Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 ESV
I’ve spent a good part of my life being too busy to be mindful. Making long lists so that I can check them off and not think at all or brooding on a thought until I can’t think of anything else. Right now I’m on the too-busy end of things. To the point that I’m overwhelmed and even my lists can’t be managed anymore. Being busy is a “good thing” in this world. When someone asks “How are you?” We reply “Busy” and they nod in agreement.
Is that really who we are? Busy? It’s like the faux pas of asking what someone does for work and that defining who they are. I’m scared to ask someone what they do lest I am regarded as judgmental because what their job is obviously defines who they are if I am asking such a question. So there are people I have “known” for 10 years and I have no idea what they do for work.
I do know they are busy, and they know I am busy and we nod our heads and say nothing more.
I recently spent a couple of weeks as a patient in a psychiatric ward of the local hospital. It all became too much, running from one thing to another, trying to make the right impressions with the right people ALL THE TIME. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I just knew that I was failing miserably at the person I thought I wanted everyone to think I was.
And escape became my plan. Too close for comfort, and it was decided by others that it was time for me to rest.
I spent my first three nights and four days in the emergency ward hallway waiting for a spot to free up for me upstairs. I wasn’t allowed to wear my own clothes, I couldn’t have my phone or any electronic devices. I didn’t have access to a television set or music. I used the bathroom in the hallway and the furthest I could walk was the 14 steps to the water machine. Once I stopped midway just to see if I could catch a glimpse of the outside and I was reprimanded because I wasn’t in my bed.
Rest is about all you can do (because you certainly can’t sleep in the emergency room!). I was able to have a pen and encouraged to journal. I had my Bible and The Broken Way (timely reading). At some point Ken brought me a book of sudoku and a deck of cards, but having time to think probably made the most difference. And knowing that I was safe, and I was, in a way, able to escape the mindlessness of my daily existence.
At some point last summer I came across a printable on someone’s website that stirred something within me (probably guilt) and I signed up for whatever email or newsletter so I could get the free printable. I can’t find it since, but have found a few hundred others of this quote (from Jim Elliott)
That is quite something to tell someone who is in a car up to 5 hours a day driving children to sports or therapies or tutors or school. Who wants to “be all there” in a stinky minivan with french fries under the seats? I spent my time driving thinking about who I needed to text or call or email when I got to my next destination. I spent my time driving yelling at the kids who were fighting over music or seats or whatever the issue of the moment might be that required me to raise my voice to silence it.
It’s quite something to tell someone who wants to do everything, but the one thing that is needed.
So I spent two weeks away from the mad-dash of busy. People chipped in and made dinner for my family for three weeks and people volunteered to help with all the driving back and forth. I’m still waiting for someone to volunteer to come wash my toilets, fold my laundry and homeschool my kids btw…
I spent hours and hours with the resident occupational therapist. Those hours were each worth a year worth of talk therapy. Because her focus was on skill-building. Instead of waiting for me to come up with a way to tackle the next issue – she was able to say you don’t have this skill and you need to develop it and so lets practice it now. And we did.
That was the skill I needed to learn.
“Wherever you are be all there.”
There is a lot to be said about mindfulness, and there are many practices that incorporate mindfulness as part of a meditative practice or a brief moment of just checking in with what is going on.
But what I’m learning, all around, is this bit about how I’ve conformed to the norm of BUSY in this world and allowed that to be acceptable, but I’ve never been mindful about what I am doing or where I am serving, or who I am with. Always racing to the next thing – I’ve not been able to be refreshed, restored, renewed.
And without that renewal of my mind, I cannot be transformed. I won’t be able to see what is good, acceptable and perfect – because I’ll be blinded by what the world values, instead of what God values. The worldview turned me into an anxious and depressed mess of a mother, an unreliable friend, a reluctant spouse.
So what is being mindful? Well, I’m still trying to figure it all out. But my first exercise was taking a bath. I put essential oils in the tub, lit candles all over the counter and sipped peppermint tea. Instead of thinking about what I “should be doing” I zeroed in on my senses:
I felt the weight of the water against my legs, and the coolness of the air against my knees when they popped out of the water. I heard the rain on the skylight, the gentle movement of the water against the edge of the tub. I smelt the lavender and lemongrass essential oils, the vanilla candles, the peppermint tea. I tasted the tea, the pooling water on my lip from the steam, the piece of chocolate I smuggled in from the bedroom. I spent a good 5-10 minutes just feeling, sensing the experience of being in the bathtub. It sounds luxurious, maybe a little silly, but it was essential and it was grounding.
The therapist gave me a long list of “feelings” some uncomfortable, some ambivalent and some enjoyable ones. During set moments throughout the day I was to read through the list and try to notice not only what feelings I was experiencing, but also their intensity. The goal, even when experiencing intense uncomfortable feelings, there may still be less intense comfortable feelings that needed to be recognized. The idea is that naming the feelings gives me control over them – and allowing myself to feel them (this was a new skill for me) did not mean that I was always going to feel it. That naming the uncomfortable feeling may be all I needed to do to let it go, it isn’t ALWAYS a requirement that I brood on that feeling until I know where it came from and make a plan to never feel it again. Feelings aren’t wrong, they are feelings. They can be powerful, but they can also be a still small voice reminding us that we are beloved.
I’m in desperate need of a mind renewal. This year, the year of “Breathe” is also an attempt to slow down and just BE. No doing allowed.
Pastor Roger seemed to be speaking especially to me on January 1st (even though I was teaching Sunday School and didn’t have a chance to hear the sermon until the 4th) when he was preaching about Romans 12:1-2 on transformation and the renewal of your mind. What I absolutely LOVE from this sermon is how we go about renewing our mind and being transformed.
Roger’s January 1st Sermon on Renewing Your Mind
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be give you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
John 15:1-9 NIV
I love this so much. Remain is, well, rather passive. I don’t have to do anything but stay.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be mad. 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!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:38-42 NIV
This is what I’m working on now with my mindfulness, remaining, resting and abiding in Christ. Part of this blogging experience focused on “Breathe” is to document my process of living with major depression and anxiety. I’m hoping to embrace new practices that help me to slow down and Remain In His Love. I mentioned journalling, blogging comes from that experience. What else comes, I’m not sure. I know I’ll flail and fail along the way, but accepting that some pruning has to happen is surely a good start.