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The Homeless Mind

By Frank J. Kinslow

"Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life” - Matt 6:25,27

 A few weeks ago I was approached by a homeless man. Some time earlier I would have turned away, or handed over just enough money to make me feel better. But this time was different. I stopped to chat as with a friend. He asked me for money to buy a hot dog at the 7-Eleven. I asked his name. Slight surprise registered on his face and he told me his name was Thomas. I asked Thomas questions I wanted to know about him and he was eager for the conversation. He told me how he had lost his home and about his fears for the future. He said his life was full of anxiety, and guilt and mistrust. I told him that I have friends who are millionaires who have the same fears.

As he told me more about his life I listened intently. He talked about his past, then his future and then more about his past. From his past he dredged up guilt, remorse, sadness and grief. His future vision reflected anxiety, tension and dread. These feelings from his past and future were alive in him as we spoke. His eyes focused past me as his mind played the movie that was his life.

After some time, he stopped and looked at me for words of consolation. I smiled and asked him, “Where are your problems right now?” He stood a moment in silence. Then he replied, “I lost my home and I have no job, and I…” “Right now!” I said. “What problem is causing you to suffer this very moment? When you stop thinking about your past and future you are left with just this moment. How do you feel right now?”

“O.K., I guess.” He mumbled.

When I asked you “where are your problems right now?” you paused for a second and then started playing your “problem” tape again. You didn’t pay attention to what was happening just then but rather restarted your future/past thinking again. During that brief silence, while you were pondering my question, you had no problems.

We all have circumstances that challenge us. Not having a home or job are circumstances. Circumstances are not problems. They do not become problems until your mind attaches useless and damaging emotion to them. It is the homelessness of your mind that has created your pain. How much is being jobless helped by worry? How much is being homeless helped by lamenting the home you used to have? Circumstances are real. Problems are made in the mind.

“Let me ask you again Thomas, Where are your problems right now? What circumstance is so overwhelming that you can not enjoy this moment with me?” He paused longer this time as his vision turned inward. Soon his face relaxed, a reflection of the shift in his thinking. Then, tears began to well up and he said, “I feel good right now. I know I still have problems, I mean circumstances, but right now I feel lighter and peaceful.”

“Right now, we are sharing what it means to be human.” I told him. “We are right here with each other, free for this very moment. By paying attention to what is happening now, our minds come to rest on this moment. And this moment is always more peaceful and productive than the fear-driven fabrications that our mind dreams up. The night sky is clear, the breeze is soft and the sounds of the city are soothing.

“What is the use of worry? To stop it, you only need to embrace this moment. When your mind runs from the past and races to the future it forgets the present. And, the present is the balm that heals the mind of problems. ”We spoke a little longer and then Thomas gave me a big hug, turned on his heels and disappeared into the night, completely forgetting about the hotdog.

Several evenings back our paths crossed again. We began to speak as old friends. He told me that he had secured two part-time jobs and started going to church again. I told him that he had changed my life as well. “It feels good,” I told Thomas, “to rediscover my Self in your eyes.”

Read other articles and learn more about Frank Kinslow.

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