Art by Katerina Mihnuk (Ranizza)
"The eye can see what we have in common or focus on what keeps us apart. And the heart can feel what joins us with everything or replay its many cuts. And the tongue can praise the wind or warn against the storm, can praise the sea or dread the flood. It's not that there are no differences - the world is made of infinite variety - rather it is the seizing of differences, the fearing of differences, that keeps us from feeling grace." - Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
It amazes me how much our minds, as great and mystical as they can be, are the most profound instruments of torture if left unattended. So often my mind has been the source of my greatest turmoils. It's not exclusively circumstance or the behaviors of others, but the complications of life that cut me the deepest are edged with the serrated blade of my own cognitive demons.
How do you know when your mind is in a healthy state of awareness and discernment as opposed to when it is being controlled by spiritual forces of wickedness? Take Mary Magdalene for example. Scripture tells us that Jesus cast out seven demons from her. I wonder what those seven demons were. There's no way of knowing for sure, this side of life, but could she have been more like me than I originally thought? I must confess, that over the last six months, I've found myself more and more drawn to her. It's as if we have a shared back story and narrative. It's as if I've known her all along and am just now rediscovering her. At times, its even as if she is me and I her. How similar our trials. So it isn't that far of a stretch for me to imagine that maybe her demons where less of the flesh and more of the mind.
Quite recently, a close friend of mine pushed me to the brink of myself. Life's circumstances are heart-wrenching these days and my mind has been in overdrive with worry, anxiety, fear, doubt, insecurity and lack of self-confidence. This friend began to come at me, strongly, and unceasingly. I felt berated and under extreme attack. My heart shattered, my breathing quickened, my tears burned. I couldn't understand how someone I cared for so deeply could be so mean and relentless with personal attacks and vicious scrutiny. I laid on the floor in a mound of melodramatic matter and lost my mind. After some very difficult moments, my friend was able to explain to me that they were not coming after me, but after what they claimed to be the spiritual forces waging war in my mind. The ones that seek to destroy me and haunt me with my past, with my arsenal of baggage, with my brokenness. My friend said they were calling out these voices to let me go and give me peace. I was stunned, a bit freaked out and extremely emotionally spent. What in the world was going on?
I'm not sure how to articulate my perspective on spiritual forces of wickedness. Up until this point, I had one perspective. Now it seems I've developed a cracked window opened slightly for exploration. When I said I lost my mind, I meant it. But differently. I often terrorize myself with "what-ifs" and doubt. I'm my own worst enemy and by far my most malicious critique. I've done more harm to myself over the years because of my inability to love myself than anyone else could ever think of. Joyce Meyer's refers to this as the Battlefield of the Mind. Indeed...it can be a blood bath. But on the floor, feeling completely alone and rung out, I lost my mind. There was a sense of peace. I lost the mind, even if just in that moment, that was controlled not by the grace and love of God, but by the fires of something that seeks to kill. It's an interesting fact of spirituality. The closer you get to center, the closer you get to God, the hotter the desert. It's spiritual warfare. But I can choose to surrender to God and the peace to be found in those arms or I can choose to "dance with the devil in the pale moon light." My soul can choose to focus on what is whole, what is of God, what is real...or it can perish beneath the weight of a thousand what-if's. It's the fearing not the seizing that keeps us from feeling peace and grace.
Mind over matter? Maybe if we lost our minds, gained our souls and relied on God, we could experience the joy of the endless possibilities that lay within the artists brush. What we can be is not yet seen but in the eye of the one who is creating us. Don't let your mind mildew the canvass.