Thought (Emotion) Traps

Do you have a story that keeps playing over and over in your mind? Does the story evoke unwanted feelings that seem to hang around ruminating with no other purpose than to upset you? It’s like you can’t do anything about them and there they are. This is where I am when I allow my mind to explore all the things I could have done differently when my son was alive. This Emotion Trap for me is Regret.

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Regret likes to creep up on me when I least expect it, while sometimes it’s there at the beginning of my day until the end. I end up in a circle of thoughts that usually start with the words, “I should have.”

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I tell myself to remember that emotions are a reflection of thoughts, beliefs and physiology, and are not always true, even though they feel like it. I can see my reflection in a mirror or a clear stream, but it is not me, it is my reflection. Sure, I can tell myself this, but when I’m caught in the trap, I can’t seem to see it clearly- or believe it.

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To take the whole reflection thing further, a reflection is also a memory. Sometimes memories trick us into believing they are real too. But have you ever seen one of those television episodes where they take an event and the script shows you how different that same event was to each person involved? It’s usually very funny and based on the characters’ personalities, they see things so opposite of each other. I guess it depends upon the lens we look through.

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Pretty often I will be explaining a situation to my therapist and she will present to me another view. Tyler was sixteen when I left Minnesota to come to Ohio to live. He did not want to come with us. His father wouldn’t take him, so I set up a child support situation with his father’s sister, Tyler’s Aunt. He lived there, and the environment was less than ideal. Sometimes he would sleep in a car and sometimes his Aunt would call me and tell me to send money for a bus ticket to Ohio for him.

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I did my best to parent him long distance, but it was hard.
Oh boy! Do I have regret about not taking him! His life was hard and mine was going along like clockwork! My sister told me once that her son said, “How can a mother just leave her kid like that?”

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Right. How could a mother do that?
I should have forced him to come with me, but the story further complicates in that Tyler and my new husband disliked each other. It was miserable when they were together- for everyone.

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My logical therapist reminds me that it was his choice. She reminds me that if he would have come with me, he would not have met his wife and I would not have the grand children that I so adore. Yup, there’s that.

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And why didn’t his father step up to the plate? They lived a short distance from each other. Yup, there’s that.

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Through our sessions, I came to realize that I regretted not ever having an adult conversation with my son about leaving him. I avoided this, and thought we had plenty of time for that- but then he died.  And after he died I wrote him a letter explaining everything I would have told him if we had had that conversation.

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The prompting event that led me to my shame is that I believed that I did not live up to the characteristics that I had thought were the features of a “Good Mother.” I thought I was a failure, even though my daughters tell me now that I am a great mother, there would always be this niggling thought that, Yes, I was a good mother to you. Too bad Tyler didn’t get the same treatment. The aftereffects of my shame brought me to a place of too much “self-focus” and preoccupation with myself.

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The process my therapist was leading me through was to describe my emotions using a DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) practice called “Checking the Facts.” In Biblical terms, “The truth will set you free.”
When I checked the facts, I came to the fact that in Heaven there is no sadness or regret and Tyler is in Heaven, so he is not dwelling on this as I am. Revelation 21:4 says that He (God) will “wipe every tear” from our eyes and there will be no more “sorrow or crying or pain.” These are facts from God’s Holy Word.

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My goal in solving this problem was to forgive myself and I chose to do this by reading more in the Bible about forgiveness and praying for the Holy Spirit to give me His peace. But it’s not easy, and I have to constantly remind myself of the facts.

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I read once that your awareness is like the sun and your feelings are like the clouds. They both exist at the same time in the sky. The sun is a slowly moving constant while clouds drift in and out along the sky’s expanse. There are stubborn rain clouds that stay over you for hours plunging you into rain and grief. But they always move. That’s the thing I need to remember- that whatever emotion I am feeling now will move. It will be replaced by another-different emotion- and then another, and then another. Emotions are an ever present current within us.

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One of my fellow students in my DBT class said this, “Being in Emotion Mind isn’t always bad.” And she’s right. And then there’s this:

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“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: unconditional love, joy, peace patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Galatians 5:22.

Yup! There’s that!

