Rise up on Eagle’s Wings

 

As I was settling into mindfulness, I had a wonderful picture of Isaiah 40:31

“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. “

I was so relaxed by this exercise I had to share it:

Mindfulness Exercise 5 Eagle’s Wings

It went like this:

> I close my eyes and think of a clear dawn sky. The weather is a perfect temperature.

> Soaring through the sky as an eagle feeling the wind buoys me up and lets me down easily.

 >I ride the wave of the wind. Up, then down, then up again with in time with my breath.

> I Rise up, up, up on my eagle’s wings. Feeling the breeze ruffle my hair.

> The beauty below, God’s landscape is amazing! And I see it all. Colors peeking out in the dawn sunrise.

> It is me and the Father and I feel, smell, hear and taste His goodness.

 

eagle mindfulness

Mindfulness of Others

Depression and grief can be isolating. After a few years of that isolation, that being alone, I knew I had to reconnect with friends. I knew it would be hard. I didn’t want to be with people, to put on a happy face, and I was worried that my friends would be wary, not knowing what to say to me.

.
DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) has a module in Interpersonal Effectiveness called “Mindfulness of Others.” Mindfulness of self and God has definite benefits of well-being and joy, besides the benefits of mindfulness to yourself, mindfulness helps to increase our attention to others’ well-being.

.
Mindfulness of Others is different from centering Mindfulness because your focus is to pay full attention to another person. Full connection with someone else can get you out of your own “skin.” And connecting in person, looking into another’s eyes is more rewarding than electronic tweets, texts and emails. It’s a choice to show up and be present.

.
Even my wiener Daisy is mindful of others! When we come home, even if only gone for a bit, she greets us with a huge dog smile- gums pulled back teeth bared. When we smile back, she grins more, and keeps it up until we acknowledge her with a scratch of her ear or a hug.

.
Around the time I was feeling like I should get more involved with my friends, we were asked to attend of big dinner with all of our friends from an organization we support. This was the perfect time to practice what I was learning in DBT.

.
The first step of the module asks us to be observing of others. Pay close attention to what they are saying, stop multi-tasking (put away the phone!) and stay present rather than thinking about what you will say next. Someone told me once that it’s more important to be “interested” instead of “interesting.” This was especially important at the dinner because I wanted people to be comfortable around me again and not feel like they had to navigate around my grief.

.
And give up always having to be right. I practice this a lot with my husband and we laugh now as I say, “You’re right, Honey!”

.
The next step is to describe. Replace judgmental words with descriptive words. Practice curiosity by asking questions about what the other person is saying. Stay present, open and unbiased. And don’t worry about what others might be thinking of you! There is no possible way for us to know what someone is thinking, so don’t go there (not even afterward when you’re at home mulling over your conversations.)

.
Lastly, participate! Throw yourself into conversations, paraphrase what someone has just told you, so they have a sense of your understanding. Make eye contact and when appropriate touch someone’s arm and smile. Go with the flow instead of controlling the show! I read once that mindful listening takes a combination of intention and attention. Listening is a gift and we all know how good it feels when someone is interested in what we are saying!

.
The dinner was a success. My friends were happy to see me resurface and I met some new friends too. If you are trying to resurface from the oblivion of depression and grief, I would recommend a function with a few people, like a barbeque, a birthday party, to try out these skills.

.
After the dinner one of my friends called me and asked me to help design a float for an upcoming parade. Yes, I was afraid, but I threw myself out there and have been meeting with the float committee for a few weeks now. I have made new friends on this committee and even though there are days that I don’t want to go, I know they depend on me and I always enjoy it when I get there. I can feel a sense of accomplishment at getting out and doing something of value.

.
Save the tough relationship until you find your bearings with simple ones. Part of observing is to let go of judgmental thoughts which can be hard in a difficult relationship. Right now, as I’m learning to connect again, I am surrounding myself with positive people

Christian Mindfulness

Being Mindful as a Christion means that we tap into the presence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit right where we are. The Bible asks us to stay in the presence of God- to connect with him all the time. We call to Jesus at the start of our day and continue to be with him throughout our day.

