For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen a Word of the Year – one value which I wish to embody in my life. It’s always been one of my values, but there’s always one that stands out more than others. For 2022, that word is Mastery:
the mastery of self (self-awareness and the resulting self-control) as well as
knowing more (knowledge and understanding) and
putting that new learning into practice.
Because to know anything is to do things differently from before.
Life management is about being well adjusted. … being able to stand against the wind of disappointment. Time is not really the important element. It is what time represents that matters. Time management is not about a list of things in order of priority that must be completed… Time management is about life management.
Given that life is mostly about intangible things, does it not make sense to learn to control them – things such as thoughts, desires, anger, curiosity, ambition, motivation, sadness, hurt and sorrow? Althought we live in a tangible world, life itself occurs within our mind, spirit and soul.
Jonar C. Nader, How to Lose Friends & Infuriate People, a controversial book for thinkers.
For me, this is the essence of what I am reminded of when I read Proverbs – self-awareness and then the option for self-control.
The wisdom of Proverbs
One of the many things that I’ve had on my “I wish I had time to do” list is to deep dive back into Proverbs. Of all the books of the Bible, this is one of the two that most resonates with me. The other one is the book of James.
Proverbs has a special place in my heart because I remember my dad reading it to me every night before bed. Occasionally, we would talk about what a verse meant. But more often than not, it was just a reading of a chapter or a portion of a chapter.
I was left with many more questions than answers.
Of course, many times, we try to read Proverbs literally, and not all of it can be understood with a literal meaning.
My experience with Proverbs is that different ones “jump out at me” at different moments in life. Moreover, I’ve interpreted them differently, depending on what I’ve been learning at the time.
As with any proverbs, many of them take time to digest and understand.
The usefulness of Proverbs
In the very first chapter of Proverbs, there is a small introduction, although there is debate as to how much of the book of Proverbs this introduction applies to.
I find it irrelevant who the author of Proverbs was: I don’t read the book of Proverbs because of who wrote it.
Throughout my life, I’ve turned to Proverbs when I’m in turmoil. And these last three years have had their fair share of inner (and outer) turmoil.
Consider how other translations present the introduction to Proverbs:
These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king— Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn— Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. 5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
The place of Proverbs
Proverbs is one of the five books of Wisdom of the Bible, together with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.
I find it interesting that two of these books are poetry and psalms, rather than writings of wisdom, per se. And yet, all five of the books offer unique perspectives on life and the experiences of life.
But, as you will have noticed from the introduction to Proverbs, it has lofty goals:
the discipline of wise thoughtfulness
astute common sense
a manual for living
to understand what life means
lead others to the truth
The road to wisdom
So, over the coming weeks and months, I intend to take a new journey through Proverbs and re-examine how it impacts my life. What new wisdom can I glean from these pages?
I took a moment today to reread one of my posts from ten years ago: The Lord is my shepherd. It was a collection of thoughts about Psalm 23 and what it means to feel safe in the presence of God.
For these last ten years, I’ve come to understand that our English Bible translation uses “the Lord” as the standard translation wherever the original used YHWH. I’ve distanced myself from the idea of God being a man sitting Santa-like on his sky-throne.
Somehow distant and looking down on us all – rather than Spirit and in each and every one of us. Over these past 22 months, I realise that what has kept me going strong is the Divine presence of inner peace, abundance, and compassion, despite living in a time of turmoil.
So, today I want to share my thoughts on what it means to allow the Infinite to flow through us as Divine Wisdom, peace and love, taking thoughts and ideas from Psalm 23.
Divine Wisdom shepherds me
One of the things about sheep and shepherds is that the sheep get used to the shepherd because the shepherd lives with them twenty-four hours a day. They recognise the shepherd by the sound of their voice and the scent.
And so, as I learn to live in the presence of the Divine, I learn to listen to that still, small voice of Divine Wisdom. It’s often hushed, although occasionally, I get a brutal shake or prod!
Shepherding is about being led, surrendering to the path of Divine Will, rather than what my ego would have me do. And when I listen and surrender, I recognise that I have everything I need.
Everything I need: all the time I could possibly need to get things done, all the love and affection that my heart desires, and all the resources that I need at this moment.
In fact, when I sit with my God Box, which I made at the beginning of this year, I am in awe! All the worries and concerns that I put in my God Box were taken care of. All of them. Not a single one of those worries came to pass this year! I took all those things that were beyond my control and simply said, “you handle this for now, and when I’m ready, gently place it on my plate to take care of”.
Resting in the presence of the Divine
Most of us remember that the shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures; there’s a lushness to this imagery. In addition to having our fill – an all you can eat banquet – do you experience the softness and gentleness of lying down and resting?
How have you rested in 2021?
Are you resting gently and deeply, or do you stay up at night with worries?
To quote my previous post on Psalm 23:
“We have found both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction.”
In addition to surrendering to rest and relaxation, we are offered our fill of living water – to be cleansed, refreshed and revitalised.
Can you allow the Infinite to flow through you?
My soul is restored and renewed
I wear myself out trying to do it all from my own strength and under my own steam. I forget – regularly – to allow Divine Presence to flow through me and empower me. But, as I let it, my soul and spirit are restored and renewed.
All I have to do is step away from staying business – holding and grasping desperately to doing it all myself.
When I’m doing it all alone, it’s empty and incomplete. My ego’s happy – for a while until it falls and fails. Then it throws a tantrum when I realise that I am not perfect and complete unless I am open to the presence of the Divine.
I am complete when I am One with Spirit. But when I allow myself to be guided by Divine Wisdom, I find myself facing anything and everything. The path takes me back to wholeness.
But it is a soft allowing and opening up. It is surrender and trusting, which I still find challenging.
How are you allowing the Divine Creator to complete you?
A time of turmoil in the world
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death
These two years have felt like a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The foreboding of “it’s out there” could be terrifying, and yet I have discovered this fantastic, deep well within me of inner peace. One that genuinely has surpassed all my understanding.
I know, without a doubt, that we are walking through this valley. That means that there is a light at the end: there will be a moment when we are no longer under the shadow of death.
But I feel an intense peace and calm within me. I haven’t feared for myself or those I love in these two years of uncertainty. I have felt deeply protected and shielded despite all the turmoil.
Some of the changes have been harrowing – as an introvert with a slightly extroverted child, I cannot begin to explain the challenges of two years of home-schooling while working from home. And yet, this too shall pass.
And every time she says that these have been the best two years of her life, I am blown away. In my mind, I have focused on my shortcomings rather than how resilient we have both been!
We have been abundantly protected and shielded. We’ve grown and changed with the changing times.
And in so many ways, I have been miraculously comforted and found safety.
Making time for self-care
Despite the challenges of these times – the enemies that surround us – Divine Wisdom reminds me to take time out. To sit quietly and eat calmly. To enjoy the food before me.
These past two years have been about re-encountering a relationship with gratitude and pausing, especially around food. I’ve made more time cooking and sitting down to eat, with grace before meals, rather than eating on the run.
And what I’ve realised is that this has a very practical application in our digestive system: as we switch over from “fight & flight mode” to “rest and digest”. It’s a crucial physiological distinction. Divine Wisdom reminds me regularly: stop what you’re doing and just eat. It’s okay to take time for nourishing your body without multi-tasking.
I am also reminded that I have a purpose and calling – and that does not require multi-tasking either! It’s becoming more single-minded about “the one thing” and focusing my energy and attention on what I am called to be and do.
The more I follow this, I count my many blessings! My cup indeed does run over!
Guided by Divine Wisdom, with goodness & mercy watching my back
Who has your back?
We’re promised that both goodness and mercy will follow us wherever we go. Mercy sweeps along behind me, forgiving my mistakes and weaknesses, allowing me to forgive myself.