Spiritual Mindfulness Exercises

There are a lot of verses in the Bible that can be used for Mindfulness exercise. I I will provide a few here in the next few posts, but once you get used to how you like to meditate you will most likely start to see your own verses that you would like to practice with. One of your goals in these exercises might be to experience the reality of connection to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit.
There are no time limits for these exercises, but it may be that, as you first start doing them, you are unable to sit in the meditation that long. This is perfectly okay. Just let your body or your mind decide its limits. Longer periods, even 15 minutes might be a stretch at first. No Rules!
With practice of mindfulness you may find that you are reacting less intensely to stressors and not as often. You may be aware of a sense of calmness that smooths over agitating thoughts. This is your body and mind using the skills it has learned from your mindfulness exercises.

Mindfulness Exercise One Step By Step into the Light (PDF)

Mindfulness Exercise One:
Step by Step into the Light
(based on 1 John 1:7)

 

“If we walk step by step into the light, where the Father is, then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus, His son. His blood purifies us from all our sins.”

 

1. Find a comfortable spot to sit or lay. Close your eyes and loosen arms so they rest against you in a floppy manner. You may like to put your hands palms up to remain open to the Lord.

2. Focus on your breath, breathing from your diaphragm. Deep breath in count one, slight pause, full breath out- count 1. If you find thoughts interrupting you, that’s normal. Just notice them and go back to your breath, starting again at 1. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to go back to 1, our minds are alive with chatter- that’s how God made us!

3. As your breathing calms you, stop counting it and imagine a scene where you step forward. Just one step, but you begin to feel and see light.

4. Slowly take another step and notice the light becoming a bit stronger. Know that the light is God, the Father. Bask in this with every slow step you take.

5. As you come fully into the light notice how gorgeous it is in temperature, aroma, color. You are now fully into the Light of the Father and you feel a love that you’ve never felt before. Bask in this.

6. Feel the connection to every soul around you and even farther unto the ends of the Earth. We are all connected by the blood of Jesus.

7. Thoughts and judgements may still be dropping into your mind but you move them over and allow the purification of your soul, the utter forgiveness and love that cannot be duplicated. Rest here for as long as you like.

8. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and move your body. Feel the Light as you go about your daily duties.

That’s it. Try it!

BTW: Here’s my latest Spiritual Journal page for your viewing pleasure:

Mindfulness journal page

Mindfulness of Scripture- Scripture Journaling

The second Scripture activity I do is Scripture Journaling, essentially a group of Bible verses and positive quotes that I draw, color paint, sticker on a sketch pad page or blank journal. I like to split them up into themes, and I always keep them positive!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.”
Phillippians 4:8 VOICE

As a coping skill, I began to write and save Bible verses that I could reach for during certain feelings that threatened to consume me. I hated the fact that I was so “all about myself” which made me feel selfish and narcissistic.

I had to continue to find ways to ease my suffering and become a part of the world again! I always heard that we are to “hide God’s Word I our hearts” by memorizing verses so we could call them up in times of trouble. That was something I could do when I was younger.

My mind used to be like a trap- Mom saying I had the best memory of anyone in our family- but since my grief and depression, it seems my short-term memory is lacking. I can still remember that giant wood tick on my neck when I was three years old, but memorizing verses is no longer easy for me.

Awhile back, I purchased a book of promises categorized by specific difficulties. I could find my emotion, (Fear, Depression, etc.) and read the Scripture that promised His respite, a good alternative to memorization.
I decided to make a more personal list of promises and put tabs in my Bible when I read a particularly beautiful verse. When I feel the urge to Scripture Journal. I look at all the tabbed pages and bits of paper upon which I have written quotes or verses and then find some that fit together nicely. I draw it out first as a basic design and then rummage through my cases of colorful markers, pencils, stickers, and even sometimes, fabric pieces to design the page.

Spiritual Journal Ia anything too hard for the lord
I am not too artistic, and I have to resist judging my designs and mistakes, but I’ve found that anything can be covered up with a square of scrapbook paper and re-drawn if necessary. The Internet is full of ideas for creative journaling and craft stores sell all kinds of washi tape and stationery supplies to pretty-up the pages. I use a Leuchtturm 1917 Bullet Journal because it has a bunch of dots instead of lines.

Because I decided that there are no rules for my journal, I have pages with To-Do Lists as well as actual journal pages of thoughts, schedules, etc. and interwoven amongst these are my Scripture Journal designs. I can look through my journal and see I “graduated” from being afraid to leaning on God to provide me a path.

