Live with less anxiety and more joy

WORRY CAN’T CHANGE OUR PAST OR FUTURE, BUT IT CAN RUIN THE PRESENT.

We choose the lenses with which we view the world. To correct our lens, though, we have to take steps to change:

Reflect on our attitude or perspective about a situation. When we see a negative pattern, take responsibility for avoiding that mindset. Realize that we have no power on our own. Pray to the Lord for His strength. Try to stop worrying. We have the ability, with the Lord’s strength, to meet any challenge. Use every opportunity to practice using this new lens. Remember that the kingdom of heaven is not out there, but within us.


When we learn to love and accept the situation we’re in, we find the power to change–not the situation–but our perspective.

Worry

During stressful times, when unpaid taxes still lie on the table, the children argue upstairs, and images of war flash across the news, hope and patience seem hard to come by. Worry seems inevitable. But how much can we really gain from our furrowed brow? Consider this quote: “Worry is like a good rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Another way to think of the futility of worry is to imagine someone carrying around a suitcase of old junk that he doesn’t use. If he complained to you about his aching back, wouldn’t you suggest he drop the suitcase?

But we tend to do the same thing, feeling troubled, tired, and pulled off-balance. We hang on to our burden because (we think) something bad might happen if we let it go. But the answer is so easy. If we simply let go—if we trust in the Lord—we suddenly feel lighter.

We hear this same message from the Lord’s own mouth when He says to His disciples, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them…. Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:22–24).

If we try to take the Lord’s command seriously, and avoid the habit of worrying, we can make a distinct difference in our inner nature. In the Heavenly Doctrines given through Emanuel Swedenborg, the book Secrets of Heaven 8474 describes the type of people who worry about the future: “They are not content with their lot, do not trust in God but in themselves, and have solely worldly and earthly things in view, not heavenly ones. These people are ruled completely by anxiety for the future….”

The passage goes on to describe, on the other hand, the kind of people who trust in the Lord: “Those who trust in the Divine are altogether different…in that they are not anxious, let alone worried, when they give thought to the morrow… They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things are moving toward an everlasting state of happiness….”

Impatience

Whenever worry enters our minds, another emotion tends to tag along with it: impatience. Often we grow impatient by worrying that life won’t turn out the way we think it should. We may unconsciously say to ourselves, “The Lord can’t handle it, so I’m going to worry for Him.”

Consider the following Biblical story, where King Saul becomes impatient with the Lord’s command, and relies on his own judgment instead. The setting is this: the Philistines have accumulated a huge army, and Saul is waiting for Samuel to offer sacrifices so he can go into battle with the Lord as his ally. “[Saul] waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’” As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came” (I Samuel 13:8–11). When Samuel shows up, he’s not happy with Saul. He says, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. . . .now your kingdom shall not continue” (I Samuel 13:8–11, 13–14).

Just as Saul—when facing his enemies—worries about the risk of patiently following the Lord’s orders, we tend to feel the same way when we’re under pressure. We worry that if we follow the Lord’s way, it won’t turn out the way we want it to. Because of this impatience, worry, and lack of trust, Saul lost his kingdom. We also may lose out when we become impatient. Specifically, we lose:

Enjoyment of the situation. We think about being somewhere else or being with someone else, so we lose the delight of that moment. Infidelity thrives on this notion. Consider this quote: “A happy marriage is not about finding the right person. It’s about being the right person in the relationship.”

Forward spiritual progress. If we aren’t thinking about the present, we’re either worrying about the past or the future. We get concerned with time, and this skews our perception. We think physical, lower thoughts, and we forget higher matters. Worry can’t change our past or future, but it can ruin the present. When we dwell on the past or future, we lack motivation to make progress now.

Trust in the Lord. We begin to think the Lord isn’t managing the universe very well. Just as Saul lost the kingdom because he trusted his own agenda, when we trust in our own ideas, we make poor decisions. Scholar Christopher Syn wrote, “Anxiety springs from the desire that things should happen as we wish rather than as God wills.” This causes us to lose the kingdom—the happiness—the Lord wants us all to have.

So how can we achieve real patience, and gain back these things we’ve lost? First, we can make an effort to find contentment with what we have, and focus on being that person who is kind and loving rather than looking for that person elsewhere. Second, we can strive to make the best of our present situation, looking for opportunities to use our talents and reach out to others. And, finally, we can trust the Lord to bring good out of every situation, believing that what He says in His Word is true.

