“The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” ~ The Buddha
I know how horrible the mind can be because I suffer from anxiety and depression. It can push you over the edge into the abyss where you really cannot see things for what they are. How you think about yourself, and the world around you shapes your reality. It becomes ever so important to focus a large amount of energy on forming your mind in the healthiest way possible.
My devotional practice has become the cornerstone of my daily routine. Most days I do not start the day until I have properly prepared myself. While I initially began my devotional practice as a short buckling myself into the day; I would read a daily Bible verse and read a short devotional or two before I said my morning prayers. It proved insufficient though because I would still get so flustered when things in my life did not go as planned or my stress and hormones sent me into a tailspin. I felt the weakness of my faith and in how I viewed myself. I often moved about the world ignoring myself until something went wrong, whether it be anxiety, illness, or looking up and realizing that I was running on fumes. This is no way to live. As I move out of my 20’s I have realized how important it is to take care of myself, especially after watching one of the people I loved the most ultimately pass away because she was so busy caring for others and trying not to burden anyone that she did not take care of herself. This was a moment where reality slapped me in the face because I saw where I was headed, probably far sooner than I should.
Caring for yourself comes in many forms but they all can help to build you into a more solidly grounded and healthy individual. One of my mentors in seminary always stressed the extreme importance of a disciplined devotional practice. I thought of this as my prayer life and building a relationship with God, but as I have been evolving and nailing down what really works for me I see that devotional practice is more complex than prayer. I pray, meditate, practice gratitude, read, journal, and take care of my skin before I go out into the world so that I am fully covered and filled up with positive energy before I walk out the door. In the same way that you are supposed to stretch before you start a workout. I stretch my mind and spirit before I tackle the day.
I speak vaguely of my devotional practices to make this point: Intentional mental building helps you to control the thoughts that you allow to take up space in your mind. As I have invested in these practices, I have discovered that the way I am thinking is changing. I find that I do not let the negative thoughts that lead me down rabbit holes of misery root themselves as much. If I have been filling my own bucket and planting those positive seeds, there is not as much space for the negative or attacks from the enemy. Let’s be honest, life can really mess with you. One situation goes wrong and it can ruin you for hours and days. But when you build those defenses you can capture those thoughts before they negatively affect who you are and how you move about the world.
My mother used to warn that whatever you ingest in your ears and eyes will come out. With so many messages fighting to root themselves in our minds and hearts we cannot just live our lives being receptacles. The world would have you believe that you are not enough because you are too big, too small, not smart enough, not attractive enough, not capable enough, and that you have to be _______ way in order to be something. Taking these things in and letting them eat at you makes you a victim of circumstance, but when you take time to feed your mind, heart, and soul with good things you can decide what is useful and what is trash. Ultimately you can free yourself to be who you were made to be. The Bible say in Phillipians 4:8 “ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The mind is a powerful place. When you are intentional about what you focus on, you grow a garden of possibilities and move toward more of a life well lived. Turning our attention to things that will manifest the good in us girds us to be able to handle those competing narratives that confront us from outside and from within.
It is so important to be able to wield some level of control of the thoughts you think because they can direct your day, your actions, your habits. If you get stuck berating yourself about how you have not worked out, you are practicing shame. Shame sucks the joy out of life, and makes you miss out on doing other things because you have convinced yourself that you do not deserve good things. Hear me when I say: YOU DESERVE GOOD THINGS. YOU ARE ENOUGH. But you still have to build that confidence in yourself so that you can be there for others, but also to shield yourself when bad situations and thoughts hit you.
The Buddha hit the nail on the head. Whatever thoughts occupy our minds will inevitably mold us into who we will be. I encourage you, dear readers, to take time to invest in sowing good seed in your mind. Read things that edify and challenge you, speak life to yourself every day, and observe people that inspire you. One way to start is by committing to adding one positive thing to your daily routine for 21 days. Dedicate 15 minutes to working your way through an inspirational book, meditate for 10 minutes a day, free write, or fall back in love with one of your hobbies. It does not have to take up much time, but it does have to be something that goes toward making your quality of life better. If you can stick with it for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Stick with that habit long enough; it will become part of your lifestyle.
Peace and Light,