My journal lifts my mood, even before reading the verses, just by looking at the colorfully decorated pages! I also like to post them on Instagram- who knows? Someone may need cheering up!
Michelle Pearce, PhD wrote in her book Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Christians with Depression, that “These spiritual words and ideas can function as positive and truthful seeds that, once planted in your mind, can blossom into a more positive mood. The more seeds you plant, the better.”
My own path became clearer as I continued to focus on God’s will for me. God wanted me to stop being afraid of the past and move on. Isn’t it amazing how He takes us through our problems until we arrive at the answer He chooses for us? He uses people to help us reach the conclusion, in my case group therapy and doctors, and He speaks to us in prayer time to weigh options on our minds.

Mindfulness Techniques- Scripture

When I read a passage in the Bible that really speaks to me, I want to explore it further. I found this great Bible at a second-hand bookstore, called The Voice. This version has some further explanation around the events in the Bible and speaks in a modern tone and language as well. You will see me quote from this version occasionally in this book (VOICE). Sometimes, exploring it further means that I look up similar passages to get a better picture of what God is saying to me.

Mindfulness of Scripture is a practice I use to apply the scripture to my current situation. I do this by using Scripture Imagery (this post) and Scripture Journaling (next post). I like to read my devotions and as I have said before, read more of the story than just the verse attached to it. Often, it’s like I “see” in my mind’s eye what God wants me to know. This has been a blessing to me when I am hopeless.

Scripture Imagery
Imagine you are upset about something and as you read your daily devotional you come across a piece of scripture or author’s story that makes you feel better. Stop reading and just “be” in that scripture/story. Imagine yourself watching it unfold or participating in the story- it is happening to you and you feel the Lord taking the weight of your problems from you.

I had been fearful and consumed with my disability. I was so afraid of returning to work, and I felt I had to return, even though I knew I would be faced with a minefield of anxiety triggers. How embarrassing it would be for me to work through this while my peers and boss stood by watching?

One day, came across a beautiful passage in my devotional. It was a story about Jesus supporting someone with His hand on their back as they walk up a steep mountain, the mountain being some worry or problem they might have. The person is impressed with the grandeur, but also a little afraid. Ultimately the story ends with the person walking back down to the world with Jesus’ Light shining within them “as you walk among people again.”

I wanted to BE THERE! I wanted Jesus to take me up that mountain and shine His Light on me! The picture I imagined when reading was so stunning that I had to use it as a centering Mindfulness practice:

  • • Imagine walking up the side of a steep mountain with only the hand of Jesus on my back. I am afraid, I don’t know what is up ahead and the mountain is very steep with very few footholds.
    • The rocks and crags are sharp, but I feel heat and strength on the small of my back as Jesus’ hand is the only thing keeping me from crashing to my death.
    • I feel myself relax against His hand, and this gives me the confidence to begin to see the gorgeous beauty of the mountain as I focus less on what is below me and more on where I am.
    • I am mindful of His Light and even feel comfortable to turn my head and smile at Him,
    • Thoughts and fears still run in my mind, but I can separate them from the beauty I see, and each time a fear comes to me, I watch it fall like a pebble to the world below.
    • With each pebble that falls, I continue to look up to see more majesty. When I am finally at the top, true to the story, I see that the world below and all its problems is separate from where I am. Here, the Lord’s light shines brightly upon me and I am warm and awash in the dazzling light!
    • I know that with each step I took up this mountain with Jesus, He replaced my fear with comfort, just as I would do with my own children. And as I descend back into my world, I continue to hold the light and warmth of Jesus.
    • This light will be with me throughout my day here on Earth.

“He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
And the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.” -Psalm 37:6

Scripture Imagery is just imagination and putting yourself into the story makes the scripture so real that you should be able to feel the emotion, the Glory of what you have read in the Bible. You can soar on the back of an eagle or sit with Jesus while he talks to the masses, even eat the fish and loaves that were multiplied for five thousand. Anything goes, as long as it makes you feel better.