In his work, Secrets of Heaven (3827), Swedenborg explains how we can rise above impatience to an angelic state of love and acceptance, where time no longer matters: “When you are in a state of love…you are in an angelic state, that is to say, as if not in time…. For impatience is a bodily affection, and insofar as you are in it, so far you are in time…. By the affection of genuine love, we are withdrawn from bodily and worldly things, for our mind is elevated toward heaven and thus is withdrawn from things of time.”

In other words, if we focus on the fact that we’re not enjoying something, it becomes tedious. A student squirming in a class believes there’s somewhere else he needs to be. As soon as that bell rings, his whole world seems to change. But has it? We live in the world of our mind, our heart, our thoughts. A bell doesn’t change that world, but what we attach to that bell—our attitude—can change. Patience comes from being withdrawn from worldly things. When we learn to love and accept the situation we’re in, we find the power to change—not the situation—but our perspective. Because when we love something, we’re not paying attention to time.

Life is often compared to a journey. We can shuffle our feet and mope about the path we’re taking, but anxiety and impatience don’t change our speed or route. Instead, we can enjoy the scenery, confident that the direction of the stream of Divine Providence will steer us toward a more beautiful vista. So don’t waste today worrying. Cast your burden on the Lord. Take a glance at the flowers, or listen to the birds, and remember that the Lord is taking perfect care of each one of us, in every single moment.

By Rev. David Roth, pastor of the New Church of Boulder Valley in Colorado

This website contains a wealth of information about the New Church, and a practical, spiritual path to happiness. Read more about the beliefs of the New Church.

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

Will it turn out all right?

worryWill it turn out alright? This question repeats itself in my mind on many occasions and levels. Will my children be alright? Will the next event I facilitate go OK? What might go wrong!

I could go on at length on this track and do habitually get stuck in this grove of projecting my fears onto the future.

It’s very depleting, energetically, and does no good at all; I feel like a hamster on a treadmill. Things are out of my control and the whole worrying bit is pointless.  When I am in more rational moments and less stressed I can see that this is so.

One of the tools I use is to ask myself ‘does it really matter?’ In the great scheme of things does it really matter if things don’t go the way I want them to or turn out different from what I intended. At times I get hung up on the little things and forget the bigger picture.

With hindsight I recognise that when things go pear-shaped it is often a huge learning opportunity. When I wasn’t employed in a job that I had trained for it set me free to explore other possibilities and work in a different way. Often what I was stressing about never actually happened – all that wasted energy worrying!

Another tool I have come to use and remember is to be in the moment. If I’m focused on the future (or past for that matter) I’m never actually living in the moment. Very young children have a wonderful way of just being in the moment – in watching the attention of a little child placing toy bricks in a bag and taking them out again I see this played out. All the child’s focus is on what is happening in the now. How often do we adults give ourselves to the moment like this? I guess that a painter or other creative person does get lost in the energy of creating – in self-forgetfulness.

Life is for living not frittering it away in placing one’s attention in past or future. Each moment is precious and pregnant with opportunity.

However by far the greatest tool is to remind oneself that Divine Love is constant and has its focus on bringing goodness and happiness to each person whatever their circumstances. When I view things from ego this doesn’t seem to be the case when things don’t go my way or what I think is right doesn’t occur. To let that go and trust in the Divine plan that I cannot see may seem impossible and foolhardy if viewed from a worldly or superficial mindset. To love what is the highest good for all brings me into alignment and may be acceptance that difficult times are part of the way forward.

All this reminds me of the prayer below….

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Furthermore this quote from Swedenborg highlights the importance of trust in the Divine ……

There are many currents in people’s lives. One current is stronger and at the same time gentler than the rest, though this may seem like a paradox. It is the stream of Divine providence. Sometimes the quest for the spiritual life isn’t so much a matter of a tenacious search or struggle to change, but rather a letting go. Simply acknowledging and accepting that God is leading and that we are following can change us.                                                  ( Way of Wisdom)

 

Copyright 2013 Helen Brown

Nurturing the Soul blog

Posted on13th July 2013CategoriesEnlightenmentTags, ,, , , ,,Leave a comment

 

 

The peace of mind mystery

We can’t all escape to a cave to gaze at our navels all week in silent contemplation. That’s the trouble – we can’t get away from life itself with its daily frustrations and setbacks. It’s what takes away our peace of mind. The fact that we have a burning desire for certain things means that we are likely to feel tense or angry if anything turns up to prevent us having them.

According to the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, there are basically three kinds of things we love and so when these are threatened or lost, there are three ways peace of mind can allude us.

