WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Unsticking My Mind

By Tomo Hillbo

“A rigid mind is very sure but often wrong. A flexible mind is generally unsure, but often right.”
―Vanda Scaravelli

I’ve never encountered a Japanese household without a rice cooker. Rice is more than a staple food for us; it’s our culture. Our reverence for rice, combined with our love of tech gadgets, has begotten rice cookers that are almost artificially intelligent. We are absolute rice nerds.

The torso of an Asian person wearing an apron as they scoop freshly cooked rice out of a rice cooker.

When I moved out of Japan thirty years ago, I started making rice on the stovetop. Have you tried baking bread without an oven? That might be an equivalent. But I learned. By the time I got divorced, I had nearly twenty years of rice-cooking-without-a-rice-cooker experience, and I was very proud and sure about my skills.

But after the divorce, my rice started tasting not so great. It was dry; it lacked luster and bounce, just like how I felt at the time. I was still quite confident in my method and skills to make good rice.

A decade later, I finally realized what was wrong: My mind was stuck on the certainty that I knew how to make rice well. It didn’t even occur to me that the knowledge I held dear might need to change.

I started noticing things that weren’t the same after the divorce: cooktop (was gas before, now electric), pots (I had left my old, trusty pots with my ex), and measuring cups (same as pots). Almost nothing was the same. No wonder my rice didn’t taste the same! It’s astounding that I was so sure of myself that I couldn’t notice any of this.

This stickiness of mind—how our minds tend to fixate on one idea—happens everywhere. I hear people complaining about an event I help organize, even after changes have been made and the event hasn’t been the same for years. I encounter people who keep assuming something about me and I have to keep reminding them that it may be true for some Japanese women but it is not true for me.

Oppressive systems thrive in minds that are sticky, no matter how good our intentions are. We must unstick our minds if we want to bring change into the world. I will remember this every time I cook rice from now on: I need a constant reminder to monitor the stickiness of my mind.


Spirit of life and love, grant us courage to be vulnerable to know that we are often wrong, and wisdom to amend our mistakes and find new ways of being. May the grace of Spirit bless us with humility for self-examination and bravery for a lifetime of transformation.

About the Author

Tomo Hillbo

Tomo Hillbo serves as the Director of Communications at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. She is from Japan, a graphic designer, singer, mother, and wife of a Mennonite pastor from Sweden.


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