Can I let go of the guilt and shame that I’ve carried and allow it to be swept away by goodness and mercy?
The final part of Psalm 23 reminds us that we dwell forever with Divine Presence, finally reaching that place of complete Oneness with Spirit.
I belong. I am loved and cherished, with an everlasting love.
This is what it means for Divine Wisdom to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
Will you allow the Infinite to flow through you until you are One with Spirit?
Over recent weeks, in my healing journey, I have been examining my relationship with trust. It first came to my attention when I looked at my business decisions, especially mistakes that I have made over the past 20 years. But, in recent days, I noticed a pattern emerge.
The beauty of recognising patterns of behaviour is that it opens the door for change and transformation. What I’ve noticed is a swinging pendulum in my life between distrust and blind trust. This pattern has cost me thousands of dollars, as well as relationships and creating heartbreak.
It is in seeing my actions and omissions accurately that the doors open.
The truth sets us free.
Let me provide you with some concrete examples:
In my early business days, I hired a friend to run one of my companies. Because I was overwhelmed and swamped with the growth in business and hiring new staff, I failed to supervise her properly. She was struggling in getting everything done, and I wasn’t available to support her. I didn’t ask how things were going, instead choosing to focus exclusively on my own overwhelm. Unfortunately, while she was getting the client work done, she wasn’t invoicing the client for it! By the time I realised the mess in accounts receivable and payable, the client had accrued some $40,000.00 in services they hadn’t paid for. Thankfully, the client eventually paid all outstanding invoices. But it took years to get fully up to date, and I bore the financial brunt of being caught between suppliers and financing a client. When I’m overwhelmed, I shut down, dissociate from the present, and turn to blind trust.
In March 2009, I left on holiday for three weeks to New Zealand. I chose the dates based on the weather (end of summer) and flight costs (cheaper because summer holidays were over and it wasn’t yet Easter). I was overwhelmed and exhausted after restructuring staff following the 2008 markets crash. Unfortunately, March 31st is the end of tax season – which meant that my company tax returns were prepared and presented in my absence. The company accountant and external accountants included a refundable expense in “income”, an extra $54,000 in ghost income! As a result, my income tax bill that year was $27,000.00 when it should have been less than $9,000.00. But, you prepay taxes for the next year, based on the estimates of what you paid the previous year! So, not only was I hit with the current tax bill, but my estimated taxes for the next year were identical, giving me a tax credit for years to come. My blind trust created a substantial financial pinch.
I could provide you with many more examples in my professional life where I have distrusted, micro-managed and controlled every aspect of an employee’s performance, to those moments where I am overwhelmed and shut down, leading to no involvement or supervision at all.
Trust = firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something
Distrust = the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon.
Blind faith or blind trust: “unquestioning belief in something, even when it’s unreasonable or wrong”. I take it to mean “trust in spite of evidence to the contrary” or blindly ignoring evidence that perhaps they are undeserving of your complete trust.
How trauma informs our state of mind
Unfortunately, this pattern is not something I learned as an adult, and I’ve been using this pattern since early childhood. When I get overwhelmed, the easiest solution is to shut down and freeze, and this takes me into dissociation from the present moment and avoidance. In these cases, blind faith and trust in others become the only option, and I can’t trust myself.
Hypervigilance at the other end of the pendulum presents itself as distrust, micro-managing every situation as I attempt to control the outcome. Of course, this is exhausting, making me angry (an emotion that I was taught not to acknowledge as a child) and frustrated. To avoid anger, I would rebound into dissociation and shut down.
I never learned how to stay in the middle: in balance, calm and being alert. I struggle on so many levels with trust, and this shows up in my life on every level:
I could choose to sit in victimhood: “this is how I am, because of my childhood“. But I choose not to. I started to look at my patterns as generative learning – an opportunity to grow and change. And I share these learnings with you, because I want you to recognise that you have options and choices available to you.
As I have begun to experience inner peace, the wisdom of trust has become available.
The human experiences that break trust, building distrust
Years ago, I denied being traumatised at boarding school because I wasn’t regularly beaten and abused. Anger and speaking up would earn you a beating, being labelled a Jezebel, or having a rebellious spirit.
I avoided beatings by being “a good girl”, knowing when to shut my mouth and swallowing any anger I felt. The survival skills I learned were to shut down, dissociate, and walk away. Unfortunately, those skills are not very resourceful and helpful in my life anymore.
There are many moments that I wish I were rebellious, angry & unruly. How I wish I had been the wild child that baulked the system and stood up against injustices, daring to question unfair authority. Instead, I chose the safety and security of apathy, withdrawal and indifference. Unfortunately, as an adult, I still struggle with dealing with my anger, boundaries and injustice. As a lawyer, it’s easy to stand up for others. But I shrink instead of standing up for myself. I avoid confrontations of a personal nature, even when they would clear the air.
Through it all, I am entrenched in my independence. Of course, as I know now – hyper-independence is merely a symptom of trauma: unable to ask for help because I can’t trust others. Can I even trust myself?
Taught to obey Church leaders without question:
We had verses drummed into us, which in themselves were not wrong. But was the interpretation of these verses rightly applied?
Under no circumstances were we, children, to question those in authority because they were “appointed by God”. And if God wanted to remove them for wrongdoing, then it was merely our duty to “pray about it” rather than to do anything.
Even the hymns we sang reminded us that we were to “Trust and Obey” rather than stand up for ourselves or others. Helplessness was ingrained, and anything that was not as it “should be” was “God’s will”, and we were to endure it.
Biblical teachings: the human heart
But that wasn’t the only weapon in the arsenal of submission. In reading the below verses, repeatedly we heard: “The heart is deceitful above all things”. Divine Justice prevailing, to each according to their ways, patterns and actions received little mention. Instead, beatings were justified because our hearts were deceitful.
Those in power were above all of that.
How can I trust myself if I believe that my heart is deceitful? What relationship or trust can I build with others if they are devious and incurably sick in their hearts?
If you question what I am telling you, you lack faith. Instead, you should “pray about it” and “trust God” to solve this for you.
If the prevalent attitude about human nature is one of sin and depravity, then there is no trust.
Maureen Murdock, “The Heroine’s Journey”
Divide and conquer has worked for centuries, both within the church and politics, and it’s as quickly at work today as it always has been. Even today, we hear who to distrust and then expected to place blind trust in authority.
But blind faith means that you have no ownership of your spiritual path or will. It relieves you of responsibility, creating victimhood. And victims are powerless, easy to manipulate.
I am so grateful for learning a new way: what it means to have a healthy trust.
As much as I would like to say that my journey back to trust began with trusting Divine Presence in my life, that’s not the truth of my journey. My transformation started with an exploration of self-awareness for personal growth, and spiritual healing occurred after learning and personal development.
The first step back to trust was:
In noticing my patterns of distrust and blind trust, I could explore what healthy trust means. Emotional and spiritual healing have come together as I worked with forgiveness of myself and others.
My trust in the Divine grows as I let go of my need to micro-manage and control every tiny detail. And in living in the Spirit, I trust my insight and intuition to build relationships with others.
What does it mean to trust me, others and Divine Presence?
The elements of trust
Trust is not something we do from a place of apathy, withdrawal or dissociation. It is active and engaged: trust requires relaxed courage, curiosity, and calm presence.
According to Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka, in their book mBraining, they identify the four elements of trust (learning to trust yourself):
Other authors and writers similarly identify the basic requirements of trust as:
These authors point towards the same essential characteristics and requirements of trust. As difficult as it is, I have tried to group these together in a simple explanation:
Is all about listening as well as sharing
As Covey says: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”
To build trust, it’s necessary to voice your wants, needs, desires and motives. It’s okay to have self-interest, but be open about what those interests are
“intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter.”
