Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quieting the Mind

I'm pretty bad at quieting my mind and I wonder if it's an introvert thing. I have no problems focusing, but when I stop moving and doing, a new level of activity begins. I do so much in there that when it's time to shut everything out there's a whole world of hustle, bustle and fun ideas waiting to explored rolling around in my skull. So much so that when it comes to prayer, I have to do it out loud, and conversationally.

I first noticed this was difficult for me when, during a spiritual symposium my leadership program in college had us doing, the minister leading it asked us to spend a week focusing on meditation (which freaked out my very religiously conservative boyfriend at the time). The deal was though, that instead of emptying the mind as some Asian religions teach, you're supposed to focus on God.

I remember coming home, hopping up on my extra long twin with the salmon-colored sateen duvet, leaning back against the painted cinder block wall and closing my eyes. Immediately, there was a whole world of thoughts, ideas, memories and fantasies to play with. I used to have an email signature that said "my mind is my playground" and that's exactly what I was facing...trying to concentrate on God surrounded by the things I found most comforting and entertaining.

I did though, improve.

But not too much.

I woke up to pray this morning and sat quietly. I was immediately surrounded by the sounds of songs from YouTube, memories of Thanksgiving, feelings of missing my grandmother, replays of the previous days' sparring and plans of what I'd have for breakfast. My cousin had just told me the night before that she had issues quieting her mind to pray and I chuckled at the mess I was trying to wade through to find the peace I needed to really meditate and converse.

But then I thought to pay attention. Thoughts aren't 100% uncontrollable or random. They happen for a reason and are reflections of choices we make in our hearts, minds and spirits every day. I looked at my hodgepodge and saw a reflection of priorities. Those things were on my mind because they were where I'd put the most emotional focus.

I'd been watching videos on YouTube of old songs to calm anxieties about going back to work. Thanksgiving  was full of new memories of seeing family. I'm fresh into the grieving process of saying goodbye to my grandmother. I'd had a phenomenal day, sparring with a higher belt at my gym who beat me beautifully...and...food's just a big deal to me.

I take away from that though, that in the last month of holiday preparation, burying a friend and relative, belt test prep and closing out a work year, I have been praying less and focusing less on God. It happened subtly, but it did happen. No...I take that back...I've probably been praying more...but mostly prayers of my own grief and concern for the emotions of those around me. My schedule is returning to normal now though, and while I'd gotten in more time talking to God out of burning necessity, I'd fallen off talking to him out of desire.

That is what I learned from the mess in my mind this morning. 

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