Firstly, everyone is concerned to some extent for self and so we all feel uneasy when what we need is under threat. Who doesn’t want a secure livelihood and so get angry when losing their job during a recession? We feel anxious if there is a risk to our social status and the good regard of others. Anxiety arises when health is threatened by illness.

Secondly, one can be concerned for others and feel worried for their sake. The media reflect a widespread horror at the plight of starving people in an overseas famine and those suffering destruction of their homes due to a natural disaster. Our hearts go out to them and we feel disturbed by the pictures we see on the television news.

Thirdly, we love what we value as good and true. How such values cause distress is more difficult to spot. But we know how up-tight people can get when their favourite work of art, political stance, or religious belief is under threat. Don’t we feel guilty if we go against our own values and principles or uncomfortable if they are undermined by what others say?

Unease, anxiety, worry, horror, disturbance, distress, feeling uptight, guilty feelings and discomfort all take away peace of mind. These feelings derive from what we love. Get what we love in the right order then our fears gain a higher perspective.

There is an ancient Taoist parable that tells of an old man and his son who lived alone in poor conditions. Their only possession of value was a horse.

One day, the horse ran away. The neighbours came by to offer sympathy, telling the old man how unlucky he was. `How do you know?’ asked the old man.

The following day the horse returned, bringing with it several wild horses, which the old man and his son locked inside their gate. This time the neighbours hurried over to congratulate the old man on his good fortune. `How do you know?’ asked the old man.

The next thing that happened was that his son tried to ride one of the wild horses but fell off and broke his leg. The neighbours were quick to tell the old man that this was a disastrous turn of events. `How do you know?’ asked the old man.

Soon after, the army came through, press-ganging young men into service to fight a battle far away. All the local young men were taken – except the old man’s son, because his leg was broken.

The old man had peace of mind. A deeper kind of reflection less attached to the things of the world opens the interiors of the mind. But fear and anger close them. Being too tied to what is going on around us makes it difficult to assess from our limited perspective whether an event is good or bad.

A young woman patient of Carl Gustav Jung’s was proving very difficult to help in therapy because she was keeping her personal feelings to herself only conversing on an intellectual level. She had had a dream in which someone had given her a golden scarab – a costly piece of jewellery.

While she was telling Jung about this dream, he heard something behind him gently tapping on the window. He turned round and saw that it was a large flying insect knocking against the window-pane in an apparent effort to get into the dark room. This seemed to him to be very strange. He opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in. It was a scarabaeid beetle (Cetonia aurata) whose gold-green colour most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab. He handed it to his patient with the words, “Here is your scarab.” This moving experience broke the ice of her intellectual resistance and we are told treatment continued with satisfactory results.

Carl Jung gives this as an example of what he calls `synchronicity’. This notion was his answer to the puzzle of why people sometimes experience meaningful coincidences in their lives that are inexplicable and apparently not due to what might be expected from chance. At first sight this sounds a bit like the magical beliefs of so-called primitive people for whom no accident, change in the weather or the health of the villagers is ever thought to be attributable to natural causes. Everything is somehow due to magical influence. Jung does not go this far.

Nevertheless, he does say that synchronicity is one of the things that influences our lives as well along with natural causes. It is relevant when we are trying to fathom our experience of any purposeful trends in our affairs. The synchronous experience is said to occur when two kinds of reality (i.e. the inner and outer) intersect.

I think we can be more specific regarding such experiences. Swedenborg writes that there is a divine providence that is quietly looking after our deepest needs. It hides itself but we might detect it when later we notice things working out for the best. Only later, if we reflect on what has happened to us, may we possibly comprehend that various separate strands of our life have been knit together.

For example, we might later appreciate how we have been nurtured deep down, how the mess and muddle we make of our own lives has been cleaned up, and how new and interesting paths for us to follow have been illuminated. I feel attracted to the idea that we experience peace of mind when we never allow ourselves to trust in our own intelligence but instead contentedly allow ourselves to be carried along in the `stream of divine providence’ making the best of our opportunities. For when self-orientation no longer rules our hearts, then we rise above our worries concerning the transient things of the world and instead come to rely on the things of divine spirit.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Pet cats – What can we learn from them?

pet
Our pet Geoffrey

My wife and I have a pet cat called Geoffrey. We have got to know him quite well – his eating, relaxing, communication, play, and so on. Animals live on an entirely natural level and I realise it would be a mistake to attribute human emotions to them. But is there anything we can learn from our pets about the deeper side of life? Any thing about them that points us to an ideal way of human living?