Trust begins when we are open & transparent – even with ourselves
It is recognising my value and the value of others, leading to genuine empathy & understanding
Clear & heartfelt commitment to my personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of others
Only then can we build trusted relationships
Actions – Consistency & Character:
In order to build trust, there has to be congruence and alignment between what I say and do! This applies as much to promises I make to myself as what I promise others.
Predictable, reliable, & full of integrity
Loyalty, honour & duty
Respect and selfless service
Oriented to values and the vision – not just selfish interest
Clear set of principles, so you can be on the same wavelength
Can be counted upon
Ability – Competency & Credibility:
Mastery – skilled & knowledgeable
Has a domain of expertise and performs their functions well
Will speak up and give their point of view on the matter at hand from a point of knowledge
Stays current & up to date
Self-assured in their competence
Demonstrating progress towards goals
Emotional and spiritual healing: rebuilding trust
When I look back at boarding school and these four qualities of trust, I find those in authority sorely lacking. If they had known better, they would have done better. But they lacked communication skills; they were authoritarian rather than compassionate. When I look at their actions, looking for consistency and character, I find them predictable, but I couldn’t count on them. They were not always congruent in what they said and did, as the rules did not apply equally to all. Perhaps worst of all, they were not skilled and knowledgeable, although they believed themselves to be.
We were left with an expectation of blind faith and trust in authority because the essential elements of a healthy trust were missing.
I now recognise that I have a proactive role in building relationships: I listen to the desires of my heart and trust my gut. I stay engaged and curious, rather than withdrawing. Instead of seeing myself as helpless and needing to be rescued, I recognise that I must play a part in building my future.
True faith is an inner alignment with yourself and with God. It’s a balance of trusting the universe to provide and doing your part to co-create with the Creator.
Letting the Infinite flow in my life: rebuilding trust
The road back to faith, trust and hope is uneven and rocky. Sometimes, it’s the procession of three steps forward and two steps back as I fall into habitual patterns of blind trust or distrust.
I am learning to communicate and listen. As I consistently practise the presence of the Divine in my life, I hear the small, still voice of Spirit. It requires that I quiet my mind – that I sit in Silence and allow my heart to be still. It’s a daily practice in which my mastery builds up each day.
I have to choose to be open and transparent; it doesn’t happen naturally. There are times I want to shut down, and I have to make a conscious choice to be vulnerable and compassionate. When I commit to building relationships with myself, others, and the Divine, trusting relationships open up for me.
I sit in the Silence each morning to reconnect and refill my heart with the faithful love of Divine Presence, for I trust in Divine Love. Each morning I listen to how I should walk and allow my Spirit to submit fully to Spirit
Ps. 143: 8
My understanding of what it means to rely on the Divine entirely has changed: it is no longer helplessness. I am not frozen in fear, unable to think logically or approach life with curiosity. I’m not keeping myself safe by being emotionally disengaged or apathetic. Instead, I am choosing to be fully present and connected.
From this place, I still choose trust, faith and hope.
Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on the Divine completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions. Give the Great Creator the credit for everything you accomplish, trusting that Divine Love will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead.
Prov. 3: 5-6
Other posts your might find interesting on Blind Faith:
We say that God is love, and by this, we typically accept that Divine Love is the law. We see the Divine as the embodiment of love; it is the very nature of the Divine. This love permeates all of creation, present in every one of us.
So, for example, we read in 1 John that anyone who does not love does not know the Divine because Divine Love is the very nature and essence of goodness.
Do you base your love for others on an expectation of reciprocity? Love based on expectations becomes a business deal – if you do this for me, I will love you. How could you make Divine Love an article of commerce? God’s pure love can only flow from a pure heart. It’s impossible to say that you are full of Divine Presence and not overflow with love.
The beatitudes remind us, “Bless those that curse you”.
When we bless, we invoke good upon, calling forth Divine Love. This power of blessing imparts the quickening of spiritual power: it produces growth and increases. It is the very power of multiplication.
A curse, on the other hand, is to affirm evil for or onto something. You might understand this as the removal of Divine Presence. A curse wishes upon others that they not bring forth spiritual good through Divine Love.
When we curse those who curse us, we start from a place of ego: taking upon ourselves the decision to remove Divine Love and Divine Presence from the equation. We punish tit-for-tat, diminishing the spiritual power that produces growth and increase. Because of our pain, we strike out to cause pain to another.
But while your ego may be satisfied, what good has this done for you or another?
Why speak kindly about those to talk badly about you?
Perhaps your natural response is to complain and play the victim. Yet, each time you retell the story of how they wronged you, you replay the emotions and feelings in your body. You relive the moment, over and over again. Our bodies are constantly in tune with these emotions: what are you creating in your health and well-being as you replay and relive a past scenario?
Our stress doesn’t happen “out there”. It is what happens within your mind and your body. How you respond matters: this is the energy that you mirror into the world. It’s the very same energy that will come back to you. In the same way that you can be sure that another person will reap what they sow – you will reap what you sow. You reap the rewards of your thoughts and your words.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
There is no better motivation to speak kindly about others than neuroplasticity! How you respond now is writing neural pathways in your brain. You can self-train and entrain yourself in how to respond.
Most importantly, these same neural pathways become your inner voice and inner critic. They become the automated response in similar situations.
How would you like to entrain yourself to respond in moments of being attacked and stressed in the future?
Finally, consider who is listening and watching you. If you curse those that curse you: who is hearing you do this? Perhaps your children are watching you. Is this what you want them to learn in life?
Or perhaps, you live the Christian life and want your life to be a beacon of light for others. If you claim to love God and yet do not show this in how you respond in everyday life, what example are you showing the world?
Divine Presence is an Inside Job
Transformation is not just what comes out of your mouth or the words that others hear. It is also your thoughts and feelings. So, if you are not feeling up to blessing someone that cursed you, take a moment to sit with your reaction. What is going on inside of you?
Is this about you and an experience from the past you have yet to heal?
Or perhaps, it’s a pattern with this person that repeats, and you have failed to set in place healthy boundaries.
On the other hand, it may simply be a reflection of the state of your relationship with this person.
As you sit with the inner awareness, take time to notice whether you have an overdue conversation with this person. What do you need to clarify or change? Is this a relationship that you can heal?
Patterns of pain
Alternatively, you might notice that your pain is unrelated to this person and what they said to you. What pattern of pain or hurt has this situation shone a light on that hasn’t healed? Is there forgiveness work that you have outstanding?
It is often the case that you remember the pain from your childhood that you have swept under the mat or rationalised. For example, it may well be that a parent, teacher or family member spoke in this way to you, and you felt helpless to respond.
Now, as an adult, you feel the anger of how they mistreated you. A part of you, because you understand that they were doing the best they could, perhaps has already said, “It’s okay, I understand”. But the very fact that you feel triggered sheds light on the healing work you have outstanding.
Will you take this opportunity to go within?
Divine Love often brings people into our lives momentarily to allow us to heal those parts of us that we are overlooking. It’s like a pumice stone that helps us slough off the old skin on the soles of our feet. In the same way, through these healing opportunities, we slough off the deadwood of our soul.
What about this person or situation is truly bothering you?
In what ways did they rub you up the wrong way?
Was it a particular word or phrase that they used?
Maybe it was the tone of their voice?
What about their opinion or comments is vital to you?
As you take time in the silence to consider this person or situation, do you notice a characteristic that you have avoided working on yourself?
Your gratitude: take a moment to thank this person for the opportunity they have given you to go within.
Divine Love flows
If you take a lemon and squeeze it, you expect to get lemon juice.
If you are walking along with your mug of coffee, and someone bumps into you, causing you to spill it, what you will spill is coffee.
That is what you carried in your coffee mug.
So, when you are squeezed or bumped: does Divine Love flow from you? If anything other than Divine Love flows from you, start at the top and reread it all.
