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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Freedom From a Root-Bound Mind--and Oh Dear God...Again!

Oh, Uvalde! Oh, your children! Oh dear God. Just one week later.

So much pain.

I had much of this post written when a very ill young man picked up a gun in Texas. Now in the aftermath, writing about gratitude and mindfulness seems kind of callous, even frivolous. Or perhaps naive.

I can give no explanation or understanding of why things like this happen. But I can say when I slow down and focus, via mindfulness or its close cousins prayer, meditation, and gratitude--and even sometimes when I don't or can't focus--I find a little bit of stillness. A small element of peace. Some fragrance of ongoing love. And therefore hope.

That helps me be a little kinder to myself and those closest to me. It can also give me a steadier place from which to take some kind of action to better the world in some tiny personal way, very locally and/or more globally.

So I offer these thoughts and tools. In pain. And with love.

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Gratitude...Noticing the Little Things, Despite Everything

Neuroscientist Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral, notes that, “dozens of studies in recent years have shown the benefits of gratitude. Perhaps most importantly, gratitude improves mood. When you think about and express more gratitude, it’s easier to feel positive emotions.” Gratitude also boosts physical health, improves sleep and increases social support. So remember to pay attention to the small things in your life--a smile, a golden flower, the smell that lingers after a good rain. Or the basics that we tend to take for granted--clean water, good food, relatively peaceful surroundings. When I do this, I feel calmer, more optimistic, more connected. And God knows, we need that now more than ever.

A Root-Bound Mind: A Little More on Mindfulness

For me, one of the most important elements of mindfulness is what I not doing: not thinking along my normal paths, not judging myself when those crazy thoughts run like dust devils through my mind. It is an unhooking of all attempts to control my thoughts, and the world through my thoughts, via paying very simple and soft attention to my breath. Even if that unhooking only lasts for a few seconds (and it rarely lasts longer), it can shift me into a lower, sweeter gear, where at least for those few seconds, I slow down to the speed of a tree growing...or the heartbeat of a whale.

If I neglect to spend some time in this not thinking mode, my thoughts become like a pot-bound plant, with roots traveling around and around and around the edges of the pot, seeking nourishment that isn't there.

When planting one of these poor pot-bound creatures, I was taught to ease it out of the pot, then very gently finger the roots to loosen them, so the growing tips can reach out in new directions. The theory--and perhaps the reality--is that if you leave them alone and simply plant them or re-pot them, the roots will continue to follow the same paths, around and around and around, as if they had never been released from the shackles of the pot.

Having been reminded that they can grow in all kinds of directions, they will do just that once they are planted. Mindfulness seems to finger all those roots of thought that go around and around and around, and remind them they can go, and grow, in different, and better, ways.

So I try to let gratitude...mindfulness...prayer be some of the ways I respond to a tragedy when my heart cries out, "What can I do?"

I close with a centuries-old poem, as relevant today as when it was written.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

John Donne,


Until next time,


Photo credits:

Black-eyed Susan, L. Walkin

Root-bound plant, TheHandyMansDaughter


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