.
During our daily lives “things” take over and when we become consumed by activities and worries, we can forget about God. Suddenly, we are off on the busyness of lives and that’s when worry about the future, past or present creeps into our minds. Being mindful of God throughout the day can reduce anxiety as we feel His mighty hand on our lives.

.
I try to base my mindfulness exercises on the Bible most of the time. Psalm 18 expresses “He reached down His hand from above me; He held me close.” (VOICE) and Philippians 4:8 says to “meditate on whatever is good, honorable, lovely and praiseworthy.” God’s creation, the sun, the clouds, the birds, the rolling thunder, is always around us. I believe to practice being mindful with our senses at any given moment and imagining God, like feeling His hand reach down and hold us close, is an expression of faith and love for God.

.
I read an article in Simple Grace magazine written about Psychologist and former Franciscan Friar Dr. Greg Bottaro, who said “in Christian Mindfulness the goal is to be in the here and now with our loving God.” That’s what I’m talking about! Sure, you could meditate on a word or meditate to empty your mind, but the whole concept of Christian Mindfulness is to be with our loving God.

.
The article explains Dr. Bottaro’s process for mindfulness that looks a lot like the Mindfulness exercises that I’ve been posting on my blog. He suggests starting with a prayer, the idea being to “step out of your thoughts and encounter God at any moment.” Asking through prayer for God to connect with us is the first step to being mindful about Him.

.
Dr. Bottaro uses an analogy for the breath as thinking about being filled with God’s love as you breathe in and giving God love as you breathe out, similar to my centering technique of breathe in “Praise” and breathe out “Jesus”, but I really like his way of taking in the love and then giving it back to God.

.
Focus on your body as you feel God’s presence, and I like to add a piece about asking Him for His Wise Mind counsel, (God is Wise Mind), but Dr. Bottaro says that when we focus on our bodies we can “better identify what He’s trying to tell us,” because God know what its like to be human.

.
Lastly, gratitude for our time with God switches our minds from worry and anxiety to a heart of thankfulness which can be very positive as we go about our day. I feel like I can continue to connect with God intimately and consult His counsel more easily after I have spent time with him through Mindfulness. Thank Him for this time and the many blessings He has bestowed upon you.

.
Try this short activity to start off your day that I based on Jesus Calling for June 27. This Jesus Calling entry is so perfect for a mindfulness exercise that it barely needs any “steps” like I normally write, though I have added some bold print for the key points to focus on.

Here it is in its entirety. Just sit in a quiet space and feel it as you read:
Mindfulness Exercise 6 based on Jesus Calling June 27 (PDF Version)
“Rest with me awhile. You have journeyed up a steep, rugged path in recent days. The way ahead is shrouded in uncertainty.

.
“Look neither behind you nor before you. Instead focus your attention on Me, your constant companion. Trust that I will equip you fully for whatever awaits you on your journey.

.
“I designed time to be a protection for you. You couldn’t bear to see all your life at once. Though I am unlimited in time, it is in the present moment that I meet you.

.
“Refresh yourself in My company, breathing deep draughts of My presence.

.
“The highest level of trust is to enjoy Me moment by moment.

.
“I am with you watching over you wherever you go.”

.
Take as long as you like to meditate through this exercise, pausing in the bolded points where Jesus meets you. Staying in the presence of the Lord is always the best mindfulness activity for me. I feel grounded and yet I feel the supernatural effect of spending time with Jesus.

My Yoke is Easy- Mindfulness Exercise

I close my eyes and see all of my negative thoughts swirling around me

.
My head is bent under the weight of it all

I breathe in “Praise
I exhale “Jesus”

.
“Come to me,” Jesus says, “all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

.
Breathe in “Praise”, breathe out “Jesus.”