Mindfulness Techniques- Centering Prayer

In an earlier post (God is Wise Mind Part 2) , I described the way I thought the word “Praise” as I breathe in and “Jesus” as that I thought as I breathed in and out, Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is a rote prayer – one that you don’t have to think about- and it can be a wonderful way to calm and quiet yourself and have a mindful connection with God ultimately benefitting your prayer life.
Have you ever tried to pray when you are distracted by the things that are going on around you- or all of the tasks and errands you need to do that day? According to Virginia Leito, Catholic Public Speaker and Inspirational Author, “When we can’t find the right words to communicate our feelings, rote prayers rescue us, and assist us in opening our hearts to the Lord.” She goes on to say that, “rote prayers can speak for me; that God understands my heart; my desires, regardless of how well I articulate them. After my daily prayer time, I am more at peace. Direction will come, in God’s time.”
I agree with Virginia in that being Mindful in the presence of God allows Him to see into our hearts. When Jesus told us to pray in the way of the Lord’s Prayer, I believe He was giving us a framework for prayer, but also specific words if needed to help us communicate.
In the book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young speaks in the Person of Jesus when she describes a state of Mindfulness as the following:
“This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you. You need to rest in My Presence where you are complete.”
Sarah goes on to describe something that looks a lot like a coping skill:
“Take time to bask in the light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into my care.
You can feel secure even in the midst of cataclysmic changes. Through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes. “I am the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.”
Prayer, in itself, is a form of mindfulness because we are focused on God for a portion of time. I read an interesting bit of information about how Prayer changes our minds. Andrew Newburg, Professor, explains in his Book How God Changes Your Brain : Your brain actually changes when you enter into a state of Prayer! It alters the brain’s neural network and can even slow the aging process! Not to mention praying reduces stress, anxiety and depression while increasing positive feelings like love and compassion. Andrew has a nice PDF of Neurology and Spirituality on his website that you might like to read The Neurotheology Link
The DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) materials explain that Prayer can be a coping skill when you are distraught, and when we pray, we are “in the moment” with the Lord. Well, that’s precisely how Mindfulness can assist us when praying, because the techniques of Mindfulness help to isolate us with God, regardless what is going on around us or running in our minds.

God is Wise Mind- Part Two

Read Part One

The dogs and I wandered around the neighborhood and it became very clear that I was unbalanced- in Emotion Mind. There was a threat that I might have to return to a toxic environment at which I felt that I would surely relapse and then, all of the work I had been doing to deal with my grief and depression would be for nothing. But as I continued breathing, the thoughts flew as fast as I could think them. I slowed my breath even more, switching my exhale from “Wise” to “Jesus.” And my inhale from “Mind” to “Praise.”

During this centering prayer, I was reminded of a song from Casting Crowns Lifesong Album called “Praise you in the Storm”  and juggling the two leashes I managed to tap my phone and find the song.

This is one song that I clung (cling) to in the darkest hours of my grief. How could God take away my son? And even though He did, when will I get any relief from this sadness? It begins by telling God that by now, it seemed He should have come down and taken away this grief. But because we don’t know what God has in store for us, we should praise Him mightily, even while we are tormented by how the world is treating us, or the rotten deck that we’ve been dealt. It is a reminder that He is our strength in time of trouble, even if that trouble is worse than we could ever imagine.

“And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That You are who You are, no matter where I am…”

Even though this problem I was currently having was small compared to where I was when my son first died, I could hear God whisper to me and the ending verses of the song rang true to me as He helped me to see that I was jumping to conclusions and plowing many steps ahead of where I was.

“I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth”

Soon, an action plan begins to form, and the dogs pull on their leashes as I stop to make a list in my phone. Throughout the walk, I put together three or four things that I could do to get more information about the situation;
Make some calls,
Consult my Dr.
#1 Pray
#2 WAIT ON GOD.

That last one came in LOUD and CLEAR, and I am grateful that DBT helped me cope in that situation and many others. When emotions are running so hot there is a tendency to just do something to feel better. (More about this is Emotion Leveling coming soon). Lots of times those things we do can be destructive- to others and to ourselves. And when those things have been done and the dust is settled in the aftermath we can find ourselves in an even worse situation. <you can insert the self-harming behavior of your choice>. In my case, the alternative to DBT coping skills was usually alcohol- lots of it, or slot machines. Put both of those together and it was an atomic bomb. I hurt my family by spending money we didn’t have to spend, and I hurt myself and my health through abuse of alcohol.
“And so, my children, listen to me,
For all who follow my ways are joyful.
Listen to my instruction and be wise
Don’t ignore it!” Proverbs 8:32-33 NLT

God is Wise Mind- Part One

God loves to spend time with us! We can’t be Martha’s (See What is Mindfulness and Where is God in it? Posted May 26, 2018 ) and be too busy for him. Mindfulness can quiet our minds, so we can hear him speak to us. Being mindful and not multi-tasking allows us to see what God wants us to do- his opportunities for us.
Isn’t prayer spending time with God? Yes! Which is why God is telling us to be in a state of constant prayer. He gave us the Holy Spirit, so we would have Him with us always. In my mind, when I pray I am mindful and when He answers, it is God as my “Wise Mind.”

