Sometimes I think of the connection to spirit as being like a phone line. The connection is always open: It's our half of the relationship to stay available for incoming calls . . . the problem is not in the sending, but in the receiving.
- Christina Baldwin, The Seven Whispers
Wisdom waits for me, stuck behind the doors of my continuous distraction, and cluttered mind. Gradually, and almost outside of my awareness, my spiritual practices have become superficial and arid. I spend the bulk of my awake time in my mind. Good things still happen in my life, but the sense of joy is diminished by mental tedium.
You can imagine, then, how grateful I feel for Spirit's guidance last week in the bookstore, when I found and purchased a copy of The Seven Whispers. I'll address the first whisper in this post, "Maintain Peace
It's hard for me to feel peaceful when the characters within my mind harp at me incessantly- the critic, the doubter, the scaredy cat, the champion, and the little kid, among many voices I hear. Author Christina Baldwin describes in the book how she shifts her sense of self. She does this most often by shifting to her inner observer, who can act as mediator among the many voices to see which one can serve her best.
When we can do that, Baldwin says we can shift our emotional state, our thought processes, and our assumptions. This allows other internal characters to emerge - integrated child, integrated self-parent, observer mind etc. This helps me to remember that I am more than the totality of voices in my head. When I recognize who's talking, I can choose to turn the volume up or down, whatever it takes to restore a sense of calm.
Here's an easy-to-remember practice that Baldwin describes to create peace of mind. She advises starting out your day first thing in the morning with this:
Practice conscious breathing (slow, long breaths through the belly) that can be done anywhere. Take 3 breaths (Thich Nhat Hanh's teaching):
1) One breath to LET GO
In my case, I let go of constant list making; of racing into the future with "what ifs;" of focus on inadequacies rather than strengths. Deep breathing replaces the adrenaline with oxygen. Yesterday I felt besieged with volumes of "to do's." After this exercise, I took a legal yellow pad, drew nine sections on it with a ruler, and placed my "to do's" in the boxes. For example, one section held my list for a house we just put up for sale; another my list for a current marketing campaign; another for personal financial items etc. Having everything down and laid out in an organized manner de-cluttered my mind and brought a sense of relief.
2) One breath to BE HERE
I bring myself back to the present and "be" in the world through my five senses. What do I notice through my eyes, hear through my ears, smell through my nose, feel with my skin, and taste with my tongue? I discover that when I do this, I ground myself into the here and now. I find my way back into my body, and out of my head. It gives me a chance to interrupt unhelpful mental thoughts. It allows me to pay attention of what is in front of me.
3) One breath to ask NOW WHAT?
Baldwin asks: "Now what might Spirit say, if I say nothing more and just for a moment, listen?" What I like about asking this question is that it invites Spirit (God, Higher Self etc) into my life. I get the sense that I'm partnering with Spirit in my life and that I'm not alone. The answer to my question may come later in the day, or week, or at some future time. And sometimes Spirit will answer a question I haven't even asked, as when I was guided to buy the above named book.
I've been at this 3 breath practice for a few days now, during an unusually hectic work week. For example, I left home at 7 am Wednesday, and didn't return home til after 7:00 p.m. Friday I spent several hours looking at properties to buy, and then spent several hours in my office til 6:00 p.m., not my typical Friday schedule!
I intend to keep practicing the deep breathing, and to ask the questions, in order to make it a natural part of my day. I'm still a "peace of mind rookie," but I find that knowing about these 3 breaths/questions pulls me back from mental racing by increasing my awareness.
There is so much I cannot control in my life, even though I expend a lot energy trying to do that. What I do have control over is breathing deeply to cultivate peace of mind. Then I can make room for Wisdom to help me.
I like the notion that God/Spirit not only resides above us (Western tradition), but that God/Spirit resides within us, in our heart (Eastern tradition), as Baldwin describes in the book. As I/we connect with the Divinity within us, we experience a richness in life beyond the material.
There are any number of ways to invite peace of mind. What way have you found that works for you?[Photo Credit: Gokhan Okur]