.
Meditate on God’s creation, the moon, stars, skies.
Listen to creation, the wind, rain, birds.

.
As I continue to breathe I feel my yoke lessening.
I begin to relax and enjoy the present moment. I am one of God’s creations and I belong here- for now-amidst creation’s glory.

.
Jesus has replaced my heavy yoke with one of feathers.
I feel them, soft and light on my neck. I am free.

A joy filled heart is a curative balm

.
I have found rest for my soul.
I stay here for as long as I like.

.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light. Matthew 11:28-30

One thing in the Moment: imprOve

Imagery– Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer– open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing– Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation– No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

IMPROVE: ONE THING IN THE MOMENT:

From my list: When I focus on God I:

  • Live in the light of His Presence.

God wants us to be happy and to have fulfilling lives and He wants to be a part of it! If we are all consumed with what we are going through, we miss the wonder around us, and even when God touches us to look away from our problems we find it hard to do so.

.
This coping step is all about enjoying the moment, right now, this thing that I am now doing! Don’t give in to the run-on thoughts of all your problems. Even as your thoughts are firing one after another you are physically doing something. Even if that thing is lying in bed with your head under the covers! Let your mind focus on the feel of the sheets, the softness of the pillow. Thank God that you have a bed and just “be” in the moment. Hear your breath and relax your muscles.

.
Focusing on the physical takes your mind out of your head. I know some people who choose an exercise in which they look for and name one item of furniture, one item of a certain color and one item that they can hear or smell. They may repeat this process a few times. By pinpointing these items, they leave the thoughts they were thinking and think about something new.

.
I recently posted a Mindfulness exercise Mindfulness Anywhere in which I recount my feelings and emotions about going to a meeting. I am semi-agoraphobic (Is that a thing?) so going places is always hard for me. I was volunteering to design and build a float for an upcoming local parade. In order to do this, I have to leave the house! Ugh.

.
I was nervous about the meeting-even though I knew everyone that would be there. It was a safe place. But I still didn’t want to go, but I had to. No calling in sick or making excuses. Earlier that morning I tried to run excuses through my mind that would be plausible; nada.

.
I prayed that I would find the meeting fulfilling. I prayed that God would give me courage to get out there.

.
I got in my car, a sick feeling inside. I turned the car on and put it in drive. As I was driving, my leg was shaking up and down like a moth’s wings. I could not get rid of the dread. I told my leg to stop and it occurred to me that I could practice Mindfulness even in the car. Mindfulness Anywhere! I called it in my brain.
As usual, I started with my breath, breathing deeply from my tummy. I recalled that the DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) skill called One-Mindfulness was part of the IMPROVE skill I was currently writing about on my blog. The skill is to focus on one thing in the moment.

.
So I focused on my driving. I focused on the road in front of me, the car in front of me, the sights on the sides of the road. When I leg started shaking, I willed it to stop and went back to my breathing.

.
Believe me, this worked like magic! (It doesn’t always, so don’t be discouraged if you try and it isn’t “magic”) When I got to my meeting I was the first one there and I felt centered, able to complete this task. So I spent a few minutes jotting down my experience in the Notes section of my phone. Then later, I posted One-Mindfulness Anywhere on my blog.

.
One-mindfulness by first focusing on your breath pull your attention to your center. I feel the nervousness and agitation usually starts in my center, so it makes sense that to calm that area would help to alleviate the symptoms. I am able to feel the light of God’s presence and I feel faith take wing in my being.

A Vacation from the Hamster Wheel

Imagery– Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer– open your heart and/or turn things over to God
RelaxingBreathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
VacationNo phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

IMPROVE: R is for RELAX, V is for VACATION

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
Will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 NLT

It’s okay to feel the sadness, grief, anger, etc. Bring it to God. Acknowledge the emotions you feel, for they are real. But remember, YOU can be good to yourself! You can be gentle with your sadness and grief. . and give myself some relaxation!