“God, all at once you turned on a floodlight for me!
You are the revelation light in my darkness,
And in your brightness, I can see the path ahead.”
Psalm 18:28 TPT

In DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy), we have three states of mind; Reasonable Mind, Emotion Mind and Wise Mind.

Wise Mind is:
The Wisdom within each person.
• Seeing the value of both emotion and reason
• Bringing the left brain and the right brain together
• The Middle Path

When in Reasonable Mind, it’s just “the facts ma’am.” The facts are in charge along with reason and logic. The great thing about Reasonable Mind is it can lead you through a “to do” list of really good ideas – as long as what you are reasonably thinking about really is FACT. Do your emotions fit the problem?

Many times, we are emotional about something that happened, and it is because we are interpreting the prompting event in a way that might be contrary to what really happened. (Read Drama!) Next time you’re upset, try to describe what happened with just the facts without judgements or assumptions and then determine if it would be helpful to review and evaluate your thoughts. Get in the habit of challenging your thoughts and emotions. Think about all the wrong decisions you might make based on assumptions or judging.

Opposite of this, Emotion Mind is when your feelings, moods and urges can lead you to do or say things. Emotion Mind works great in a lot of situations like when you are comforting a friend who is hurting. I probably don’t need to tell you when Emotion Mind can be unhelpful– I think about the teenaged drama my girls used to engage in!
You can see how the middle path, being able to see both logic and feelings, both creative and analysis can be beneficial. I believe that “The Wisdom within each person” is God. After all, God made us; every fiber and bone, every blood cell and brain cell was fashioned by him. Therefore, it is my interpretation that Wise Mind is God. When I consult Wise Mind, I am praying in a stream of consciousness.
A while ago, I got a voicemail that I wasn’t expecting. I returned the call and was told some information that immediately put me in a state of fear and unknowing. I became agitated and felt my mind click through scenario after scenario of “What ifs”, each one more disconcerting than the last. All of my thought roads leading to this one, that the progress I had been making dealing with my grief was at risk and was soon to be derailed. This might have been true but the “what if’s” (assumptions) weren’t true because they hadn’t happened yet!

I sat on the floor with closed eyes while fearful thoughts swirled around my brain. I often struggle to get my mind to calm down, so I tried to focus on my breath and by breathing with my abdomen to the center of my being. It makes sense that when feeling grief, one would be emotional. It’s to be expected. But when the emotion expands from grief, to fear, to panic, my heartrate escalates, and panic takes over, superseding every other feeling.

My mind was everywhere at once and I felt like I needed to move my body, so I decided that if I was going to ruminate, I should at least do something positive and take a walk with the wieners, Daisy and Bandit. The dogs were so happy to be out of the house now that the Summer sun shone high in the sky and birds and squirrels were everywhere! Seeing them running and nosing around the ground broke away a little of the armor of protection I had started building around myself.

I thought of a coping skill I learned to ask for help from Wise Mind (God), and I paced my breath as we walked along, thinking “Wise” in and “Mind” out. Deep breath in “Wise” -Slow breath out “Mind.”

Because, to me, trying to think in Wise Mind is like tapping into a direct line to God, searching for Wise Mind brings forth the image of my worries, grief, fear, failure bubbling up, up, up to Heaven. As they arrived in my mind, I guided each worry into its own pink bubble and sent them up. Some of the bubbles began to pop as Wise Mind began to challenge the thoughts contained within- God seemed to saying, “Now Cammie, you know that’s not true.” Or “Don’t worry about that, I’ve got it covered.” As the bubbles pop, I imagined a prism of colors of the rainbow shining in place of them and I imagined all of the room that was left in my soul for God’s opportunities and wisdom.

Part 2 Coming up!

What is Mindfulness and Where is God in it?

Mindfulness is based on Buddhist Principles, but it can be described without emphasizing Buddhist foundations, according to Phillip G. Monroe, PSY. D. Dr. Monroe states that, “a better process would be to develop a foundation for consciousness and awareness of one’s surroundings using Biblical principles and Christian tradition.”

