In Mark Divine’s excellent book “The Way of the Seal” he presents a mind exercise called the Sentinel at the Gate. It involves finding a quiet place and from a third party viewpoint, carefully pay attention to the thoughts that go into your mind.
The exercise is designed to allow you to intercept thoughts that you don’t allow to enter your inner mind.
I visualize a Marine standing guard duty in my mind. He is alert, vigilant and no-nonsense. Nothing passes into my inner mind without his approval. A thought appears, he blocks the entrance as I evaluate the thought.
Does this thought line up with my core values? Does it line up with God’s word? Does it distract me from my current mission? If acceptable, the thought is allowed to proceed into my inner mind.
Know this – your thoughts are not you. All kinds of distracting, disgusting, jealous, lustful or other thoughts can present themselves at your mind’s entrance. Just because a thought appears it does not make it a part of you. If you allow them in, they will take root, become established and be a part of you.
Jesus echos this when he warns his disciples about the evils of the heart (innermost mind) “For within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery . . . ” Mark 7:21
This sentry is now a part of my thought process. The worse the thought, the more violent action my sentry takes. In the worse cases I picture him throwing an unwelcome thought-visitor out a skyscraper window. This exercise keeps me on track, focused and at peace.
Although the exercise was developed for military purposes – to build a mental defense against distractions – it carries over well into the Christian lifestyle and is outlined in Proverbs as follows:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” ~Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)