Once upon a time this was my boat of anxiety with the light of mindfulness (and of God) shining on it. In fact the boat was me.
The boat was swamped with anxiety, beached with worry. The hull of my boat, which is as strong and as fragile as wood was collapsing, barely holding its shape.
I had no rudder, no sail, even if the wind was blowing and the currents flowing.
Anxious thoughts, like crows pecked at the rotting frame, as shame like worms ate away at the wood. Anxious feelings soaked into the hull, and weighed it down, stealing its strength.
Those of you who have experienced anxiety will recognise this, it doesn’t always help to have the condition explained in cold, logical, propositional language.
But in the corner of the boat I built a mindful nest, my breath, a prayer word, the practice of awareness. And then the swallows came, swooping in, and stayed making new thoughts that could fly free.
And then there came a desire for spring-cleaning, for restoration, for changing the structure and activity of the boat for better, as it was created to be. And one day the boat was drained, restored, painted, floating, able to catch the wind and the currents.
I did not just want to move from anxiety to inner freedom, although that is a good intention, a necessary intention. I wanted to become mindful of God, waiting for the wind and the currents of God’s Holy Spirit, that I do not control, but as a graced response I can be receptive and open too.
I know mindfulness doesn’t work for everyone. I’m grateful it worked for me. It might be for you – a boat yard of restoration.
I am writing this on the Camino Ingles, in Pontedeume, by the estuary of the river Eume. There are little rivulets, and wide open spaces, we can inhabit both. But first I had to step from the edge of hope, just one step into hope.
Do book on my retreat at Lee Abbey 14-18 November 2016!
A link to my video on You Tube about creativity, mindfulness of God and my new book Putting On The Wakeful One – attuning to the Spirit of Jesus through Watchfulness.
When I speak to people about mindfulness I find that most are in the position I was before I began researching mindfulness, they don’t have a clear map of understanding of how their mind works or how to train it.
One thing that mindfulness training offers is the best wisdom of cognitive psychology and neuroscience in giving us a clear map of our minds and how to train them.
In their book ‘ Mindfulness, a practical guide to Finding Peace In a Frantic World’ Mark Williams and Danny Penman ask the question, ‘Why do we attack ourselves?’ (15-31). In their book ‘Mindfulness for Health’ Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman talk about the ‘wild horses’ of the mind (53-75). That’s why I’ve used the title ‘how to train your dragon mind.’
What I’ve found is that helping people have a clear map of understanding how their mind works, and how to train it, is very liberating for people. Whether it is understanding the neuroplasticity of their brains and how they can lay down new neural pathways through mindful awareness or meditative practices; or their capacities for rational critical thinking and the doing mental gear, or the streams of awareness within them and the being mental gear.
Learning about our ability to both focus our attention and open our awareness, the importance of focusing on the present moment and having an attitude of that is compassionate, curious and non-judgemental – helps us put the jigsaw of our minds and bodies together, until finally we see the big picture. Seeing that big picture is often an epiphany moment, a charged moment of insight.
People are interested in mindfulness for health, as developed in secular psychology through treatments like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) – and I talk to many who are intrigued by the Christian idea of mindfulness of God.
Mindfulness is also being used at work, in education and leadership and many other areas including sport, art, writing and music. Very good introductions to mindfulness are the two books I’ve mentioned above.
Having a clear map of understanding how your dragon mind works and how to train it, is, I think, one of the most important things we can do to open up our inner world, and the world around us, in a way that enables us to live life fully.