I struggled with this a little bit- how to marry-up the Mindfulness state and the Bible. The first story that came to mind was the story about Martha and Jesus in Luke Chapter 10:38-41

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the LORD’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “LORD, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41″Martha, Martha,” the LORD answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary was mindful in her experience with Jesus. Here he was in her sister’s home and all she could do was sit at his feet and listen. She wanted to enjoy her time with this incredible man. This would most likely be the highlight of Mary’s life!

On the other hand, Martha was busy with everything else that went with hosting a party. I can relate to this, for whenever we have guests, I spend a lot of time preparing and throughout the party I probably spend half of my time attending to food and comfort tasks. Except Martha was angry! She was so mad that she actually went to the guest of honor, so he could put Mary in her place: back in the kitchen! Based on the verses, it sounds like Mary got a lot more out of the visit than did Martha, what with her worrying and running about.

I am like Martha as we both missed out on the conversation, the laughter, the joy of being with guests, and Jesus uses this as a lesson for all of us: Spending time with the Lord should be our Number One Priority! It doesn’t matter what is going on around us! Send all the “stuff” off with the wind and bring Jesus into your everyday life.

Recently, the pastor at the church I attend spoke about having a “Posture of Presence.” I love that! Paraphrasing, he said that we are where we should be at this moment in time. He went on to tell us that God lines up our steps just so that we can meet the opportunities He plans for us. Pastor Mark gave some examples of how he always seems to see the people who need him right at the time that they need him.

A Posture of Presence keeps us in the now- what is happening in this exact moment? If I spend my time worrying about the future or regretting my past, I miss out on the joy of the Lord in my life! And Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28 that if we come to Him, we will find rest for our souls. Part of mindfulness is to find calm and rest in the present. To be able to enjoy the moment without cares and worries. I can relax in the presence of the Lord and relish what he has for me right now.

“You have endowed him with eternal blessings and
Have given him the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6

What is Mindfulness?

“Breathe, just Breathe
Come and rest at my feet.
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe.”
Contemporary Christian song sung by Jonny Diaz

Everything is changing Album

I spent some years of my management career in the restaurant industry. I learned that everything needs to be done fast. Everything needs to be accomplished while doing something else, and something else, and something else! You don’t survive in that environment without being unbelievably multi-tasking! We women learn to become multi-taskers early on in motherhood. We need to feed the baby while sneaking our own bites of food between that and drawing a bath and even dressing ourselves, especially if you work and parent at the same time! I never really broke out of that mentality, so Mindfulness was a fight for me. What? Do you mean to say that I must do one thing at a time? Surely you jest!

My DBT manual describes Mindfulness this way, “the act of consciously focusing the mind, in the present moment without judgement and without attachment to the moment. A person who is mindful is aware in and of the present moment.”

One of my Docs explained Mindfulness as the base of the DBT tower of coping skills. His analogy described a skyscraper that stays solid with a firm base. With Mindfulness, we must dig deep in order to successfully go up the DBT skills tower. If you are mindful of your emotions and their cause, you can better manage them and live a happier life.

In the beginning, I thought Mindfulness was just meditating, using guidance from programs online or out of books, but now I would say it is best described as “being aware.” There are lots of options to get you started in becoming more aware; walk into a bookstore and you’ll find that books about mindfulness, mindfulness journals and coloring books abound!

Even before I started DBT, I borrowed this little book from the library called, “daily meditations for calming your anxious mind” (non-caps Author) I kept re-checking this book out until I finally gave in and bought my own copy. In this book, I found one of my favorite Mindfulness meditations simply called, “Blowing Wind”. You can do this exercise no matter your mood or state of being. I often use this to quiet my mind when I am trying to fall asleep.

Give it a try, right now as I quote directly from the book when I tell you how it works:
1. Take a comfortable position.
2. Bring mindful attention to your breath, feeling it deeply and completely in your body. Steady your focus and attention by placing attention on your breath for a few moments.
3. Relax and completely let go of trying to change anything or to make anything happen.
4. Now imagine that you are in a beautiful place in nature. Surrounded by beauty, you can feel the wind blowing around you.
5. Let all of your conscious experience – sounds, sensations, thoughts, emotions, everything—become the wind.
6. Feel all of it moving and changing, arriving, moving around and over you, and then going.
7. Notice how the wind takes on different qualities– Soft, strong, harsh gusty, gentle.
8. Relax as the wind blows around you. Let it come and go in all of its forms.
9. You remain here in calmness, abiding.

