Friday, April 24, 2009

The Pines in Our Minds

"Ah, you miss the pine trees, don't you?" The old man's voice startled me. I was taking Scooter (my goofy pit bull) for her morning constitutional, and we had veered down a route that we hadn't followed for awhile. The roof of one house in the middle of the block was covered with a tarp--as were many roofs in our city following a big windy storm earlier this month. As the recent recipient myself of a new roof (Thanks, Hurricane Gustav!), I was curious to see what the damage was.

His question was more statement than inquiry. He continued, "They had to cut three of them down. It's a shame. I love pine trees." I murmured agreement in a moment of expedient inauthenticity, because Scooter had already sniffed all there was to sniff in the area at that point, and I was ready to head home.

Truth is, I had no idea those pine trees were gone, or that they had ever been there in the first place. While I do love trees, I didn't miss those pines. When I looked at that house, I didn't perceive or mourn a lack of trees, while he held a strong judgment about the matter that he activated every time he looked out from his driveway across the road.

As I walked on, I chuckled to think of the assumptions we make. Like the old man, often we assume that all the various in-our-heads thoughts and preferences have an out-there-in-the-world independent existence, and that other people carry them around in their heads as well. These thoughts and beliefs can become mixed up in our awareness with facts/observations. As such, they begin to form the lines and boundaries that we use to guide us in coloring our worlds. Pretty soon, we're insisting that others should stay inside those lines as well--I mean, it's only logical, based on the "facts."

The method I have been taught is one tool that helps clarify these differences, so that we can recognize what's really "out there" and what's a choice "in here." In my experience, there isn't nearly as much as we might think in that first category, after we sift through the beliefs.

Thoughts and beliefs can grow as tall and solid as towering pines within our interior landscapes. On the other hand, it might only take one big wind--or maybe one really useful question--to bring them tumbling down.


  1. Chris, What a wonderful way of describing this. We all have our mountains and trees of believes that creates how we are in the world. And a storm can move the mountains and drop the trees.

    So, what about the storms we have in the "real world". Can the big storm that ruined your roof also be connected with beliefs? Can it be that "world view" beliefs have changed and created the storm?

  2. It's an intriguing question, Iris. I've wondered whether we impact physical phenomena "out there" by our thoughts "in here." If matter and energy are in a continual dance and flux, then I would think that we could influence physical events with the energy we put out there. I think that's what happens with prayer and healing, and I suppose it could happen on a large-scale as well. A hurricane may well be in part the result of a lot of collective happy or unhappy energy, fueled by beliefs.

    What I do know for sure is that I have the awesome power to transform a hurricane from a tragedy to an opportunity by shifting my beliefs about it. For instance, I don't perceive the storm as having ruined my roof; instead, it renewed it! I had wanted a new roof for a long time.

    Just watch what you ask for... ;-)


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