Bind your Mind: Discovering Peace in the Midst of Stress

Life is stressful.

There is always an interview, a presentation, a trip, a to-do list, an illness, a difficult boss, a fractured friendship, unkind words, forgiveness that seems to stretch our ability to grant and now simmers below the surface of our smile.

Does it seem that your stress outweighs your peace?

Our bookshelves, Kindles, and podcast apps are littered with advice.

Brene Brown says we should divulge our vulnerability.

Marie Kondo says we should declutter our spaces and our lives.

Oprah and Dr. Phil say,  “Name it to claim it”.  Claim happiness. Then go out and serve, read, exercise, and eat delicious food.   (And we have to admit Oprah looks mighty happy on her monthly magazine covers!)

Abraham Lincoln said,   “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

The Bible too offers advice, though not the self-help kind, more the God-help kind.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

I agree with all of the above.  But how to bind my wayward mind in order to attain peace?  Here are my top six practices.

-Make time to meditate.  Here’s a 3-minute  breathing technique

-Focus on one-step living.  All you have is this very moment.

-Forget the “C” word.  Relinquish CONTROL  Ride the waves of life in the hand of God which could be the safest place to be.

-Follow Oprah’s advice and serve others.  Perhaps write a note (who does that these days??).  Go to Compassion International and select a child to sponsor.

-Pray in a palms-up; palms-down manner.  Are you worried about a wayward child, an upcoming social event, an unfriendly bathroom scale, or a scary test result on the horizon?  Turn up your palms and mentally place your concerns there, pray over them, then turn your palms downward.  I believe a power greater than any you could ever muster wants to carry your burdens.  (How do I know?  He is holding my own tears and redeeming my own sadness, even as I write this.)

-Give your mind a stern lecture.  Sing a song that makes you happy.  Name your gratitudes.  Check out a new recipe.  Declutter just one teeny weeny drawer.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

 

OK, Mind, you have your marching orders for today.  Dream big; find beauty, and don’t let stress get the upper hand.

You’ve got this, Oh Mind of Mine.

 

 

Today’s Takeaway:

-Claiming happiness sounds great.  But really, it’s all about Doing Happiness.  Hey Mind, are you listening?  Get over yourself and make that call; try that recipe; sing.  Splurge on a new face cream or a nice bottle of red.

-Channel Eleanor Roosevelt.  A life well lived amid stress we cannot imagine.  Here’s her book on 11 keys to a more fulfilling life.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Younger Me…

 

Barclay here…

 

Dear Younger Me,

I’ve been meaning to share a few thoughts with you.

#1 – Worry less; Pray more

All that time spent worrying did not change a thing except to make you live inside your head and not in the world.  When Jesus sighed, “Oh you of little faith,” I think he was referring to YOU.  Yes you.  So, have faith in your God and stop being a worry wort.  It will cause you wrinkles and we DON’t want that!

#2  – Vulnerability is OK

Someone with a cool name will become very famous speaking and writing about vulnerability.  (Unfortunately, this woman will not be you.)  But take her message to heart.  Remove your mask and share your struggles (appropriately of course….a job interview for example may not be the right setting.)  Be vulnerable and seek community.

#3 – Avoid Mom-Guilt 

You may feel guilty for being a working mom, a stay at home mom, a mom who just prays that she doesn’t mess up her kids.  Seek the path that’s right for you; stop comparing yourself to those oh-so-perfect moms.  They don’t exist.  Do your best and spend time on your knees in prayer.  (And accept the fact that you will do stuff that does indeed mess up your kids.)

#4 – Be braver

Take risks.  Someone named Joy will want to blog with you.  Someone named Gina will ask you to jump out of a plane.  Someone named Brett will take you on a glorious marriage adventure.  And those kids whom you will undoubtedly mess up — will both bless and break your heart.  They will seek their own adventures, apart from you.  Don’t let them see your tears…be happy for them.

#5 – Drink more water

You really should turn your wine into water.  Drinking water is good for you and your skin will thank you.  Coffee and wine do not hydration make.

#6 – Slow down; Meditate; Look for blessings 

Breathe deeply; Look for beauty; Make time for pausing and reflecting.

#7 – Make the first things, first things

Find opportunities for volunteering.  Give of your time and money and don’t tell anyone.  God sees it all.  And His opinion is the only one that counts in the end.  By the way, this will be the LAST thing you want to do.  You will have to force yourself.  But trust me,  you will be refreshed more that you will refresh others, which probably is very little!

#8 – Forgive quickly

Don’t hold onto resentment from your childhood.  Keep short accounts with God.  Know that YOU are in need of forgiveness!  And I mean, daily.

#9 – Cherish friendships

Listen more.  Laugh a ton.   Oh, and of course, get a doggie!!

#10 – Wear sunscreen

You knew I was going to say this!!  That tan isn’t worth it.  You will be a regular at the dermatologist if you don’t wear sunscreen.  And those tanning booths of the 1980s were a BAD idea!  Your mother was right.  Of course.

 

More to come, YM.  You are not off the hook!

 

 

 

Joy here…

Dear Younger Me:

I could totally echo my fellow blogger and dear friend Barclay on the worrying.  If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to stop the incessant worrying! STOP IT!!!!!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

It’s a complete and utter waste of time.  It never got you anywhere.  It didn’t make you feel better and it probably added a wrinkle and grey hair for each year you did it!!!

