(Please forgive the brief cessation of the Daily Sip. I needed to rest for a few days.)
This week we will be looking at chapters which encourage mental wellness. What chapters do you need in your Rule of life which will remind you of how you want to live? What self-coaching would you like to do with yourself on these topics? The Rule of Life is designed to be your self-coaching; your monthly reminder of how you want to live your life. Here is my chapter on anxious thoughts.
I believe, as many others do, that anxious thoughts contribute to the two worst addictions of our culture: the addiction to “believing the thoughts I think just because I think them” and the addiction to the chemicals which squirt into my body when I feel fear from my thoughts. If we can gently examine our thoughts, and not simply believe them when they pop into our heads, we will live more peaceful lives.
A Rule of Life
The Reverend Canon Charles LaFond
This chapter reminds me that I want to be mindful of my thoughts. Aware of how much damage un-noticed anxious thoughts can do, I seek a life in which what I think is monitored by me. My thoughts are like an unruly classroom. The age of the child can vary, but the thoughts are many and loud. My anxious thoughts clamor like children in a one-room school-house. My inner-adolescent in this mind-room is seeking freedom and adventure, and needs to occasionally be told “No, that’s not good for you.” My inner-toddler is seeking connection, protection and comfort, so my job is to speak kindly to him and remind him that I am here to do my best to protect him. In the metaphor of an inner-mind-one-room-school-room, God’s Holy Spirit is the school superintendent, making occasional visits to provide discipline, gravitas, guidance or compliment, tending sheep nearby with an ear open. She visits daily for a long morning session coaching, noticing, asking, soothing. Then she leaves the classroom (but is not far off in the nearby pasture) and I must manage the thoughts in the inner-mind-one-room-school-room. The anxious thoughts need to be soothed and quickly quieted or else they will inspire the other thoughts to darken with additional fears.
So attending to my thoughts will be an important work in living my life and I will notice when I am curating my thoughts carefully and when I am not. When I am not attending to my thoughts carefully, I will get the help I need ( therapy, friendship conversation, spiritual counseling with a director, retreat, rest, etc.) so that I am more an agent of peace on the planet and less likely to cause harm by a lack of mindfulness.
I am aware of what contributes to a lack of mindfulness in my life and so will attend to those things which strengthen or weaken mindfulness in my life. I am aware that what contributes to good mindful attention to my thoughts is rest, sleep, meditation, attention to the daily chores of life, friendship and real connection, pottery, time with Kai, periods of silence or meditation through the day, a reasonable work schedule and good nutrition. I am aware that what contributes to poor mindfulness practice in my life are overwork, exhaustion, fatigue, stress from over-scheduling, poor nutrition, caffeine, a lack of meditation practice, isolation and poor discernment of my “yes” and the discretion of my “no” to the world around me.
So I will try to manage my life to encourage that which seems to contribute to mindfulness and I will try hard to notice what is eroding my mindfulness practice. When I begin to notice, perhaps through the monthly reading of this chapter, that I am leaving my thoughts un-examined, I will work to make course-corrections so that I am in a life-situation more conducive to mindfulness practice.
And I will make an effort to employ “The Work” of Byron Katie as a way to deeply examine thoughts which recur or are deeply anxiety-producing. I will do the “Judge your neighbor worksheet” on particular thoughts which cause anxiety and from that, will apply Byron Katie’s four questions and turnaround:
1. Can you be sure that the though “…” is true?
2. Can you be absolutely sure that the thought “…” is true?
3. How do you react when you think the thought “…”?
4. Who would you be without the thought “…”?
5 Turn this around: list three ways that you can see that this thought is not true?
This mental technology, along with silent, wordless meditation and prayer will, over time, help make to deconstruct anxiety and will contribute to being the kind of human and Christian I want to be when I am being my best self. I beg God to assist me in this work so that I may live a peaceful life and contribute, by that, to cosmic peace. And when I fail, I will re-read this chapter as a form of self-coaching and encouragement.