.
I used to relax in front of the TV all the time, in fairness I have to say that I still veg out in front of the TV, I just don’t do it all the time. I missed out on some things that I love, like reading and crafting because I was spellbound by the television. And not just any station, I’m talking the political ones. I found that I was not relaxing! Instead, I was getting all shook up by the reporting in the news.

.
I had to make a change, give myself a vacation from my own head! A hot bath with lotions and potions that smell good, along with candles and music works for me, but I can’t do that when I’m ruminating. If my mind is on the bloody hamster wheel I need to do something with all that action going on in my head, so I bought a jigsaw puzzle and set it up on the kitchen table. That was relaxing to me. And during a time when I thought all my smarts had vanished from my brain, I realized that I’m really good at crossword puzzles! I enjoy puzzles because they relax me, but also, I feel confident in my abilities, which gets me to lay-off the negative self-talk.

.
So take a vacation from your negative thoughts and from the constant chatter in your brain. Try some mindfulness activities. One of the goals of Mindfulness is to reduce suffering and increase happiness. That sounds good to me!

.
Don’t judge yourself for your negative thoughts and don’t hold onto them either. Instead, focus your mind on the exercise you choose. You can even be mindful when hiking, or singing or any activity, just by paying attention to this moment.

.
There’s a good exercise in the DBT manual (Dialectic Behavior Therapy). It’s called Stone Flake on a Lake and it goes like this:

Imagine that you are by a clear blue lake on a beautiful sunny day. Then imagine that you are a small flake of stone, flat and light. Imagine that you have been tossed out onto the lake and are now gently, slowly, floating through the calm, clear blue water to the lake’s smooth sandy bottom.
• Notice what you see, what you feel as you float down, perhaps in slow circles, floating toward the bottom. As you reach the bottom of the lake, settle your attention there within yourself.
• Notice the serenity of the lake; become aware of the calmness and quiet deep within.
• As you reach the center of yourself, settle your attention there.

I’ve found that one to be very centering. A relaxing vacation from my ever moving mind.

Read more on Mindfulness in my previous posts:
What is Mindfulness?
What is Mindfulness and Where is God in it?
Mindful Techniques: Centering Prayer
Spiritual Mindfulness Exercises

One-Mindfulness Anywhere

 

road with trees

I have to go to a meeting. I don’t want to go.
I’m agitated. I need to ground myself.

These are the things I am thinking:
Don’t close your eyes while driving.
Breathe from the abdomen.
Stop the shaking of your legs.
Deep breaths
Focus on driving. Do it “one mindfully” only living the drive- the now.
Look at the road up ahead flanked with trees.
Deep breaths.
A tenseness in my shoulders- relax them, let them drop down.
Don’t look at the phone.

Deep breaths
Read the bumper sticker on the car ahead of me. Smile.
Watch the road, read the signs.

There are things on this road that I didn’t know were there.
Breathe.
I am relaxed. No more leg shaking, no more tense muscles.
I finish my drive and as I wait for my meeting to begin, I jot down this exercise.
It worked well for me.
I am ready.

 

Imagery and God

Getting back to Imagery (See Imagery Part One), and my awesome imagination, I really paid attention to what I was thinking about as I read my devotions and how the Scriptures were speaking to me in this way.

.

Do you remember Vacation Bible School when you were little? It was so cool because there were coloring papers and cut outs of a certain theme like “God’s Love in SPACE” or “Rest in the Lord at the BEACH!” I loved that stuff! You could go hear a story from the Bible and the teacher would place lively felt figures on a felt background, and then you would get an ice cream cone on your way home. What fun!

.
But as an adult, there is no VBS (hmm sounds like fun though- I’ll have to google it!) but not unlike VBS, I embrace the way the Scripture unfolds in my mind as a storyboard. It’s like the passages are meant for me, alone. It’s kind of like when we listen to music, we might visualize the story of the song as we sing. When our emotions are engaged in praise songs we are in the moment with the Holy Spirit. We know God is with us.

