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There is a story from Kerala in South India, told by the author William Dalrymple, about a teacher who had two disciples.
He gave each of them one rupee and showed them each an empty room. They were asked to take their single rupee and use it to fill the room. The first one searched the bazaar and found nothing he could buy with so little money. Then he had an idea. He went to the garbage seller and for one rupee bought a huge mound of stinking rubbish and filled the room with it. The other sat quietly in his room and meditated for a while, then he went out and for his one rupee bought an incense stick, a small lamp and some matches. He lit the lamp and the incense stick filling the room with light and a beautiful smell.
Their teacher turned away from the first room full of rubbish in disgust, but happily entered the bright, sweet-smelling room. The point of the story is that we can choose what will be our lives and our thoughts. Whatever we choose will determine whether our lives repel or attract, for our friends, neighbours and workmates can recognise whether what is inside us is something good and wholesome or something rotten.
Jesus made the same point when he told those worried about eating or not eating the right foods: ‘It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that makes him unclean but what comes out of it.’ It’s what we make room for in our hearts and minds that others will detect in us.
The same message comes from Paul’s words to the Philippians: ‘In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure lovely and honourable.’
So don’t make space for rubbish in your thoughts – jealousy, anger, bitterness or gossip. But instead make room for that which uplifts and inspires and encourages.