A statement about “keeping an open mind” is itself open to a wry comment that any kind of thought could enter, helpful or destructive, wise or unwise. We want to be selectively open to improvement, inspiration and creativity, not to whatever might inhibit our continuing growth and development. Thoughts come and go, some that are clearly a helpful part of our mental processes, while others have no positive relationship with our affairs. Selecting which thoughts to “own” and which to dismiss or ignore is a personal responsibility that cannot be delegated.
No matter how unrelated to reality some thoughts might be, they can also be quite attractive and entertaining. They can also provide all-too-easy distractions from our intended occupations. Deciding which thoughts to continue and which to stop is not always easy. Email messages might pop up while we are trying to focus our thoughts on a task to which we have committed ourselves. Cell-phones might notify us of a call or message while we are already in a conversation. Selective openness is not an attitude that we can fully set in place by a single act, but one that we can consciously develop over the whole course of our lives. Every day we have opportunities to practice selective openness in both familiar and unusual inner workings of our minds.
All the thoughts to which we give even partial attention have immediate consequences in our hearts. Fantasizing about a dinner menu while at the same time listening to someone describing their needs, is usually a somewhat conflictual interior movement which, upon reflection, can be recognized as a less than satisfying use of our mental capacities. Thoughts that we choose to allow in our minds have feelings attached to them, of resonance or dissonance, providing us with essential information as to whether or not our openness to the ideas is appropriate in our present circumstances.
Though what goes on in our minds might seem completely and solely our own business, the choices we make, even with regard to thoughts, affects not only our own well-being, but also that of others. If we take seriously our responsibilities towards ourselves and others, we do well to consider that we are never totally alone, even in the matter of selective openness. God is always personally present within our hearts, where we make choices about the ideas that move within us.
When we are negotiating the tension between thoughts of immediate gratification and of real love or between imagined control and realistic acceptance of reality, we will manage these affairs of our constant mental activity with much greater success by seeking grace, inspiration and assistance. We might have learned by reflecting on some of our life-long experience with both positive and negative patterns of thinking that choosing the direction of our thoughts is much easier when we seek the help of God and the support of those who are now with God and whose love for us we continue to trust.
God is very much at home within us, and is not surprised by anything that comes into our minds. But God is also more than happy to assist in the selections we make when we are “keeping an open mind.”