'Occupy' protests, and what occupies thought

A Christian Science perspective.

I was amazed to hear Brian Williams report (NBC Nightly News, Oct. 7) that in the United States, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement had caught on in 45 states barely three weeks after it began in New York. And one week later, similar demonstrations were taking place around the globe – in London, Frankfurt, Rome, Auckland, and elsewhere.

Wherever “Occupy” demonstrations spread, it’s worth considering their source – in thought. “Occupy Wall Street” describes what’s occupying the thought of many individuals in late 2011: frustration and helplessness over world events that seem out of control. Recognizing that these demonstrations began in thought provides an opportunity – even a duty – for each of us to consider what is occupying our own thought, and therefore governing our behavior and influencing our experiences day to day.

Recently I was chatting with a fellow member of my Christian Science branch church in New York City. I remarked to him how quiet the streets of New York are. Indeed, I told him, walking to the Upper West Side from my office near Grand Central, I felt enveloped in quiet, even at rush hour. My friend looked at me quizzically and remarked, “I think that’s your demonstration. It’s not yet mine – I still hear horns honking and buses roaring by.” I was taken aback. I had not considered that my experience might be an outward expression, or “demonstration,” as he put it, of what was occupying my thought as I walked the streets of New York City.

Over the next few days I made a point of noticing. And sure enough, I continued to experience quiet and calm, everywhere I went – with one exception.

For several months, the apartment above mine had been undergoing a major reconstruction, which meant I was subjected to banging and hammering above my head almost every day. A few days after the conversation with my friend, the noise level became almost unbearable. I inquired about the timing of the project and was told that the jackhammering would continue, all day long, for that entire week and beyond. As I work primarily from home, this was not good news. I spent the better part of that day in turmoil, distracted and annoyed by the noise and my apparent helplessness in the face of it. The work was being carried out within building guidelines, so I was stuck.

Or was I? Early the next morning, I remembered what my friend had said – “that’s your demonstration” – and realized that whatever occupied my thought that day would be demonstrated in my experience, be it noise or peace, resentment or brotherly love.

I turned to God in prayer and affirmed what I’ve learned through Christian Science – that my home is my consciousness. I dwell in God, Mind, as the Bible says (see Acts 17:28), and I have control over what enters my dwelling place. I recalled a phrase from a hymn based on the 91st Psalm:

He that hath God his guardian made,
Shall underneath th’ Almighty’s shade
Fearless and undisturbed abide
(“Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 99).

As I accepted these facts and allowed them to take over in my thinking, they replaced the tumult and I felt at peace.

Later, at work at my desk, I was surprised to realize that the jackhammering had been going on all morning. And not only that, a construction crew on a building-wide hallway renovation was hard at work right outside my apartment door. Yet I hadn’t noticed. My first response had been a happy sense of camaraderie, as one of a community of workers, all laboring at our various tasks, in perfect harmony. There was no trace of the previous day’s upset. Peace and joy occupied my thought, my home, and my day.

This method of meeting a personal challenge has implications for world events. Every action or demonstration – political, religious, economic – begins in one individual’s thought, then spreads as others let it occupy their thought and influence their behavior, until it perhaps spawns a global movement. Each of us has the potential to influence the world in this way – one thought at a time.

It behooves us, then, to watch what occupies our thinking. Mary Baker Eddy, a pioneering religious thinker and the founder of the Monitor, advised, “[K]eep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them.... Good thoughts are an impervious armor” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 210). It may seem a tall order to do this 24/7. But to the degree you make the effort, you are that much better prepared to meet whatever comes your way. Navigating the day with thoughts of joy and compassion, you may find life’s challenges seem less of a battle. And your uplifted mental state, when grounded in divine Good, can help others along the way. As my friend ably pointed out, your outward demonstration expresses your thoughts – and sometimes the world follows suit.

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