A GENTLE RAIN TRUMPS A HURRICANE: MENTAL HEALTH DAY

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Sabbath:

It’s warm inside the Vermont Quaker meetinghouse. A gentle rain patters on the roof and coaxes  golden trees circling the house to release their leaves to winter rest.

We sit.

I got here a few minutes late and the room was already in silence. When I settled into my favorite corner, I let out a huge sigh and then felt self-conscious about the audible stress I had just carried into the room. I imagine that my sigh was tinted slightly orange.

The coming forty-five minutes in silent prayer and meditation doesn’t seem long enough to free my mind and spirit from the outrage and uncomfortable memories that Donald Trump’s sexually predatory comments have stirred up in me.

We sit.

I have not been at peace all week. I’ve been trying to write a sermon on gentleness, but keep getting caught up in the violent whirlwind of this election, despite a two-day fast from news and social media. My psyche feels battered by hurricane-force winds, and there’s a danger of drowning. What do I know of gentleness?

An old woman on the bench in front of me is slowly rotating her ankle around and around, causing her leather boot to creak, creak, creak. At first it’s annoying and distracts me from my meditation, but after a time I begin to imagine I’m journeying on horseback, saddle creaking rhythmically beneath me. It’s soothing.

I sit.

The rain falls softly outside, slowly seeping into the drought-parched earth, deeper, deeper, patiently seeking ways through hard and rocky soil, at last reaching thirsty roots with nourishment and life.

If You are Struggling Emotionally . . .

This is a hard time for Americans, no question. I highly recommend finding time for silence and solitude, walks, and news & social media fasts. Women in particular have been triggered by Trump’s sexually aggressive words and actions.

My 2016 news year’s blog, How to Forgive described a spiritual practice to help you deal with tough emotions. It’s called Welcoming Prayer, and I offer it again today in recognition of World Mental Health Day . I wish you gentle peace:

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Letting Go

Go someplace where you can be alone in silence. Gaze out a window or at a candle or a piece of artwork. Relax. Allow yourself to focus on the “bad” feeling. Name it. Anger? Hurt? Rage? Desperation? Sadness? Notice where in your body you experience the feeling. Your chest? Your head? Your stomach? Your throat? Put your hand there and sit with the feeling. Then say: “Welcome, {feeling}. I know you are here to teach me. I welcome you.”

Solitude and silence: Step One to Serenity

Solitude and Silence: Step One to Serenity

Some background: This method is based on the work of Father Thomas Keating and his belief — backed up by many psychologists — that humans have core “emotional programming for happiness” that gets us through life. From a very young age, we learn to seek and cling to safety and security, esteem and affection, and power and control. Memorize these. I can guarantee you that at some level, no matter what gets you stirred up or upset, one or more of these “needs” is at the bottom of it. When one of them is threatened, we often react from deep childhood survival programming and lose perspective. We act like angry children instead of adults.

So, after you have named and welcomed your feeling and identified where it’s centered in your body, you may sit with the feeling as long as feels right. Because you are going to let it go, so you want to be completely ready. If you give it some thought, you will likely be able to tell exactly which of childhood emotional needs has been threatened by the situation/person that was the catalyst for your pain and resentment or anger. Sometimes all of them are involved — these are the toughest to release.

When you are ready, say “I accept the lessons I’m learning from this {feeling} and I release my need for safety and security, esteem and affection, and power and control.” Then you may release your feeling. Or you may keep it around a while to pray about, think about, write about, and learn from. Think of it as a visitor, no longer a permanent resident.

The God Question

I’m a God-person, so when I release my emotional needs and pain, I do it by turning them over to God. God’s got my back; I don’t need to protect my safety and security, esteem and affection, and power and control. Using this method over time, I get stirred up less and less often, being assured that I belong, I’m safe, and I’m loved beyond imagining. My clinging, fearful child has quieted down. I forgive “trespasses” soooo much more easily than I used to. 

At Peace with the Past

Learning to Be at Peace

If you’re not a God-person, I suppose you could release those needs to the universe or the cosmos or some “higher power that is greater than yourself,” as the twelve-step recovery folks say. Perhaps you could imagine putting your unwanted emotions on a train and then watching it disappear down the track. Or imagine dropping them in a river and watching them float out of sight. However you envision releasing your negativity, the point is to send it packing.

Day thirteen of my daily blogging practice.

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