The person cursing you is an opportunity to go within. How you do anything – like how you respond when bumped – is how you do everything.
The only thing that can flow out of you is what fills you. Does your cup overflow with Divine Love and inner peace?
Where attention goes, energy flows.
You get to choose where to focus your attention any time another person attacks you. Will you focus on that person and what they have done? Will you choose to be the victim and replay the scenario over in your mind or with others?
Or will you choose the path of healing?
Every interaction with others is an opportunity to notice where you have blocks to the flow of Divine Love in your life. Humility and vulnerability allow us to accept “I am a work in progress”. But it requires that you be open to seeing and attending.
What does Divine Presence require of you today?
Bless those that curse you
Could you bless this person and thank them for holding up a mirror for you to look at yourself thoroughly?
Every person you meet reflects your stage on this journey of life and personal transformation. How does Divine Love overflow through your life? Does it seep out when life squeezes you? Does it spill out if you get bumped?
Divine Love is the law:
Love the Great Creator with all your heart, soul and mind; and
Love your neighbour as yourself.
This is what makes it possible to bless those that curse you.
I began a personal healing journey in 2017, with no idea where it would take me. I certainly never expected all the spiritual and life lessons that I’ve learned along the way!
If I had known that I would be in 2021 and the journey would still be underway, would I have had the courage to even take the first steps?
I thought I would get the miraculous healing that when I reached a certain point it would be instantaneous. Instead, it has been a journey of a thousand steps, sometimes on spiralling stairs, rather than giant leaps forward.
Gut health challenges
Since about 2001, my health has been centred around my gut and immune system, with challenges of:
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome – i.e. we have no idea what’s wrong)
Diverticulitis (caused by the Coeliac disease going undiagnosed for 10+ years)
SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
All of these are gut issues and are closely tied with the immune system – that part of you that is able to easily mount defences to defend “self” against “not self”.
If I look at this from an mBraining perspective, the gut has the prime functions not only of digesting and processing food, but also influences:
Our sense of identity: “this is who I am”. My lack of authenticity – trying to please other people – broke down my ability to identify “self”;
Our processes of safety and security. This is our self-preservation. It begins physiologically as the immune system, but there’s also an element in there of the autonomic nervous system, which I failed to recognise, leading to an immune system in overdrive and hyper-drive, as I strove to keep myself safe psychologically and emotionally.
Movement and motivation. We know physiologically of “bowel movement”, but if you listen to our language, we clearly speak about the fire in our belly that moves us forward. My trauma-informed dorsal vagal, however, was trained to sedation and hibernation in the face of danger, and while scientists know that this impacts the immune system, they are not quite yet sure of the exact effects.
A personal journey to healing: lifestyle changes
In order to heal my gut, I’ve had to recognise that every aspect of my life impacts how well this heals.
All of this requires lifestyle changes: because it’s impossible to solve a problem with the same thinking, habits and lifestyle that created the problem.
“The necessity of change makes healing a terrifying experience for many people.”
He who knows to do right and does it not, to him it is sin
There were so many pieces to the healing journey and changes that needed to be made. Doctors glaze over quickly the role that stress plays, saying platitudes such as “you need to manage stress better”.
Who doesn’t know that?
The question is: what do we do about it?
Most of us – do nothing.
We ask for the pills that soften the blow of the symptoms, so that we can get back on with life, exactly as it already was. But we don’t make the fundamental changes that are required in order for health and healing to happen.
If we did, the pharmaceutical industry would be out of business. Imagine how many blood pressure medications would be taken off the market if patients would actually follow doctor’s instructions about making changes to their lifestyle.
It’s not that I didn’t know ways of dealing with stress!
Meditation & Silence
Trusting the Divine
Dealing with the root causes of anxiety & depression
Part of me was refusing to look at diet, beyond the obvious factors of avoiding gluten (wheat, barley, malt & rye). But I could do more, like accepting that corn totally irritated me, as well as rice making me feel bloated, and that I needed to adjust my diet to accommodate inflammation and SIBO.
I have been physically active since my early twenties and am no stranger to the multiple benefits of exercise, even when you don’t have energy. I know how good it is for the digestive system (just getting out for a walk helps your gut digest more easily), as well as helping to regulate stress.
Perhaps most importantly, I know the role and importance of forgiveness, letting go and release. What I didn’t know was the depth of work I would need to do, and how much I have buried and hidden away (even from myself), in order to be able to survive.
Part of the healing journey has been accepting that sometimes it feels like I’m stuck in a loop, when I am really on a spiral stairway that keeps coming round to the same issues, just at a different level. It might feel, at times, that I am just going around in circles, but progress is not always in a straight line.
Bad habits are decisions we refuse to make
Take a moment to write down, for yourself, three habits that you have right now that are impacting your health and wellness, and that you are making no attempt or haphazard attempts to change. How would healing be possible if you made these changes?
I’m going to mention a few habits that most of us have (at some level) and that we know better, and yet it’s easier to continue doing it, than to change. We give ourselves all kinds of excuses.
Eating on the go
Who doesn’t know that eating-on-the-run is bad for their health? This might be that you are eating:
fast food while driving your car
standing in your kitchen while fixing food for others or doing some chores, or perhaps
sitting at your desk or computer, working.
There’s the risk of falling into a fast-food trap – with unhealthy ingredients, high sugar and high sodium. But it’s not just the ingredients, it’s the very fact that we are not allowing the body to go into “rest and digest” while we eat, but rather we are still eating while in motion (and quite possibly under stress).
All of these habits lead to:
increased risk of cancer;
risk of heart disease
high blood pressure
issues in the immune system
and even memory loss.
Our bodies were created to rest and relax while eating, to enjoy the aroma and visual appeal – so that we get the digestive juices flowing. We allow ourselves the time and space to savour and chew. And to notice what we are doing, rather than having our attention focused somewhere else.
A lot of problems can be solved just by removing some people, some food, and some habits from your life.
Our sedentary lifestyles
We’re warned enough about laziness and sitting around in Proverbs, but more than just being couch potatoes, it’s even the way we travel to work and the conditions in which we’re working that create challenges.
Sitting for so many hours a day, whether it be in a bus, on a train, in the car, at your desk is exhausting mentally, leaving us wanting to stay sedentary when we finally get home.
What does this create?
high blood pressure
type 2 diabetes
Exercise – or more importantly regular movement – helps us with our digestion as well as improving the blood flow to the brain. It naturally helps our body keep our blood sugar under control, and possibly most importantly helps produce oxytocin – our “happy hormone” that is produced naturally in the body.
Do you really need me to tell you all the ways that this shows up? Perhaps you snack when you’re not actually hungry, you give into cravings, or you are just eating too much generally. Eventually, your body stops sending you the hunger signals (since you ignore them anyway) and just lets you know the cravings.
We create our own health challenges through over-eating:
These are just a few.
It could be as simple as wolfing down your food too quickly, so that you fail to notice the message that you are full. This, unfortunately, can lead to bloating, gas and acid-reflux.
If you’re eating too late, it may be interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Not drinking enough water
Our bad habits are as simple as failing to drink water, and instead replacing it with energy drinks, soft drinks or coffee. But your body is 60% water, and we need the water for regular bowel function, optimal muscle performance and even for our skin.
When we fail to drink enough water, we run into:
risk of stroke
moodiness & irritability
All because we haven’t built a habit of drinking water.
Skimping on sleep
I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Yes, I have said that. I would burn the candle at both ends and then drink coffee (not water) to keep going. Skimping on sleep does more than just impair our judgement and compromise clear-headedness in decision-making.
It also causes:
heart disease, heart failure & contributes to heart attacks
high blood pressure
weakens immunity and the immune system
increases stress and cortisol levels
causes weight gain
increases the risk of diabetes
I justified to myself the choices of burning the candle both ends and continuing with my lifestyle choices, even daring to suggest that this was Biblical (Proverbs 31 – the Virtuous Woman). She gets up while it’s still dark, her lamp does not go out at night, and she does not eat the bread of idleness. But I’m pretty sure that she didn’t drive herself into the ground either!
