Some of us have a tendency to get trapped in our head, to go round and round with ideas and dilemmas, furrowing our brow and sinking ever further into the labyrinth of our mind. Miska tells me this comes as no surprise to her because, a she reminds me, I’m a 5 on the Enneagram (5 with a 4 wing if you’re curious about that sort of thing). I’ve been married to Miska long enough to know she must be right, but I didn’t need the Enneagram to tell me how I’ve always felt the lure to fall deep into myself whenever I confront a difficulty or a vexing question, whenever I felt the weight pressing upon me.
This life of the mind is good, but it must not exist unto itself. One may turn to Barth or St. Ephrem when grappling with a theological quandary, but one should also walk among the trees and listen to the sounds of love while sitting under the moon’s quiet glow. We need our own thoughts (and we often need the courage to keep our own counsel), but we also need the wisdom of friends (even the friends we think are not privy to or skilled in the issues we ponder). We need the laughter of children. We need the solid things: earth, strawberries, warm kisses, sweat on our brow, the burn of muscles straining with labor.
If you are like me, whenever we find ourselves locked inward, becoming more and more removed from the actual people and places of our lives, we need to close up the mental shop and head out into our good, wide, physical world. Go for a walk and feel the crunch of leaves under foot. Listen to that crackling cadence. Dial up a friend and tell them you simply needed to hear the sound of their voice. Pick up the woodworking tools that have set idle in the garage too long. Grab a bottle of wine and a block of cheese and take the one you love to a secluded place where words and time and tender touches will draw you back into the solidness of your life. I know of an English professor who made it a spiritual practice to purposefully and thoughtfully touch one solid thing every day, to just make contact and be reminded of the goodness of God’s physical world.
Our mind is a beautiful thing, but we don’t want to get lost in there.