‘The words English owes to India’ is a title of an article in the BBC News Magazine, reflecting on a programme due to be broadcast today on Radio 4 about a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India called ‘Hobson’Jobson: A Very English Enterprise’.
One of those words is verandah which is defined as an ‘open pillared gallery around a house.’ Some of my happiest moments have been sitting on verandahs in Africa as a child. I think we are also meant to have a verandah of the mind, although we often don’t.
A verandah opens up a house to what is going on in the environment in a 360 degree way. Many houses are designed in a closed way, there is no gallery around them, no openness to the world around. In the same way our minds should be open and aware of all that is going around in the environment, there is architecture there to enable this – but this architecture has often been buried away behind defences and walls and double-glazed windows.
Another word psychologists use to describe this lack of awareness and openness is automaticity or being on auto-pilot; as if we are sleep walking through life. A shuttered existence. A house, of course, only comes to life, when the shutters are thrown open.
Neuroscience says that contemplative/mindful practices create beneficial shifts in the architecture of the mind, the mind which is neuroplastic in design. You become more empathic and relational with others and less defended and fearful. A verandah of the mind is created where you can meet people, the world, and even God in a new way.
The pillars of silence, stillness, meditating on Scripture, memorising the living Word create a living memory within us of how to live life in all its fullness – as Christ did, creating an open gallery of goodness around us. A verandah of the mind.