Rather than
worry, we can trust that God has a good plan for our
lives and thank Him for His help. When circumstances
are frightening, we can remember the 23rd Psalm and
pray for His support, knowing that no harm will come to
us. Before going outdoors, we can splash on some anti-bug
spray.

Let’s look next at how you can use a certain kind of
directed focus to clear away vast quantities of thoughts
that certainly aren’t doing you any good or may even be
harming you.

Direct Your Focus to Empty Your Mind
of Useless Thoughts

“But whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this house.’
And if a son of peace is there,
your peace will rest on it;
if not, it will return to you.”

— Luke 10:5-6 (NKJV)

You can’t add much more useful information onto a
blackboard that’s already covered with chalk marks.
Before writing anything, you will do better to take a
few moments instead to erase at least some of the old
chalk marks. If you want to write even more distinctly,
you will also scrub off the old dust with a soap-filled
sponge. The resulting clean slate will make you feel more
peaceful and will help inspire you to write new things on
the board in a more deliberate, attractive, and useful way.

Those actions are a pretty good metaphor for an
important action you need to take with your mind: Clean
out useless thoughts so that there’s much more room and
time for useful thoughts. Your goal should be to get rid of
96 percent of what’s not useful in your thinking.

How do you do such thought-eliminating beyond focusing
on God and His good plans for you and not engaging in
sources of distractions? I’m no expert on the subject, but
I have eliminated a lot of my useless and harmful
thoughts. I estimate that the majority of my thoughts now
are useful ones well worth the time they take. I mostly
learned to accomplish this shift in focus through studying
and practicing meditation. I suggest that you do the same.

Some people don’t want to take time to meditate, feeling
that their lives are already too full of things they need to
accomplish. Dr. Stephen R. Covey tells a memorable story
in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
(Simon and Schuster, 1989), that sheds light on this
problem and its solution. A man sees another man
struggling to cut down a tree with a dull saw. The first
man suggests that the second man stop a minute to
sharpen his saw. The second man grumpily retorts that
he’s much too busy to take time for that: He’s got to cut
down the tree! Meditation is like sharpening a saw
because it allows you to do all of your tasks much faster
and more effectively. Yes, meditation does take time; but
the practice will save you much more time than it will take.

I don’t want to prescribe how you should meditate.
Thousands of different methods are described by people
who say that their thought lives have been helped. I’ve
tried only a very few of these methods and can only
accurately report on my experiences. I recommend that
you try a variety of ways to meditate that seem appealing
to you and see how well they work in clearing your mind
and helping you to focus more on God. Then, pick one
method and stick with it — that’s important because the
effects are cumulative. The biggest improvements come
only after years of regular meditation.

I’ve been meditating twice a day (on arising and in the
evening) for fifteen years, and the practice has been a
wonderful supplement to my prayer life and Bible reading
for clearing out mental cobwebs and useless thoughts.

After I finish meditating, I begin my Bible study and
prayers. I’ve found that my connection to God is more
direct, uncluttered, and pleasant when I start after
meditation. As a result of meditation, Bible study, and
prayer, I’m very Christ-centered in doing His will by the
time I start my day. My mind also stays more focused on
His will and His blessings throughout the day. The gentle
whisperings of the Holy Spirit come through my head
louder and clearer than when I did not meditate and did
not read the Bible and pray twice a day.

Let me address two concerns that some people have
mentioned to me about meditation. First, some people see
any form of meditation as a pagan activity that is at odds
with their Christian faith. That hasn’t been my
experience: I find that my faith in and desire to connect
with God are increased after meditating. If you have this
concern, there are many forms of Christian meditation
that you can study and practice.

You should also realize that several of the Psalms and a
few places in the New Testament encourage meditating.
Here are a few of those verses:

Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.

— Psalm 4:4 (NKJV)

My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.

— Psalm 119:148 (NKJV)

I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.

— Psalm 119:15 (NKJV)

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatever things are noble, whatever things are just,
whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report,
if there is any virtue and if there is anything
praiseworthy — meditate on these things.

— Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Second, some people find that their minds don’t quiet
down while they meditate: Their minds may actually
become more active. Some people prematurely and
incorrectly conclude that they cannot succeed with
meditation.

Unfortunately, no one alerted them that having a more
active mind is a healthy experience while learning to
meditate. Let me give you a metaphor to explain why
this happens: If you open up a carbonated-beverage
container and pour out some of the liquid into a cup, the
beverage will start to fizz as carbon dioxide changes from
being dissolved in the beverage into a gas that rises up
into the open air. At some point, the carbon dioxide will
have all escaped and the liquid will be flat.

Similarly, with enough meditation experience and regular
practice your stored-up tensions will eventually be
dissipated and your mind will have little tension to
release when you start each new meditation session.
This effect is an important reason why the benefits
from meditation for clearing your mind are cumulative.

One of the great mysteries about Christianity that
puzzles those who are not believers can be found in
this promise:

Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

As you regularly turn your focus from distractions that
cause unhelpful thoughts, meditate, concentrate on
God’s Word, and pray, you will experience the peace of
God. How do I know? It’s the result I have experienced
from the practices I describe in this lesson.

Copyright 2010 Donald W. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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4 Comments:

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At 6:00 AM, Blogger Directive Communication said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
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