REALLY look at them. Aren’t they marvelous?
Our hands and feet are something that distinguishes us from other animals. We all have about the same structure: 5 fingers on each hand, and 5 toes on each foot. Birds and Fish have some of the same bones in their wings and flippers. It may not look like it, but elephants have 5 toes, too.
As primates, we have a working thumb. It allows us to climb trees. It allows us to grasp tools. Those of us who have lost a thumb or a big toe know how hard life is without that balance on the feet and the many, many adjustments we have to make without thumbs.
Our friction ridges allow us to maintain a good grip on whatever we’re holding. The hands and feet get “pruney” when in water so we can grasp things even in that slippery environment. Don’t you find it interesting that of all the differences between people, the only truly unique identifiers are the ridge detail on the hands and feet, the ear structure, and the retinal structure? These are things that we see, but, at the same time, do NOT see.
The two sides of your hands
What I really want to bring to your attention, however, is the fact that we have two sides of the hands. At birth, both sides are soft and supple. But as we progress in age, we gain callouses and tougher skin on our palms. This makes one side rough and tough, and one side smooth and soft. Isn’t it true of every part of our bodies? Whatever we use the most gets strong and tough. Those who spend their time kneeling have tough knees. Those confined to chairs with arms get tougher elbows. Any time we spend in contact with a surface will cause the skin to get tougher. But though our hands get a workout, the backs of our hands do not.
Now look at the backs of the hands of farmers, carpenters, fighters, soldiers, firemen, or construction workers. They immerse their whole hands into their work, and the backs of their hands get scarred and toughened.
The same principles apply to the use of your mind. Do you realize that the mind of a baby is tough and resilient like a ball? A young child learns by trial and error determining what works and what doesn’t. He learns by mimicking his parents, his siblings, and their pets. He has to expose his mind to real life and sometimes the results cause physical pain, and possibly mental pain as well. But the baby never decides not to learn and develop. As he grows, he adopts some precepts that help him to automate his behavior.
- Not everything tastes good
- Parents fix boo-boos
- It is good to make people smile.
- Crying is a good way to get attention
But as a child grows into an adult, there are many thoughts and behaviors that are accumulated and saved that no longer apply and no longer keep us safe. Some of these will prevent us from growing and fulfilling our purpose in life. These will be the soft and smooth spots that are never identified, analyzed, or questioned. These soft, smooth spots become protected and guarded by self-imposed structures that resist any attempts to puncture them.
Soft and Smooth spots in your mind
Any time you release your mind into the real world, it will create friction. It will rub against our observations, it will be poked by facts and examples, and it will be probed by questions. This friction produces toughness, understanding, and growth. But sometimes we protect a part of the mind that is soft and smooth because we like soft and smooth. We deflect around it, keep it hidden, and/or develop a shell that keeps it safe. What if this soft, smooth part of the mind is something that keeps us from growing, becoming, or experiencing life to the fullest? This soft and smooth part of the brain would be out of place. Can you imagine a farmer with palms that were soft and smooth? One could only come to the conclusion that his farm doesn’t produce much.
The soft and smooth part of the mind, however, is not readily seen. It could be a tightly held belief, “The customer is always right.” This may be true, but only when you’re standing on his left.
It could be a cultural assumption, “The man is the ruler of the woman,” or “The woman runs the household.” This assumption might make family relations easier to establish. It could also be grounds for long-standing disagreements.
It could be a religious conviction, “My religion is the only true religion.” This may come up even if it is only one interpretation of a common belief! There’s a story about this guy who dies and goes to heaven, and upon arrival, St. Peter says, “Now at the red door, you need to lower your voice to a whisper. ” The guy asks why and St. Peter says, “It’s the door into the ___________ part of Heaven, and they think they’re the only ones here.” You can insert any denomination into the blank.
Traditional or habitual thoughts
There are many traditional or habitual thoughts and beliefs that reside in that soft and smooth part of the brain, but they determine your responses to many of the conditions or stimuli you encounter.
You get a C on your report, and you think, “Oh, of course, I did. I’m such an average student.”
You get pulled over while driving and you think, “Did I get pulled over for speeding or am I driving too nice a car?”
You welcome the new member to your programming team and think, “Oh great. We have our token woman, so now we all have to do twice as much work to make up for her inexperience and lack of expertise.”
These thoughts and beliefs are drilled into us so long that we accept them as truth, and these thoughts might get in the way of our growth and blind us to the awareness and consciousness that brings clarity to our vision.
Bringing these thoughts and beliefs to the surface to expose them to air and friction is a painful process. But these pains are growing pains.
- It allows us to gauge what is true and what isn’t: No, the customer is NOT always right!
- to examine the source of these thoughts and beliefs: Just because in my grandparents’ home the woman ran the finances doesn’t mean that it works for my parents or for me and my family.
- to analyze and measure whether these thoughts and beliefs are helpful or hurtful in our growth as human beings: There are some occupations that attract more men than women, but it doesn’t mean that women are automatically incompetent.
If our values are examined in the same way, we can understand precisely what is important to us and why. Bringing this part of our mind up and exposing it to air and friction is how we decide how to act and respond and helps us prioritize what values we hold most dear.
Have you ever known someone who had a very special car? It’s in cherry condition–not a scratch on it. It doesn’t even have 10,000 miles on the odometer. They keep it in the garage with a tarp on it. It just takes up space and rots away in place. Then there are those enthusiasts who have their dad’s car–dinged up, missing a hubcap, and has had at least 2 engines. They drive it everywhere. Which one reflects the state of our minds?
If it is in pristine condition, it’s never been tested, it has never had to ponder difficult questions, and there is no resilience, persistence, or determination. There can be no passion, no love, no hate. This mind is consumed by apathy, the rust and rot of non-use.
The mind where habitual thoughts and traditional beliefs have been tried and tested, sifted and analyzed, and cherished or discarded, will show the most growth, the highest and lowest emotions, the greatest empathy, and their presence in the moment as a regular occurrence. These minds are like the hands of the hard-working–the scarred, the broken, the calloused. These minds have experienced the friction and the hardship of real life and have grown and acclimatized these deep thoughts and experiences transforming and growing in consciousness and awareness. They have “entered into the courts of the wise.”
Wisdom does not display itself in the questions one answers, but in the questions one asks. The path to this enlightenment takes courage and the willingness to seek the answers even if one doesn’t find them because the most important part of the trip is the journey, not the destination.