Listen up, YM,

Stop futurizing.  Another one of my very bad habits.  I once visited a house that friends of ours had bought in the early 80’s.  At the time, my husband and I were living in Chicago (where I would meet my dear dear friend Barclay).  I loved the Chicago suburbs and visualized a life there, in Winnetka or Highland Park or maybe Wilmette. White picket fence, Volvo station wagon, dog, 2 children…  I couldn’t get it out of my head and I drove my poor husband crazy talking about it incessantly!  Appreciate what you have in the here and now.  If it is meant to happen, it will, in time!  PATIENCE!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

Love your parents with all their faults and annoying habits!  You too will be a retiree one day (who knew?!!) and drive your children crazy with your habits! I loved mine with all my heart and being, but I truly thought they’d be around forever.  My mother, Muriel, passed away at 71 years old of diabetic complications. I never expected it and I was devastated.  She was my best friend and I would miss her so.

Listen up, YM,

SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  I was a good saver, but when I started making money, real money, I went a bit crazy.  I bought my husband a gold Rolex watch and myself a fur coat.  I loved material things, which there is nothing wrong with, but, at the end of the day, a few more shekels in the bank wouldn’t have hurt!  Possessions do not make you happy.  They are just things.

Listen up, YM,

Echo on the breathing and drinking water.  Hydrate, take a few moments every day to think, get in touch with your inner soul  I was always rushing around. I stopped exercising for about 10 years after I had children.  I couldn’t find the time.  REALLY?!!  C’mon YM, not a very good excuse!  Make the time for you, no matter what!  Every day.

Listen up, YM, 

Don’t go to bed without washing your face and brushing your teeth!  Keep good hygiene habits and they will pay off later in life. I have great skin, primarily good genes, but I tried to do this religiously and it has, indeed, paid off.  Good job YM!

EAT BROWNIES!  They’re delicious!  No rationale needed here!

Today’s Takeaway… 

If only we could write letters to our  younger selves.  It’s not too late because at this age we are younger than we will be next year and the year after and the year after that. Think about what you want to tell yourself today.

You are the recorder of your life, the director, the producer, the author, your harshest critic.  It’s never too late to write those letters, but remember to read them.  They don’t do you any good if they are sitting on your hard drive!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

Meditation and the Monkey Mind

I (Barclay) downloaded an app called “Insight Timer” which offers 400,000 meditations.  Where to begin?

Then I noticed they had a course called “Learn How to Meditate in Seven Days” which sounded doable.

Day 1: The timer is set for 10 minutes.  A woman’s voice, slow and monotoned, tells me to breathe in through my nose and exhale through my mouth.  Feel your tummy rise with each inhale. After a bit, I peek at the timer.  7 minutes left. My phone says enough-of-this and beeps a reminder to put the laundry in the dryer – which I do.

Day 2:  The woman suggests we “explore the mind”.  Let your thoughts drift past, she says. Watch them but don’t attend to them.  Wait! What’s that? An ant scurrying for cover. If I don’t nab it, word will spread to other ants.  Good-bye Ant.  And good-bye morning meditation.

On Day 7  I mute the voice.

So there’s this thing called the Monkey Mind that Psychology Today suggests is our inner critic.

“It’s the part of your brain most connected to the ego, which contends that you can’t do anything right. It’s also the part of you that stifles creativity and prevents you from moving forward with your passions. The monkey mind insists on being heard, and sometimes it takes a lot of self-control to shut it down. It is also the part of your brain that becomes easily distracted, so if you want to get anything done in life, your challenge will be to shut down the monkey mind.”

For some of us, this is near impossible.  I think my mind is more elephantine than monkey.  My thoughts are constantly racing-what medicare  plan should I take when I turn 65, what should I make for dinner, what if my children never get married, will I have enough money if I live to 90!!-just to be clear-Joy chiming in here.

They say that to tame our monkey mind we need to practice ……..wait for it……mindfulness.  A buzz word that’s lived its full 15 minutes of fame.  (Wouldn’t you just love to coin the next buzz word or phrase that means exactly the same thing??)

But that said, we should give mindfulness its due especially in tackling a monkey mind that’s bent on hijacking our meditation.

Author, Marelisa Fabrega, offers practical suggestions at her website, Daring to Live Fully.)

Let your monkey mind “run amok” for 10 minutes a day, she says.  Journal your thoughts.  Then if the MM starts up again, you tell it,

“Your session for today is over. Wait until tomorrow’s session. I’ll listen to you then.” Soon, your monkey mind will realize that it’s completely futile to make a fuss at any time other than during your journaling sessions.

We should also question our MM.  When it raises a grievance, ask why it’s upset.  Counter your MM’s points using the ABC method.

Day 8:  I am breathing to the count of 4, holding for 4, exhaling for 4.  I have the sound of a babbling brook on my phone.  My Monkey Mind tells me that I am late in paying a bill, but I ignore it.  5 minutes passes.  Victory.

Clearly, I won’t be hosting a seminar on meditation any time soon.

But hey, it’s a start!

Today’s Takeaway:

-Set apart time for daily reflection and meditation – whatever duration and practice is right for you.

-Let’s put some serious thought into inventing the next buzz word to replace “mindfulness”.  Just think of the best sellers we will write and the talk shows we will grace!!

Enjoy the ride!

Ommmmmm…..

xox Barclay and Joy