Contentment in our pet

We often see Geoffrey lying on his side with his paws stretched out in front of him, with a sleepy look on his face and with half closed eyes. Very different from a cat who swishes its tail, has ruffled-up fur or is heard hissing. Sometimes he may roll over on to his side to show his tummy, communicating that he feels relaxed enough to expose such a vulnerable area.

Sometimes I wish I could be as relaxed as our pet and delight in simple pleasures. He doesn’t put himself under unnecessary stress. If a dog barked at him, which happens occasionally, he shows no after-effects. Unlike us e.g. who, when shouted at by an angry car driver, would likely be a bit tense for a while afterwards.

Anyone who has tried to meditate will realise that the mind is restless. Inwardly we jump from one worry to the next, one guilty secret to another. Inwardly chattering away, the mind has a mind of its own, creating unnecessary emotions like anxiety, anger or gloominess. Our cat is showing us the importance of stilling and calming the mind. You can learn to do this, if you don’t do so already, by creating space in your day for quiet reflection, meditation or prayer.

Awareness in our pet

If we change the furniture round in our home or introduce any sort of change outdoors, Geoffrey soon looks into every nook and cranny. Our neighbour once saw him exploring over 40 feet up the trunk of a high tree. They say ‘curiosity killed the cat’ but ours is still alive and well.

I wonder if we are sufficiently willing to explore what is really going on around us.  Are you awake to the ‘here and now’ rather than focusing on automatic habits of thought?

“The past is history,
The future is mystery,
This moment is a gift.
Which is why it is called ‘the present’. “
(By an unknown poet)

Are you sufficiently curious about what others think so as to become a better listener? People convey an enormous amount of information about themselves through subtle movements and tones of voice.

Do you notice things of beauty in what is going on around you? A child playing, moonlight shimmering on the water, a tree swaying in the wind. Are you fully aware of your physical and social surroundings and want to investigate them?

Independence in our pet

You can’t herd cats. Like all of them, Geoffrey shows independence. He is quite happy to spend time on his own each day. He responds to enticement rather than ordering around. A clicking of the fingers and verbal encouragement can get his attention and interest in coming over to me. But unlike a trained dog ordered to ‘heel’, he won’t do as he is told.

A quality of independence is something one needs in order to be a spiritual thinker in the face of materialistic society. Without individual reflection and perception, how can one rise above the social pressures of the crowd.

Non-aggression in our pet

Another quality in our pet cat is non-aggression. The public walk their dogs off the lead along the woodland public right of way that goes right through our garden. Geoffrey has learned to watch carefully. He is quick to avoid danger of being chased. He runs away or climbs a tree when he sees a threat. Only when cornered by a barking dog will he flatten his ears and hiss as a warning to stay back.  He could cause painful injury lashing out with his sharp claws but most cats only attack defensively as a last resort in such a situation.

Some of us have a tendency to show hostility to others after little provocation. It is as if we believe ‘attack is the best form of defense.’  Instead, shouldn’t we adopt a more socially acceptable form of non-aggressive behaviour to assert what we think is right and stick up for ourselves?

Friendliness in our pet

Geoffrey is our only pet and so we are the only social group he has. He likes to come to us for a fuss, perhaps a stroke or grooming or be allowed to lie on our laps. He purrs and sometimes tries to lick us at these times. So we get companionship and affection from him.  When we are in the garden we often find him near by. There is a quarter of a mile walk along a woodland path from our home to get to where our car is parked and he invariably walks with us and stays waiting until we return sometimes several hours later. Then he greets us with a meow with tail up, pleased to see us again, sometimes rubbing his head against our legs.

Some of us are naturally more friendly and agreeable. Others of us are distant and less communicative. But I believe what our pet’s expression of affection suggests is the possible ideal of loving kindness. This is the feeling praised by all the world’s main spiritual and religious traditions.

The lesson here is not just expressing feeling – although that is important – but us having a generosity of spirit, being agreeable, kind, patient, tolerant, considerate and forgiving and even compassionate.

 

“Earth’s living creatures correspond to affections, the mild and useful ones to good affections, the fierce and useless ones to evil affections” (Emanuel Swedenborg mystical philosopher)

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

Praying – Can it reduce anxiety?

Constant worry and anxiety, which occurs for no apparent reason, interferes with day-to-day life. Sufferers are desperate to experience peace of mind and free themselves from the power of their condition.

Meditation can greatly help. By concentrating on one thing and neglecting all the unruly thoughts that come into the mind, many have found that meditating gradually enables them to find freedom from the hold of negative feelings.

The trouble is that those with a high degree of anxiety are the ones who find the discipline of meditation the most difficult to master. The intrusive worries feel too strong to ignore.

