A Lenten Journey of Care
“… and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind” – Ephesians 4:23
Mind Your Mindfulness
I’m currently studying for a class on “mindfulness in sport performance enhancement” (yes, even with a Ph.D. I continue to take classes). I’m reading a wonderful book by Jon Kabat-Zin titled Wherever You Go, There You Are. This book forces the reader to question “now what?” Once I have settled into my mind and spirit, become entirely ensconced in the present moment, now what?
For some of us, this is incredibly difficult. For others, it’s near impossible. To stop, really stop, and sit with our present thoughts and feelings, completely letting go of control, is not easy. And in fact, in some sense, it’s quite terrifying. It goes against our basic human instinct of survival. When you’re feeling agitated, frustrated, anxious, angry, or riddled with grief, the last thing you want to do is stop and sit with these feelings. To acknowledge the feeling and its impact on you. But our thoughts affect our feelings affect our behaviors, and the circle continues. When we deny our thoughts, our feelings, and our present state, our mind often reverts to the unconscious and automatic thoughts and behaviors. These automatic thoughts are often grown from insecurities and fears, leading to feeling disconnected from ourselves and others, and a loss of confidence; we almost feel stuck in some ways.
In mindfulness, we practice looking inward and being present, most importantly, in a nonjudgmental way. Often, we associate mindfulness with Buddhism, but at its root, it is much more simplistic than that. When we pay purposeful attention to the present state, we not only understand ourselves better but understand that what happens now, influences what happens next. Simply put, in a moment of anger, before reacting, if we stop and allow ourselves to be purposeful in our attention, we can better discern what this emotion is telling us, influencing how we should act, rather than react.
In Ephesians 4:23, the Apostle Paul calls us to be “renewed in the spirit in your mind.” Change the way you are living and thinking, to be a better reflection of Christ through the Holy Spirit in your mind. It is not in human nature to be without negative thoughts and emotions, but to be more mindful, more purposefully present, allows us to stop, and renew our mind in the Spirit of Christ.
As someone with bipolar disorder, I am consciously aware of my thoughts every waking moment. I am further burdened with severe anxiety that has recently manifested as panic disorder. Do you know how limiting it can be to be unable to go into public because of the simple worry I might have a panic attack? Daily, I am confronted with thoughts I wish were not there. Whether I’m in a depressed or manic episode, or somewhere in the middle, wondering when the next episode will hit, my thoughts are my constant companion. I have fought long and hard against them. Now, I am learning to sit with them. To recognize them as thoughts. To stop. To be renewed.
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Prayer of Reflection
The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.
The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.
The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.1
I offer this Email Dickinson poem as a prayerful reflection of mindfulness. I think it speaks to the immense depth and power of the brain/mind because everything around us, we perceive/see/hear/understand through our mind. The only thing equal to it is God, which reminds me of renewing the spirit of my mind.
Emily Dickinson c. 1862