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I love this quote in part because I just don’t associate laughter with Luther.
Last week, our instructor ended yoga with a quote that really grabbed my attention. It wasn’t that she ended the session with a quote. That’s something she always does. This one, from Martin Luther, was just especially appropriate.
“You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
Some people say that Luther was talking about jealousy and envy. Others broaden the meaning to any negative thought. Me? It’s another way of thinking about the negative thoughts that fly into my monkey mind.
It doesn’t matter whether I’m relaxing at the end of yoga, listening to the sermon, knitting, or trying to center myself in prayer. My monkey mind is everywhere. It darts over here and remembers what I need to pick up at the store. It skips over there and remembers something I forgot to do.
Most often the things it flits toward are the negatives, the things that I’m trying not to let consume me. Today, as you read this, my son and a friend are swimming 2.4 miles to support research into cancer cures. It is a lake swim through open water. They’re going to be with college and Olympic swimmers but I’m a mom. I worry. Then there’s my upcoming dermatologist appointment. What is this weirdo spot anyway? Is it the Big C? What happens if this latest candidate for choir director doesn’t pan out? And what the heck did Rick mean by that nasty comment anyway?
Yep, the nasties sure can flood in but it’s my decision whether or not they get a place to stay. It is all too easy to focus on those negatives. It is also easy to chastise ourselves for these thoughts. Or I can make a choice. I can do what we learned in yoga. Yes, your mind will wander. Yes, even negative things will pop into your head. When it happens, don’t judge. Just gently brush them aside. In yoga, we return to our focus on our breathing.
Actually, that’s not a bad place to focus in general. Breathe out the negative, breathe in and think about God’s love for us. Breathe out the anger, pull in some of God’s peace. Breathe out the worry, and breathe into God’s comforting presence.
The birds will fly over, but I don’t have to help them build a nest.