Thought for the week, 19th August; Thinking in the box

A few weeks ago, a friend from work shared with me a tip on how to calm students who are worried about how they have done in an exam. She tells them to imagine a box and then to put all their thoughts about the exam into it. They then seal up the box, with the intention of returning to it in a few days time when they are in a better place. Then they can unpack it and deal with whatever thoughts and emotions they find, but with the benefit of being calmer. I have subsequently been told that this a standard technique taught in mindfulness, the practice of improving our lives by taking control of our thoughts. A couple of days ago, I found myself talking about this to one of the chaplains at Aston University, where I work. She reminded me of words written nearly 2000 years ago by St Paul (or one of his followers) in the letter to the Philippians; “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. This comes shortly after a verse which pleads for peace between two women from the church who apparently do not see eye to eye. Paul here is doing exactly what contemporary mindfulness teachers do; encouraging his readers to reflect on the things that work for good, to help them to deal with the days when everything seems to be working for bad.