If you tried this, I hope you ended up feeling more centered. I hope your worries and troubles disintegrated into that blowing wind, even if only for a moment. Did you see the wind? Hear it, feel it? If you had trouble with this, you are not alone. Mindfulness can be difficult; it’s not easy to still the mind from its constant babbling and just focus on right now. Maybe you thought it was silly, you’re too literal for this kind of exercise. Or you never enjoyed pretending when you were a kid, why start now?

This is the type of exercise that gets easier and more effective every time it is practiced, but the difficulty leads some people who practice DBT to skip over Mindfulness altogether because they just don’t “get it.” I have seen this happen many times as new people enter my DBT class. But without mindfulness skills you may have trouble fully grasping the coping skills within the other components of DBT.

So where is God in all this? Part 2 shows you how I found Him!

Why I Write this Blogged Book

I have told you this, so you will have peace of heart and mind.  Here on Earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up for I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

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It started with plexiglass. A sheet for a hunting stand- I guess they call it a deer stand. I imagine it was cold- it was, after all, November in Minnesota. What if he hadn’t stopped for the Plexiglass?

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I don’t hunt. I hate hunting. Lots of people do it though, especially in Minnesota- and Ohio I guess. Whenever he brought up hunting when we talked on the phone I shut him down. Unfortunately, that would be just one of the topics for which I shut him down. How could I be so judgmental?

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“I don’t want to talk about this!” I would complain. “It’s horrible killing animals!” and he would laugh and try to make a case for it. My son Tyler and I were so different from one another!

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But now, I would give anything to be talking to him about killing deer right now. I would let him go on and on about all the gruesome details. I’d listen thoughtfully as he described the deer stand and ask questions about where it was and such.

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Then when he got to the part about needing Plexiglass? That’s where I would shut it down. I would help him find another solution- (I don’t even know what the Plexiglass was for- wind blocking I suppose.) But it wouldn’t matter, whatever it was used for I would find another solution- something -anything to keep him out of Home Depot and the ditch that claimed his life.

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When people die we try to think about how we could have done things differently or said things or not said things. Oh, my word! Would I have done things differently! The road to death from birth? That’s not one a son should be taking, not before his mother takes it anyway.

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And people? Well, they were appalled when they learned that I lost my son. They want to suppress the urge to turn around and never talk to me about it again. It’s too close, too uncomfortable. If they admit it happened to someone they know, then they would have to admit that it might happen to them. Plus, honestly, there is no segue to a new topic when you say, “My son died.”

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Grief is an odd thing. It changes you. Suddenly you’re in a place that you don’t know how to navigate, the feelings are too strong, too volatile. Subtle or not-so-subtle changes take place within the fabric of your being, your make-up- maybe even your abilities. That’s what happened to me.

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It was the beginning of my downfall, Tyler’s death. When Tyler died, it was as if I entered a new classification of human. People I knew for years began to hold me at arm’s length. I have spent more time in doctors’ offices and hospitals in the past 3 years than all of my previous 58 years combined. And I have learned so much about myself, grief, death, Heaven and how to cope.

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God’s Word tells us that when we go through something terrible or challenging, that we have a responsibility to help others that might be going through the same thing.

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“Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself?” – Job 15:8

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Some days now I can make it. I can get through the day and be happy and accomplished. It’s just that now, my accomplishments are fewer, and smaller than the accomplishments of my previous self. Most of all, I am leaning on the Lord, who tells me that if I call on Him I will be saved. He will only give me as much as I can bear. He will be with me always, even when my foot strikes a rock in my path, he will carry me, and I only need to ask, “Jesus help me!” and He will be there.

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The secret wisdom that God has laid on my heart is that my treatment team is wise, and as I learn the intricacies of Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) I find so many similarities to the Word of God. Slowly, I began to see how my morning Bible devotions were similar to the skills I was learning in DBT, so I started to do my DBT homework with a Bible alongside my workbook. When I saw so many Christian principles play out in my homework, I felt closer to God and closer to healing. I am writing this blogged book because as I learn to deal with my hardships, I could maybe help someone else in a similar position.  If it helps you, contact me and let me know.

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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4