.
Most recently I have been ruminating and worrying about the future. Will I ever be able to work again? Will I get sicker and need to have chemotherapy? Will I have enough money to live? What does God want from me and who does He want me to be, and how will I ever be that? On top of this, the verses I was reading in my daily scriptures were all about NOT worrying and how blessings come wrapped in trials, but even as I knew in my heart and soul that this was true, I couldn’t shake the fear. The description I gave when I texted my sister that I was “Tragically Pessimistic!”

.
One day when I was wrapped up in that negative commentary about my future, I took some time to listen to the soft voice of God, and started a list titled:
When I focus on God, these things happen:
The first item I wrote was
1. I allow Him to unfold my given life using the talents He gave me.

.

And this inspired the following Imagery in the small cozy room that we call the library/music room. I sit comfortably on soft pillows, hands at my side, legs crossed. I must shut the door because whenever I am on the floor the wieners think I want to play and pile on top of me with kisses. It’s hard to practice mindfulness when they are around! You should see it when I am trying to exercise! Nothing like noses and tongues on your face when you’re planking!

.
I start by defining my emotions in an effort to get to the facts of how I feel in this moment. I am in an emotional state where logic has taken a back seat to emotion or fear. Wherever I “am” in my own miserable mind, I try to name it- give it a label: Despair, Fear, a feeling of impending doom-and as I do, I look to my right and there is Jesus. He has come to meet ME, right where I am, in this awful messy place. I can’t stop myself from being in awe! I smile, even in my misery, both in my imagery and physically in my room and open my hands at my side in praise. Jesus’ hand envelops my child-like one as we begin to walk side-by-side along a path of soft dirt.
The sky above us is azure blue, a color I have never seen my sky to be. Directly in front of me is a beautiful dense forest filled with deep green and dark wooded trees and bright flowers. I can hear bird song and animal sounds from deep within, and the smell is mossy and earthy and sweet. The forest is so close to me, right in front of my face. I cannot take one step forward without running smack into a tree.
I’m puzzled. If I go forward I can see the thistles and burrs that threaten to mangle my arms and legs, but yet, I can hear the wonder that is up ahead, and I am not afraid. Holding Jesus’ hand fills me with love and joy and I feel Fear, Despair and Doom melt away. Jesus smiles and laughs as He watches me realize that I don’t care about the blocked path, I could stand here with Him forever. Here, in what was two seconds ago my messy, awful miserable mind.
I look into the eyes of the Lord, deep pools of love and calm. He takes my elbow and gently moves me forward a step or two as the forest melts away in sync with our feet. It’s clear that the forest wouldn’t budge without Jesus at my side. My only way forward is with Jesus, but frankly, unlike my real life, I would be perfectly content standing right where I am—forever! Nonetheless, Jesus and I continue to walk my path together, and the beauty of my life is astonishing!

.
As I open my eyes, I feel better. I feel lighter and more positive. I know the Truth and I make a commitment to believe God’s promise that I will never be alone in my life. I really need to trust Him. With the realization that He is always with me I can be perfectly comfortable with where I am.

“Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside
I was so foolish and ignorant—
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet, I still belong to you;
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel’
Leading me to a glorious destiny.”
Psalm 73:21-24 NLT

I hope you can see how IMAGERY can help you to get out of “yourself” and challenge some of the untruths we tell ourselves. Don’t give in to wallowing in self-pity. Your IMAGERY doesn’t have to be about Jesus or Heaven, one of my favorite Mindfulness exercises is that image of being by a tinkling spring of cool water. In the heat of the sun, the water travels across and around rocks as I send each of my negative thoughts down the river on a leaf. You may want to try it, or any one of the following skills of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) IMPROVE.

