March 4, 2012
Affirmation: I avoid all thoughts that weaken me.
Do you ever feel anxious? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with so many things on your mind you can’t get back to sleep? If you don’t you must already have developed a system that keeps you calm and centered. It’s not something you can develop when you’re in the throes of what is or appears to be a crisis. It must be something, some tool you’ve created and use regularly when you are calm. Then when you are not feeling calm, you use that tool and your body responds with the conditioned reflex, relaxation.
I had a friend tell me that he had a mantra (a repeated phrase or word) he used every time he was at the airport (one of his most stressful environments) but it really didn’t seem to make any difference. He didn’t see what purpose it served. He never felt any calmer. I asked him if he used this tool at any other time and he said, “No.” Can you see the problem with this? Every time he found himself stressed, he repeated the same phrase. He conditioned his response to anxiety. He needed to practice his mantra when he was feeling calm and centered.
People I know use meditation to create this sense of peace, others use prayer. Many in the catholic faith say the Rosary, a set of Our Fathers and Hail Marys that are repeated over and over while moving one’s fingers along a set of beads. Many meditators finger beads called mala beads while they repeat their mantras.
When I was going through radiation, it was an extremely stressful situation and I was very anxious. I also didn’t feel too well so that added to the anxiety. One of the Duke Cancer Patient Support Counselors set up an appointment with a nurse practioner named John Seskavitch. In my experience John was a unique nurse. He focused on healing the whole person; mind, body and spirit. He had already created several meditation tapes and sponsored many mind-body workshops. He sat with me and asked me about my faith, my practices and then suggested I repeat the Hail Mary during treatment.
My walks take me around Apex Lake, a beautiful path close to my home. I’ve walked it for over twenty years and often use the quiet time to say the Rosary. I dedicate each decade (a group of ten Hail Marys and one Our Father) to a specific group of people; my family and friends, my church group, the support people in my life, all those special intentions I have in my heart, our military and their loved ones and our world leaders. (I figure they could use all the help they can get with the condition of the world today.) As soon as I lied down for my radiation treatment after that first session with John, I was no longer anxious. I was on that path around Apex Lake! The sun shimmered on the water, the geese and ducks called out, the great Blue Herons stood perfectly still in the water, people nodded and said, “Good Morning!” and I was calm and all was well.
I once read about someone who kept a “worry box.” All week long, if something came up that he was concerned about, he would put it in the box and he’d tell himself that he’d worry about it on Friday at 5 PM. Each Friday, he’d go to the box and lay our all his concerns. What do you think happened? Most of his concerns had been addressed, had been resolved. Part of my journaling practice is to look back each month and do a general review of how my life went. One of the questions I ask myself is, “What was something I worried about that I don’t worry about now?” There’s always an answer that reflects something that’s been resolved or even more profound, something that never even came into reality.
George Burns the famous comedienne once said he never worried; it was a useless waist of his time. “Why would I worry about something I can do something about? I’ll just go do it. And, why would I worry about something I have no control over?” Really, isn’t that a futile exercise in self-absorption?
Not worrying takes practice. If you’ve developed the worry habit, you can develop the habit to not worry. You can find some tool, some process that will effectively help you control your anxiety. One of those tools is affirmations. “I avoid all thoughts that weaken me.” Turn your thinking around. Use your quiet time to assure yourself that all is well, all is well! Take God’s peace and love and your sense of well-being with you out into your life and into the world. It’s the work of a life-time but it’s well worth it, don’t you think?