My personal healing journey: lifestyle changes
All five of these issues came up for me in my healing journey, to different degrees. But when we talk about “go and sin no more” – what we each have to address our the habits we have that are holding us back.
Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses (and for many our strengths are also our weaknesses), and it’s a personal journey of discovery and transformation.
In my personal journey, there were four principal areas that I had to address, most of them more than once and in different areas of my life:
gluttony and over-eating
murmuring & complaining
laziness & failure to take responsibility, and
holding onto anger, resentment and bitterness, rather than letting it go with complete forgiveness.
Gluttony & over-eating
I’m not going into sharing a rift of Bible verses on gluttony. It’s the internet – you can look them up for yourself.
My personal definition of Gluttony is slightly different, although it is certainly an excess of eating.
But what I consider an excess might be much more strict that what you are accustomed to seeing or hearing as “excess”.
So, I invite you to consider what your definition of excess might be.
the power of suggestion – “I see food, so I eat it”
When I’m hungry, it’s perfectly possible to postpone eating for thirty minutes or more without getting hangry. Cravings and emotional eating, on the other hand, demand to be attended immediately. The question is “how do I choose to attend to these demands?”.
If I acknowledge that my body is a temple, how am I maintaining it with discipline?
If I’m not hungry, am I willing to deal with the root issues and causes that lead me to the fridge, rather than eating and stuffing all my emotional and mental issues right back down again, swallowing my tears, and refusing to sit in the discomfort of what I am experiencing?
Stress, especially chronic and ongoing stress, causes our body to produce cortisol. In a healthy situation of stress (i.e. where you literally ran away from danger), cortisol will make you hungry, so that you refuel your body. Unfortunately, my stress is not the result of running away from a tiger! The hunger signals are false, and I know this if I actually check in with my stomach.
What needs to change? When I’m honest with myself, this is about lifestyle, beliefs and choices that are keeping me in a state of stress.
Where’s the inner peace that passes understanding?
What happened to the faith that allows me to trust that things are truly working out for my good?
If I eat, I can ignore these questions, rather than addressing the root problem: one of faith. It’s very similar to eating when anxious. If I eat, I can focus on something away from the anxiety.
But aren’t I supposed to be “anxious for nothing” and instead to turn my requests over to the Divine and surrender? Eating bypasses the anxiety, rather than addressing the beliefs and faith issues. How do I expect physical healing when I am not addressing the spiritual?
Fatigue and being tired:
Another chemical process happens in our body when we’re tired:
Our gherlin goes up (produced to let us know we’re hungry) and
Our leptin goes down (produced by our fat cells to let us know we don’t need to eat – as it decreases our feelings of hunger).
So, when we’re tired, no matter the cause of our fatigue, our body asks for either rest or more fuel.
But what if the reason that we’re tired is because of bad sleep habits? It my case, it was caused in part by gut problems (bloating and discomfort, which lead to light and interrupted sleep). One habit that was effective in fixing this: eat before 6 pm, so that I sleep better. But do I change my habits and honour health?
We can feel the difference once again in our stomach between tired and hungry. If I really am tired, is what my body really needs healing rest?
Comfort eating and sweets:
Perhaps we eat comfort foods because they remind us of “being loved”. Or we need more sweetness in our lives, so we give into our sweet tooth.
But if what we need is comfort and connection, perhaps what we need to do is hop on the phone and call home. Are we hungering for a spiritual connection?
Whatever the reason for our cravings, when we eat, we block the request. The request has been attended to, but the underlying need remains unsatisfied.
Eating past the point of hunger into fullness
The challenge is not just to eat when hungry, but to stop at the right moment: when I am no longer hungry. There’s no need to eat into “crowded” or “full”, much less “stuffed”.
So why do we eat more than our body asked for?
I’m enjoying this too much – we have scarcity and deprivation thoughts related to food or enjoyment
procrastination – I don’t want this to end, because then I will have to go and take care of… On a more subconscious level we know: if I eat too much, I’ll be sluggish and tired, and have the perfect excuse.
I was told to clean my plate as a kid, and I’ve never adjusted this belief around being able to leave something on the plate
I feel the pressure of friends or family to “eat up”, especially when they want to offer a second helping.
But what if, instead, we chose to:
Deal with what I’ve been avoiding?
Accepted that there is abundance and I can have more enjoyment at another moment.
I give generously to those in need and don’t have to prove it by clearing my plate.
I serve myself smaller portions, so that I can finish with nothing left on the plate, and
I told the people that I love how I feel about them and how I appreciate them, so it’s not necessary to show this by eating more.
Unmet needs, desires & wants:
All of these examples simply go to show that we have unmet needs, desires, fears and wants. These may be mental, emotional or even spiritual.
The lifestyle change that was required for me is being willing to tackle them, rather than choosing to stuff them down with food.
It is so easy, especially when your illness comes with physical pain, to allow our grief and pain to turn into bitterness, anger, reproach and despair.
We are told to bless those that curse you. How about blessing your body and your pain? If you feel cursed, because you are carrying an illness or disease – are you blessing it?
Are you cursing your body or that part of your body that appears to be letting you down?
Is your heart raging against the Divine because of this cross that you have to bear? Are you raging against yourself for all the life choices you’ve made that lead to this point?
Perhaps complaining feels easier!
Ask and you will receive
In her book, “Unbound: A woman’s guide to power“, Kasia Urbanjiak talks about how behind every complaint is an unspoken request. We complain because it feels more acceptable than asking for what we really want.
Where is my faith in
“ask and you will receive”
“making your requests known”
“asking according to Divine will, because the Divine hears” and
“you do not have, because you do not ask”?
Of course… perhaps I’m not willing to take up my bed and walk! Maybe I’m too scared to get out of the boat, in order to walk on water.
It’s so much easier to murmur and complain, rather than to ask and then be responsible for my actions.
Let’s be honest – complaining is socially acceptable!
“Nothing unites people more strongly than a common dislike. The easiest way to build friendship and communicate is through something negative.”
Complaining impacts your health!
Health impacts of complaining:
creates more stress
worsens anxiety & depression
it rewires your brain – in a bad way! The habit of complaining reduces the number of neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for problem-solving and cognitive function. Actual shrinkage!
Neurons that fire together, wire together – and you are creating a habit of complaining. So, you are likely to be creating new things to complain about and attracting to you people who like to complain!
And so, you find yourself in a place – that you have built – clinging to resentment, pain & trauma. You have become what you have focused on.
What would you like to focus on?
But as I said, you don’t receive, because you don’t ask. Complaining reinforces the idea “I’m a victim and there’s nothing I can do to change this situation.”
“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
Professor Randy Pausch
I finally reached a point where I had to ask myself:
What if this disease is happening for me, not to me?
Can I search for the blessing, strengths and lessons that it has to teach me? What might I be grateful for in this journey? How does Divine Presence show up in my life through this illness?
And this takes me into the third thing I had to address: being willing to take small steps forward.
Synonyms for laziness are indolence and sloth. Indolence derives from the Latin indolentia, ‘without pain’ or ‘without taking trouble’. Sloth has more moral and spiritual overtones than laziness or indolence.
Anyone who’s taken time to read Proverbs or Ecclesiastes knows what they say about getting stuck under the covers! But sometimes, with chronic illness, there’s more than laziness to deal with.
Allow me to clarify, that when I talk about the desire to stay as a couch potato and be lazy, I am not referring to:
Chronic fatigue and the need to rest
Clinical depression and how it drives you to inactivity
Shutdown caused by the dorsal vagus nerve
Resting to recover from illness
While I mention that my healing journey has required that I face my personal laziness, it would be unfair to myself and others to write everything off as laziness.
