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Where is My Mind?

Where is My Mind?

You know where your hands are; do you know where your mind is?

by

At the dinner table of a family with whom I am very close, I watched the wife serve her husband his dinner and cut up his food into little pieces. He then sat and ate his meal. I just watched, somehow frozen there, wondering, Is that what I just saw? Did my friend cut up her husband's food for him? He doesn't have a broken arm! She has seven kids! What was that all about?

Not one to pry (okay, that's not true, I love prying!) but not one to open up a can of worms, I considered not saying anything. I just watched as my friend served her other kids and my mind wandered.

Finally I just had to ask, and blurted out, "Did you just cut up your husband's food for him?!"

My friend laughed, thanking me for asking. She explained that she had cut up the food for her husband because when she put the plate in front of him, he was holding the baby. Her husband would of course do the same for her during other meals when she held the baby.

Somehow I had conveniently forgotten about that baby! (She had been handed to her eldest sister just a moment before.)

It takes just a second to deem other's behavior as irresponsible, inconsiderate and wrong. But it's also easy to turn around and think the best of them.

I find it incredibly easy to jump to conclusions, and I naturally tend to think the worst of others. It's an easy way out. It takes just a second to deem other's behavior as irresponsible, inconsiderate, foolish and wrong. But it's also easy to turn around and think the best of them. Maybe they had a bad day? Maybe I heard wrong? Maybe I came in at the end of something and have no clue what happened right before?

This is a perfect example the Torah's obligation to be "dan l'kaf zechut," to give the benefit of the doubt. Amazing how quickly I had forgotten about the baby and all I saw was cut-up food. Not only was the baby in this man's hands when he sat down, but even if she wasn't there, I should have assumed that there was a good reason why his wife had cut his food for him.

Instead, my mind immediately started wandering, and I was left thinking all kinds of bizarre thoughts. Giving the benefit of the doubt means that it's my duty to think the best of people, in all situations. And even when I don't get all the logical answers to my questions as to why people do what they do or are the way they are, I still have the responsibility to think the best of others and judge them favorably.

A teacher of mine once spoke about the Ten Commandments and how strange the last one - Do Not Covet - is because it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest. Coveting is not an action; it is a thought process. How can the Ten Commandments order us what to think? Don't steal -- okay. Don't murder -- fine. Those are prohibited actions, and deeds which affect others. But I'm not allowed to think that I'd like to have something that belongs to someone else? How am I to control my thoughts like that?

The teacher pointed out that we always know where our hands are. We keep good track of them, making sure they aren't out there, stealing or murdering. Why are we not as careful to keep track of our minds? Why are our minds out there, left to wander? I know where my hands are. I never lose track of them. But now I often wonder, "Where is my mind?"

In the story of Adam and Eve, after they commit the sin of eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge, God comes to Adam and asks, "Where are you?" Now God didn't mean it literally, because He sees and knows everything. He meant, "Where is your mind? What were you thinking?" And as human beings, we often tend to "lose our minds".

When I ask myself, "Where is my mind?" I am able to keep track of my thoughts, which essentially make my world what it is. I keep track of what I am focused on and what I allow to occupy my brain space. And by applying the rule of judging everyone favorably and not jumping to conclusions, I am able to think the best of others and not assume all kinds of things about them that I might have thought.

By knowing where my mind is, I know where I am. And I choose to be in a place full of love, acceptance and understanding. If my friend wants to cut up her husband's food for him, good for her! I hope to have such a special relationship with my own husband someday.

Published: August 13, 2005


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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) paula levin, July 20, 2009 10:53 AM

awesome

great article. thank you!

(3) Sherry Lapp, August 30, 2005 12:00 AM

This is exactly what I needed to read today. I have become aware of the force of judgment in my life. It is hard not to judge others, no matter how hard I try. Now, I can judge! I will judge favorably from now on. Thank you. Also, I will keep track of where my mind is. I always ask my beautiful granddaughter when I put her in the car, Where are your hands? as to not get them caught in the door. It is just as important to know where our minds are, they could become injured also. Thank you for this insight.
Love and Light]
Sherry Lapp

(2) Anonymous, August 16, 2005 12:00 AM

How to "get a grip".

Thanks to Ayelet for reminding me that we have a lot more control over our state of mind than we might regularly exercise. I have used this article to help me train my mind to withstand the barrage of saddening new articles and violence in the media that I hear about every day. Thanks!

(1) Burt Sukhov, August 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Reviving Orwell's "thoughtcrime"

I don't agree with the notion that having an "evil" thought is equivalent to performing an evil deed. Between the thought and the deed is an interval for the decision as to whether or not to DO the deed; so long as one decides that the deed is evil, recognizes it as such,and decides to reject the performance of it, there is no crime or sin committed. In Orwell's world of "1984," Big Brother is always watching, and listening to our thoughts; in HIS mind, this gave rise to the concept of "Thoughtcrime," under which any mere thought of resistance to Big Brother, or any of his precepts, is a crime. To follow this line of thinking, the mere THOUGHT of birth control (under his regime) would be a crime-- no due process required for conviction; no room for free thought or free will.

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