Purpose of the Tool: To develop an increased appreciation of the gifts of other people and how we can learn from them.
Background on the Tool: We may not be able to “to truly believe that we are inferior to others,” nor should we unless we have also developed a strong sense of our self-worth. But we can grow in our ability to appreciate others and their gifts and to also loosen the grip we hold in situations, on others and to our own points of view.
The Tool: The early monastics such as John Cassian (360-435) encouraged the practice of noticing the head of the thoughts, the very beginning of them, and so be able to choose to approve and adopt them or, as Benedict says, to “dash them against Christ” (Prologue 28). As a thought emerges, we catch it before it catches us and sends us down a path contrary to one that Jesus would walk. For example, we are in a situation where someone is doing or saying something that we disagree with. Judgment springs into action and we think, “What a stupid idea! Is she nuts?” We would catch this thought right then before it goes even further to spin a story of derision against the idea or the person. We then have the freedom to explore what we might learn from this person or appreciate their point of view.
So, to use this tool, be on the lookout for the very beginning of your thoughts, especially in situations where you feel that you have the “right” approach or idea. Notice the thought, pause, take a breath and try your best to be open to the person or situation. When we can do this, I trust that a thing of beauty and meaning can be created…together.
© April 2012 The Rev. Dr. Jane A. Tomaine
This Tool is introduced in the Featured Article for March-April 2012