Most people with chronic illness deal at some point in time with chronic fatigue. I’m not talking about ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, although I can identify with every one of the symptoms listed for it:
brain fog, problems with clear thinking, memory loss, and even muscle twitching
Being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and Coeliac disease, these are all part of the fatigue I’ve had.
Another symptom (commonly found with other chronic illnesses also) of Coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis is depression. For me, this was caused by two things:
a natural side effect of having a disease in the gut that affects the ANS, immune system and gut microbiome.
ignoring my grief and sorrow, trying to soldier on, without allowing myself to acknowledge what I felt I had lost.
For many years, I attempted to fore happiness and pretend nothing was wrong. “I’ve got this”. I was pretending to be strong, rather than finding inner strength. And if you’re any good at this, you can do it for years.
During this time, I failed to acknowledge all the sources of my depression: gut health & microbiome, emotions, mental, chemical and even the dis-regulation of my ANS.
Shutdown & avoidance as self-preservation
Until recently I didn’t even know that one of my primary survival instincts (those habits you create to survive, that later become your Achilles heel), was shutdown and avoidance. The body is an amazing thing – survival first.
While some people go into fight-flight when faced with danger, I learnt as a child that those were not options. The safest option was to be neither seen nor heard. It’s freezing like a possum that plays dead or the turtle that hides safely in its shell.
So why on earth, if I’m battling these three challenges, would I even mention laziness as a habit to be overcome?
Being lazy: disinclined to activity or exertion
It’s so easy when life is overwhelming to get stuck in “there’s nothing I can do about this”. As I said before, if I had known that returning to a healthy life would take so long, would I have even tried?
In most cases, it is deemed painful to expend effort on long-term goals that do not provide immediate gratification. For a person to embark on a project, he has to value the return on his labour more than his loss of comfort.
I was not completely helpless. There were things I could do that would make a difference, but that required some effort on my part.
Intentionally resting: rather than watching TV or playing computer games or mindlessly scrolling social media, I needed to sleep deeply, giving my body a chance to heal. To do this, I had to remove foods that interfered with deep sleep, remove caffeine and add in magnesium.
Find out which supplements, vitamins & minerals would restore health. Some of these tackle inflammation, while others support the nervous system and neuro-processes, giving me clearer thinking and raising my energy levels.
Build my own personal support network and groups.
I wanted people around me that were positive and believed restored health was possible. I needed accountability, not people that would listen to me complaining. Most importantly, I wanted to be surrounded by those interested in “being healthy“, rather than those whose mindset was “how do I live with this illness?”
I want to be healthy in spite of this illness
It takes exertion, motivation & discipline to make the changes (habits & lifestyle) that restore health & wellbeing. I constantly battle my innate survival mode of withdrawal and hibernation.
“I’ll deal with the mental, emotional and physical issues later – right now I’m just going to finish binge-watching this series on Netflix.”
“I’m sick. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
“I can’t run, so there’s no point in going for a 5-minute walk.”
“My joints & muscles hurt, so I’m just going to stay here.”
If I listen to that, I don’t even bother going to the kitchen to take the supplements that help relieve the inflammation & pain.
Laziness doesn’t just refer to being “a couch potato” – but it’s the state of mind of being stuck, unable to even move a single rung up the ladder.
Yes, I still want the magic pill of miraculous healing that allows me to bypass all this work and all these individual steps! But would I really have made the changes and addressed all these issues any other way?
Change the habits & lifestyle, so that the miracle can happen!
Medically speaking, it’s impossible to heal Coeliac Disease and ulcerative colitis. So far, they are vastly improved, but not healed. I’m not sure if it will be possible, or whether my personal healing journey will simply be one of discipline & habits.
But I finally reached a point where I am willing to continue the journey, irrespective of the final outcome.
And so I come to the last healing lesson I want to share with you: forgiving myself and others.
Learning to Forgive: letting go of anger, resentment & bitterness
Forgiveness and reconciliation are two entirely different concepts. Unfortunately, as a child I learnt a very skewed example of forgiveness and reconciliation.
We were made to say “I’m sorry“, with the threat of punishment hanging over our headif we didn’t. And if we received this unrepentant sorry, we were equally forced to say “I forgive you“, with that very same threat of punishment. At least we were equally afraid of the punishment that would be meted out if we failed to say sorry or I forgive you.
What lesson was that really in forgiveness?
There was not open-heartedness or vulnerability. There was no true desire to repair the relationship. We merely feared the greater punishment that awaited if we failed to say those words, no matter how meaningless.
I grew within myself a heart of stone, because it wasn’t safe to be vulnerable and open. Feelings were not safe and were certainly not to be expressed.
I’ve had to come a long way in my own journey of forgiveness, leaving meaningless words behind and delving for myself into the heart of the matter. I no longer rush to forgive (going through the motion) or minimising my emotions and feelings. And I don’t need the other person to even be aware that I am forgiving them.
In order to truly forgive another, you have to acknowledge what you’re feeling. And those feelings might no be pretty. They might be more than pain and hurt or disappointment. Perhaps you feel angry and resentful. Worse yet, you might have allowed it to fester and turn into bitterness.
But until you can actually unpack your emotional baggage, and hang it in the sun to air and for you to see clearly, you won’t truly forgive. All of the feelings that you stuffed down, stowed away, and hid in the darkest corners of your memory have to be released and let go.
Forgiveness isn’t just spiritual, it’s also physical:
If we want to heal physically, we have to practice forgiveness – of ourselves and others. Whatever it is that we are holding onto.
…unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health. The good news: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. ,,, Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, … changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.
When we hold a grudge, our attention stays focused on the past and it plays a role in the present moment, even in depression. This anger or resentment, when stored for long enough in our body, can even show up as pain or more illness.
Studies show how suppressed anger – that which we haven’t been willing to even acknowledge, much less vent – is showing up in cases of patients with cancer. Suppression takes a toll on our bodies, as we pretend that we aren’t hurt and angry. (Anger and Cancer: Is There a Relationship?)
On the other hand, when we hold a grudge, we create the feelings each time I mind replays the situation. So, now when I think of “forgive and forget”, I am turning off the “replay” switch in my mind. It’s not that I completely forget the situation, as if it never existed, but rather that I refuse to give the reruns “air time” in my mind.
I refuse to relive the stress of the memory over and over again in my body. I will not rehash – in this present moment – an event from the past. That is simply poisoning the present.
Among the many harmful effects that this loop has on your health is cognitive decline, dumping cortisol (the stress hormone) back into your blood stream, and affecting once again appetite, sleep patterns, heart rate and blood pressure.
“Living in a chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increasing inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol in the body.” “Forgiveness engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your immune system function more efficiently and makes room for feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.”
I recognise that I’m still not done with the this process. But I’m finally willing to sit with emotions as they arise. I’m finally able to see how the spiral works in healing, no matter how long the journey.
And the truth will set you free
Not just knowing it… but truly living it! I started off with a video by Stephen Levine, where he talks about healing, not just physically but also emotionally.
Over these past four years, as I’ve worked on restoring my physical health, I’ve had to admit to the truth of where I am at and what changes and habits I have not been willing to change that have delayed the healing process.
I finally have begun to understand Jesus’ admonition to the man he healed “go and sin no more” – because I realise the effects that my lifestyle had (emotionally, physically, mentally & spiritually) on my health & well-being.
This has been the greatest gift of this illness: recognising that I have choice about how I choose to live in the presence of the Divine and how I choose to let it shine for and through me.
Dr. Joe’s book is a deep dive into neuroscience, quantum relationships, the Divine, and how to truly draw change to yourself by becoming aligned with what you are asking for.
We are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds – and this is exactly the exercises that Dr. Joe takes you through!
