When I was in my mid twenties I was experiencing some anxiety. I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to talk with a young priest who did not seem to be much older than myself. I remember he was very caring and compassionate. He shared a meditation with me which he called,"The Guard at the Gate". Imagine that you are a guard at a military base. You watch the cars pass by and you politely greet them. In reality you might need to stop one on occasion, but for this meditation we don't stop the cars, we only politely greet them as they pass by. In stead of cars passing by, we imagine that we are the guard and we are observing our thoughts that are passing by without interfering with them. As we do this we are developing both acceptance and detachment simultaneously. I am grateful to the young priest that shared this simple meditation with me. It was not named as "mindfulness", but from my memory, I believe he told me that this was a Buddhist practice. I remember being surprised when he made the statement. It seemed very "uncatholic". at the time. The guard is the watcher, he is the entity observing. Much like sitting in a movie theater we are just watching the movie, we are not interfering, but just observing. It seems that as we give thoughts much of our attention and engage with them, they keep returning. Much like a stray dog or cat that we encounter on the street, the more we engage with it, the more it hangs around us. If we can develop an attitude of being nonjudgmental and engage less with our thoughts, they are likely to have less of an impact on us. When we continue to have thoughts that become problematic we are likely engaging, judging, and identifying with them.
The Guard at the Gate
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