Imagery– Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation (Next Post)
Prayer- open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing- Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation– No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

It is Well with My Soul Mindfulness Exercise #3

It is Well with my Soul
(Based on Psalm 145:5)
“I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.”

Find a PDF version of this exercise: Spiritual Mindfulness Exercise 2 It is Well With my Soul.

❖ Sit comfortably, hands loose with palm open (Willing Hands)

.
❖ Start with your breath. Feel the fresh inhale and the cleanliness of
the exhale. Breathe in an easy rhythm, trusting in God’s strength.

.
❖ If problems or thoughts arrive in your mind, acknowledge them,
then send them away as if a bird lighting for a moment and moving
on.

.
❖ Say aloud or in your mind, “I am with you,” while you continue
your easy breath. Stay here as long as you like.

.
❖ As our Bible verse states, meditate on our majestic God, who is a
limitless resource.

.
❖ Connect with Him. Listen for His voice. Stay here, just listening.

.
❖ When you feel ready to move on, say “It is well with my soul.”
Over and over, like a mantra, breathing and relaxing in His
presence.

.
❖ When you are ready, begin to move slowly as you “awaken” from
your connection. You have come close to God, and He in turn has
come close to you as he promised.

I use “Jesus Calling” Devotions for Mindfulness

If you’ve read my Mindfulness Exercises I think you’ll see that I like to use Imagery when I am meditating. I especially like to use the daily devotions in Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling.”   Today we are in Southern Indiana on vacation. I read my devotions on the deck of our Villa and I just couldn’t help but use the devotion as a mindfulness exercise.

Sarah’s writing is poetic and she sets a scene everyday in which you can see yourself in your mind’s eye listening to Jesus, Himself.

.
The devotion for June 3rd focusses on The Lord being central to our entire being. “My Peace displaces fears and worries. They {fears and worries} will encircle you, seeking entrance…”   I loved that! Can you almost visually see the worries buzzing around in your head?

.
As you try to calm your breath and settle your mind during a Mindfulness session, those big and little worries always creep in and try to get you to follow them, instead of following the calmness of your breath. It’s like one second you’re calm and breathing and the next you’re thinking about how much you’ll spend on groceries, or whether the doctor report will come back negative, whether you’ll be able to make the rent or insert your own worry–and once you latch onto that anxiety, down you go into the rabbit hole chasing it and digging up all kinds of potential negative effects- What if you get evicted? What if the blood test comes back and you need treatment?

I don’t need to tell you that “What-ifs” are limitless.

.
The Jesus Calling entry goes on to say that Jesus wants us to allow “TRUST and THANKFULNESS to stand guard.” Imagine if your breath was filled with Thankfulness and it pushed those worries right away from your thoughts. Pushed them out with your exhale–standing guard against them coming back in your mind.
What if we breathed in the Trust that we have in God to take care of all our worries? Just pull in the air and with it, faith and conviction—Trust.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

.
So now we have ourselves breathing in the Trust of God and pushing out our worries while expelling our breath in thankfulness. With trust and thankfulness standing guard, the devotion continues to describe how this will “turn back fear before it can gain a foothold.” Don’t let that thought gain it’s foothold in your mind – just send it on its way. No rabbit holes. No need to follow that worry through its pattern of wrenching fear or anxiety.

.
I have to tell you that it may take time to get those thoughts to move on. Your mind is used to accepting them and it takes awhile for you to build up your Trust and Thanksgiving muscles!

Just keep practicing, even if you only get a few minutes of worry-free calm, next time it will be longer and then longer.

The devotion ends: “Sit quietly in my Love-Light while I bless you with radiant Peace.” Why, that’s exactly what we hope to achieve through Spiritual Mindfulness! Oh, to sit with Jesus in His Love-Light being open to His guidance and NOT WORRYING about what comes next! Our whole being is then trusting and loving Jesus.

That’s the place that’s worth the practice.

Get Jesus Calling on your Kindle: Try Kindle Free for one month