Break the habits of your usual way of feeling, of thinking and of acting in the world, in order to experience a new way of showing up – be transformed by the renewing of your midn!
I believe miracles change and transform us. But so many times I fall into the trap of waiting for a miracle to happen for me, without doing my part! The hard school of knocks teaches that blessings flow more freely to me when I focus my energy, attention and effort on the outcome.
If you want to walk on water – you will have to get out of the boat!
Sometimes, the effort required is spiritual focus, but most times there is a physical or material aspect of expressing our faith as more than just prayer.
This applies to our transformation journey and the renewing of our minds as it does to other miracles we await!
Awareness: the first step of transformation & renewal
The first step in renewing your mind is awareness: what needs to change?
Dr. Joe offers some very practical examples of where to start. Start with the emotions that keep you stuck and on repeat. Particularly those feelings you cannot control. These are feelings triggered by situations and circumstances, perhaps by relationships and interactions.
Focus on the feelings that remind you how human you are and how much you still need to transform.
Personally, I don’t believe any emotions are “bad” or should even be labelled as “negative”. Nonetheless, some feelings are not helpful helpful when they control us and take over our reactions. These feelings can run amok and ruin the show.
When this is the case, we need to break the habits and be transformed and renew our minds!
Why do we need awareness?
Let me give you a quick example:
Sit down and take a few deep breaths. Remember a moment that you were truly happy and joyful. In your mind, rebuild the memory with as many details as you can.
Notice how you begin to feel in your body and emotionally as you focus your thoughts and mind on this memory.
Now, remember something that made you mad or sad or upset you. Build with as many details as you can remember the entire scene – who was there, where and when was it, and what happened as it unfolded. Notice how you now feel in your body.
Notice how your emotions have changed, as you’ve changed the focus of your thoughts.
The emotions that typically control our habitual responses are:
bitterness or resentment
I don’t know about you, but for most of these I was taught I “shouldn’t” feel this way. To a large extent, then, I would ignore and push down these feelings, rather than acknowledging them.
I would say a prayer, and ask God to take the feeling away… as if I were powerless. God needed to take it away – that’s what salvation was, right? There was nothing I could do about it!
As I’ve matured and grown, I’ve realised that this was very irresponsible of me.
While there is a surrendering and handing over to the Divine: there is also an essential part of ownership and responsibility. We play an important role in the transformation & renewing of our mind.
Awareness is accepting that we are feeling this emotion and that it is interfering with in our spiritual transformation. It separates us from ourselves, from others and from God.
I feel… and when I feel this way I start thinking about…
Awareness of my patterns of thought
The second step of breaking the habits and pattern is to notice how our feelings drive our thoughts (and also noticing how our thoughts drive our feelings).
Consider what pattern or loop of emotion/thought you regularly get stuck in. Notice how the emotion feels in your body as well as the typical thoughts that go along with it.
Perhaps you are feeling victimised and that you don’t have control. Your thoughts might be
Why do things like this always happen to me?
What did I do to deserve being treated this way?
How come I always get the short end of the stick?
When am I going to catch a break?
Or perhaps you feel fearful and anxious. Your thoughts might be catastrophizing and awfulizing, making up the stories of everything in the future that could go wrong.
You might feel guilt or shame, in which case you keep replaying a loop in your mind of what you did wrong in the past.
Take a little time to sit in silence and ask Spirit to speak to you about what is the emotion and thought pattern that you need to break.
Awareness: the feelings-thoughts-feelings loop
There is a reason that we stay stuck in this loop of thoughts and emotions – it’s what we are used to. What we know. And no matter how “bad” it is for us, we may be afraid of what is on the other side of change!
This is a comfortable and safe place – no matter how uncomfortable it is or how much we want to transform!
Ego keeps us in the same loops. Spirit moves us in a spiral of growth – small steps forward in growth and change.
We are each called to be more – to be transformed and renewed.
Desiring change and transformation
We cannot change the past and we have no control over the future. The only moment in which you can transform and renew your mind is this moment.
You can make a daily habit of transformation and renewal, but there will be a practice and discipline required of you.
Being in this moment.
Each and every day.
Wanting to change isn’t enough
Desiring change is not enough. Praying and asking God to change you is not enough – unless you are willing to let go of the way you were.
There’s a reason that after each healing Jesus would say “Go, and sin no more“.
Break the habit of who you used to be and start to live from this new place of having been transformed by the renewing of your mind, feeling a new way, and doing things differently. It’s not just the external – the actions. It’s the inner work: feelings and thoughts.
Willingness to change: surrender to the Divine
Part of the willingness to change is surrender. There is a part that you do… and there is a part where you have to simply have faith that the transformation is happening no matter that you cannot see it.
In 2018 I started a practice of silence. Of just sitting and focusing on my breath – being present – for 20-30 minutes each day.
In 2020, in the midst of the chaos, a friend pointed out to me that I was unflappable… and I realised that I had a peace that I could not explain or understand!
I was content to trust and surrender what was out of my control to the Divine.
I couldn’t tell you WHEN that happened. I simply adopted the daily practice and trusted the process. The peace in my heart appeared when I needed it the most.
Transforming the Heart
Once you have become aware of what you are leaving behind, allow your heart to sit with what you want and desire to feel.
Perhaps you want the peace that passeth all understanding.
Maybe you desire to be filled with Divine Love.
Or you might just want to trust and surrender.
When you get your new heart and are driven by a new emotion – what would you like that to be?
For example, one of the emotions that I was working on was fear. And I wanted to transform that into trust and courage. Another emotion that I have worked on is shame, and I wanted to transform that into love and acceptance.
What do I desire?
Allow yourself to sit in the silence and listen to your heart.
When you are connected to Source in the silence, what does the Creator want for you?
Discovering my Divine Purpose
An even bigger question that you might be willing to sit with is “What is my Divine Purpose?”. Where does your heart feel lead when it is completely connected with Spirit?
The answer might take some time (days, weeks or even months) to clarify.
Choosing peace & joy:
No matter what you decide, ultimately, you want to quieten your emotions and the ego mind, so that you can sit in silence with Spirit.
It is here that you will be open to receiving what the Creator has for you. The final outcome of whatever transformation and renewing of your mind will be a deep inner peace and a contentment that supersedes any situation of what is happening to you.
Transforming my mind:
Once you have decided on the new emotion you want to feel, notice what kind of thoughts you have when you feel this way. Imagine, for example, that you were feeling fear and you choose that now you want to feel courage.
Consider the last time you felt courageous, and notice what you were thinking about. Where did your thoughts center when you felt courageous?
What do I choose to focus on?
We are reminded time and time again in the Bible “think on these things”. As you will have noticed, there’s a reason why we focus our thoughts on these things: by focusing our thoughts, we can focus our emotions.
But, it’s not an ostensible thinking on these things – from a place of self-righteousness or judgement.
The ony person who you are transforming by the renewing of your mind is yourself!
So, keep the thoughts and focus real!
When you think on “what is true” – consider the reality of what you are facing and notice your perspective and the stories you have told yourself in the past about the situation. Ask yourself “is this true?” and if it is not, then consider other perspectives of what might be true.
For example, perhaps someone looks at you funny. Your first thought might be: “they don’t like me”. Is this true? Perhaps they were looking away from something else and merely happened to glance in your direction and didn’t actually even see you (like when someone is looking off into the distance).
Keep it real.
Affirmations of faith:
I love using affirmations, spoken out loud. But they need to resonate with me on a deep level. When I say them, I notice how I respond to them: am I doubting them? How could I reword them in a such a way that they are true for me at this time?
So, many times, instead of saying “I am ….” I will say “I am learning to be …”. This is true and I can affirm it without question! Eventually, I will reach a point where I an truthfully say “I am…” and it will no longer raise within me resistance.
