So there I was, with all these worries about my mother’s alzheimers and the mental baggage weighing heavily.
I literally didn’t know any more what I wanted to achieve with my life.
All that stood before me seemed to be the slippery, downward slope. Even my art, my true, lifetime’s Heartland, looked like a hopeless cause. It was very hard – impossible even – to settle down and create a painting that I could not be sure of selling quickly, when I badly needed to establish an income ‘NOW’.
Desperate, I analysed my situation, and decided I couldn’t do anything about having to look after my mom, but I could maybe do something about my thinking. What we think – consciously or subconsciously – is the key to what we get in life, isn’t it? I knew that much. I also realized the way I was going, there was a real danger of bringing about the very situation I feared most. Scary.
I turned again to my favourite self-help books – by John Kehoe, as it happens. ‘Goals and visualizing‘ were the buzzwords, but even that was beyond me. After all the crashes, I had no faith in my ability to come up with sensible goals. ‘Visualising’ was a bad joke, setting goals was a bad joke – not to mention impossible. So I laid the books aside – they didn’t inspire me anymore.
Things were black and I knew it.
Finally a plan formed, born somehow out of the barren waste of the mind: get right back to basics, none of this fancy visualizing, goal setting nonsense. Focus totally on weeding out the brain’s incessant chatter from day to day, minute to minute.
This wasn’t taken from any book or self-help course of the day. It felt like entirely my own plan (although looking back I’m sure even then it was born with the Lord’s help) – so I asked for guidance and monitored my thought patterns rigorously.
Every time I caught myself worrying about the future and losing my home, I looked around for things to give thanks for right there.
I gave thanks for the sky and the trees and the flowers and the house I live in, instead of looking at all the things about the place that needed doing (and they were many). I gave thanks for my pets instead of reflecting that maybe they shouldn’t be in the house, or chiding myself and getting upset because someone had made a mess. I gave thanks for my mother – alzheimers or no. I tried to pick up on every single negative thought and turn it into thanks instead of a stress factor.
I didn’t realise then that I was following words written by St Paul to the believers in Corinth:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 – probably one of the most difficult letters he ever had to write.)
This is NOT an easy practice – it requires courage, concentration, much determination and persistence, long term. The brain loves wallowing in negativity and doesn’t like being disciplined – it will in fact try to make you feel like a fool for saying anything positive. Yes, that happened to me, big time.
The answer is to just grit your teeth and say the positive, grateful stuff anyway, whether you believe in what you are saying or not – whether or not you feel like saying it, whether or not you feel like a fool. Say it out loud, if possible. The mental attitude will improve with practice, believe me.
I know for many people the idea of giving thanks does not go down well – they like to think that any good things they have are due solely to their own efforts. That is a big mistake and is the root cause of dissatisfaction, limitations and unhappiness in life.
Believe me, gratitude is THE KEY to turning your life around, the key to improving your body chemistry and opening the door for more good things to flow in. It is (as I found out later) completely scriptural, and I outline it here in the hope that this information will help someone else battling with problems and ingrained mental strongholds that seem completely overwhelming.
More next time