I am also much more carefully now what I choose to read and where I choose to invest my time. GIGO = garbage in, garbage out.
Finally, I look closely at my gifts and strengths – these were given to me with purpose! I affirm these gifts and strengths, and focus on using them and allowing them to help me on my way. It’s not that I ignore my weaknesses – but each of us has been given gifts to help us on this journey.
Imagining and envisioning a new way:
Finally, I invite you to begin to envision and imagine yourself reacting to situations in a new way. We are creatures of habit.
Each day, take a moment to envision and see yourself walking in faith and responding from a place of a transformed and renewed mind. Believe that as you practice this, practicing responding in new ways each day, that you will be transformed and renewed.
It is an act of faith to work on this transformation each and every day without seeing the end result immediately.
Renewing my mind:
As you learn to refocus your mind, your emotions will also change to match these thoughts.
Rewriting neural pathways
Neuroscience teaches us that we can teach an old dog new tricks – our brains are constantly learning new pathways. They become shortcuts (the path of least resistance) when we use them repeatedly.
The more often you choose to go down a particular thought path, the easier it becomes to repeat this, especially in situations of stress or when you “aren’t thinking”.
The time for learning a new habit – rewriting your thoughts – is daily. When you are in the midst of chaos and a situation that would normally set you off, you will have a brief moment in which you become aware that you have a choice: and the choice that you make at that moment will also have a huge impact on how your brains and your emotions learn!
Will you choose to do things as you have always done them?
Or will you choose the new path – the transformation because you have renewed your mind?
We are promised that we will be given new hearts and that Divine law will be written in our minds.
I hold this to be true.
But I am also aware that I have to be open to the transformation happening – I have a role to play in ensuring that I don’t fall back into my old habitual ways of thinking and feeling.
My heart will remain soft, vulnerable and tender inasmuch as I am willing to keep it vulnerable and tender. How will I choose to respond when life throws me a curveball?
Will I remain open and teachable?
How will I know that I have truly been transformed by the renewing of my mind?
Am I choosing each day to focus on being open to the Divine – in remaining in awe and wonder of Creation?
Do I choose silence each day or do I keep myself so busy that I don’t listen and see? God is never going to talk to me about transforming and renewing someone else’s mind or changing their behaviour: the small, still voice will always be gently chastening me about what needs to change and align in my life!
Is my delight in this relationship with Spirit?
I will love God with all my heart, mind and soul
Can I say that I am filled with Divine Love?
This is the ultimate test… the holy grail of where I aspire to be and grow into.
Are my thoughts and emotions completely aligned with this love?
Yesterday, November 13, was World Kindness Day. And after 9.00 p.m., when I hadn’t yet finished writing this blog post, I decided that the greatest act of kindness and self-care for myself was to go to bed!
Today, like most days, I’m up at 4.00 a.m. My body has decided that this new schedule works better!
I’m adapting to not staying up till 11.00 p.m., burning the candle at both ends – learning that kindness starts not with others, but showing compassion to myself. Especially since me tired and cranky, lacking in sleep, is not putting my best foot forward to be kind to others!
Kindness is a habit that starts with me being fully rested – at least to the extent that it is available to me!
I am loving the early mornings.
The stillness and quiet.
Being awake before the birds even start their morning songs! Hearing that first chirp of bird song, and then others waking and joining in.
Being still and knowing that I AM is within me, all around me, and having the opportunity to ask how I can best express love in the world today.
Why does kindness matter?
Find me a Christian who is not kind – and I will challenge them to their face that they are not a true Christian. At the very least, they are failing to be renewed by the transforming of their mind!
Anyone who does not love does not know I AM, because I AM is love.
1 John 4:8
End of story.
And from 1 Corinthians 13, we know that Love is Kind.
I accept that there are more verses in the Bible that speak to the kindness of God than the kindness of man.
Kindness is forgiving
Nonetheless, the verses that speak about our challenge to be kind are crystal clear that kindness goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness. Your measurement of commitment to being Christ to others is whether you accept forgiveness and grant forgiveness to others.
… be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you…
If you want to understand better this idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, get very clear about the role that kindness, mercy and forgiveness play in your daily habits.
Consider how well you have mastered holding firm to kindness as a way of being.
Don’t mistake kindness for niceness
In Proverbs we find:
Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Tie them around your neck. Write them upon your heart.
Proverbs 3:3 (NLV)
So, when we speak truth, it must be with kindness. And in order to be kind, we need to hold onto truth. Anything less is inauthentic. Is there any real kindness without truth?
We are told to speak the truth with love, with compassion and empathy. And that seems to be harder in our culture as we have lost the ability to have difficult conversations. We’ve learnt not to talk about politics or religion at the dinner table, but now that’s extended to we simply don’t talk about them. Then we wonder why society has lost the ability to speak about controversies with respect and kindness.
But, by the same token, if we are busy being nice, we might leave out the truth. Because that’s nicer. But it ignores the sense of betrayal that the other person gets when they find out the truth. It’s not always possible to simply be agreeable and not ruffle any feathers.
Living as a people-pleaser – always being nice – is exhausting. When the resentment starts – the niceness ends.
It’s much better to choose kindness with truth – which may be somewhat uncomfortable as you navigate learning how to be kind while being authentic, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the risks. Practising kindness includes being kind to yourself. It’s not just good deeds and being nice to others.
Kindness stands hand-in-hand with justice
The same way that kindness requires truth, it also requires justice. It doesn’t have to be a harsh and unforgiving justice, but it does require that injustice be stopped in its tracks.
Practising kindness may be as simple as standing up for someone in your community or school against bullying, or making a stand with part of your community for their right to be heard and given a fair audience.
He has told you, O man, what is good— and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 (MEV)
Perhaps you need to attend that community meeting. Or kindness might just be showing up at your local animal shelter and taking care of the rescues who no one has taken time to share love and justice with.
How can you choose today to show kindness and spread kindness in your community?
What does it look like for you when it goes hand-in-hand with justice?
Kindness is patient, Spirit-filled living
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control …
Galatians 4:22-23 (RSV)
Can you practice kindness, thinking of others, without patience? What would it mean that love is kind, if you have no patience or no self-control?
Imagine, if you can, someone impatient, with no self-control, trying to be kind.
Consider, for a moment, kindness without gentleness and goodness.
The fruit of the Spirit all go hand-in-hand: in order to have one, you have to practice all of them. And as much as I would love to say you get baptised in the Spirit and it all magically changes and you become magically transformed into having all of those qualities at all times – my experience in life has been otherwise.
Much like a potter moulds the clay, we are moulded by life.
For better or for worse.
We get to choose whether we allow life’s lessons to teach us how to practice kindness and compassion in every situation – or whether we will simply react. Compassion and kindness are not learnt in a vacuum, but in our every day experiences.
In fact, spiritual growth is not what happens when you are ardently praying and studying. Spiritual growth is what happens when you are facing life’s storms!
It’s how you respond when someone is trying your patience.
The way you speak to someone when you haven’t had enough sleep.
How you choose love rather than anger, when another person is baiting you
Compassion and kindness show up every day as habits, the habitual way that you respond and react to life’s situations.
Practising kindness each day
Kindness is not something to practice and celebrate one day of the year!
I’ve spent a lot of time, these last three weeks, in silence – being still with my thoughts. I also spent a lot of time binging on Netflix in between. I was trying to work through a particular pattern in my life that I was sick of repeating!
But, I also had to recognise that I couldn’t spend 8 hours a day just in inner work. I would reach a point where I was tired of thinking and contemplating, and wanted to be mindless and entertained. It felt like too much to try to work it all out.
Last week, on Divine Shenanigans, we pulled our topic “from the Sorting Hat” – random name generator – and it picked the topic for us to discuss of “at-one-ment”. Very similar to atonement – but really about Oneness. At-One.