“In meditation, the source of strength is one’s self. When one prays, he goes to a source of strength greater than his own.” (Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek)

Praying

Perhaps praying is a less difficult option than meditation even if you have no clear religious belief.  The spiritually orientated could focus the mind on a higher power beyond themselves which might be hoped to actually do something to make things better; such as the idea of Mother Nature, the prayingCreative Life Force, or the Universal Mind. Religious believers focus their thoughts on their image of God, which for many Christians is the human form of Christ.

“The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.” (psychologist, William James)

So what does praying involve? Isn’t it just another form of self-reflection, or meditation?

Self-reflection

Yes, in so far as praying in private includes sharing one’s concerns then it does involve an element of self-reflection. Some people allocate some spare time in the evening to write a private journal describing the difficulties and delights of their day. Others have the habit of going on an evening stroll mulling over events in a leisurely manner. Usually there is an inner concern, a question, or a problem one is pondering.

It is easier to reflect on what threatened your well-being when you are no longer face to face with the people and events which triggered your anxiety. In a reflective state of mind you can start to put into words what you are assuming rather than being carried around by one stray image or feeling after the other. In this way you gain some understanding. This is also part of talking therapy. The counsellor helps anxious people enter into a self-reflective state of mind so they can talk about their feelings and experiences and hear themselves talking about them thus starting to gain self-insight.

Praying to a Divine Counsellor

Praying can be thought of as connecting with and listening to a Divine Counsellor whilst sharing one’s personal concerns.

“Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.” (author & speaker, Joyce Meyer)

Praying can lead Christian believers to think about their lives in a different way by ‘putting on the mind of Christ’. In other words they feel that seeing their own fears and worries in the light of their image of what is truly wise and compassionate takes them out of themselves and raises their spirit to a higher level.

The way people in distress see their relationships with the human face of God can be a great source of comfort and strength to them. In their darkest hours many of them are sustained by their belief that they are loved by the source of all that is good and all will be well.

Isn’t praying simply a self-serving superstition?

“No god ever gave any man anything, nor ever answered any prayer at any time – nor ever will.” (atheist activist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair)

Yes, I believe praying can be self-serving in which case I do not think it is likely to be helpful. To give God a list of one’s requests sounds a bit like children making out a Christmas gift list for Father Christmas to bring down the chimney.

Roman prayers and sacrifices were often envisioned as legal bargains between deity and worshipper. A modern equivalent of this might be promising to donate money to charity only if God takes away one’s problems.

“The man who prays is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right.” (journalist, Christopher Hitchens)

It is tempting to use prayer as a complaints desk – to pray expressing dissatisfaction, finding fault with others or accusing God of ignoring one’s predicament.

Who hasn’t at one time or other not tried to use prayer as a way of justifying one’s actions or claims?

Can praying for release from anxiety actually work?

My first response to this question is to say that if you don’t ask then you don’t get: why wouldn’t you chance your arm for something you are desperate to attain. Yet, in the Lord’s Prayer we are asking to let God’s will be done. Praying for what I want can be seen as an exercise in the exploration of my desire in the presence of God.

Perhaps there is something more important in ourselves that needs to change before we can be allowed to find peace and calm.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” (philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard)

Praying provides us with an opportunity to explore our desires and to probe beneath the surface. Underneath most desire is the ‘little me’ wanting what I want – attention, security, appreciation, getting my own way, social status, money, and so on. Maybe anxiety is associated with a threat to these cravings. In other words the thought pops into my head as I’m praying that there might be some meaning to my suffering. It is not being permitted without good reason.

Consequently, I believe it is a mistake to see prayer as a quick fix for personal problems that avoids the slow, hard work involved in personal healing and growth.

Much better to be praying for guidance. You might find that if an answer comes, the time and place it comes is unexpected.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Heal distress — Can spiritual practices help?

 

healAccording to established research, one in four of us experience some form of mild mental health difficulty each year. Even if you do not suffer – what the medics call – identifiable psychiatric morbidity – nevertheless you still may feel bad; fed up, irritable, worried or distressed. In which case, if you are to be calm, contented and fulfilled, something needs to inwardly change. You may wonder if your spirit needs to heal, then can spiritual practices be of benefit?

Going on a retreat to heal distress

When life gets too stressful then you probably start looking at holiday brochures. If you can afford it getting away to some lovely place for couple of weeks, can be very attractive. A holiday allows us to escape from the responsibilities of home and work. Beautiful and inspiring settings may bring harmony into one’s life. When we get a rest from the ordinary strains of living, we may become emotionally refreshed.

A spiritual retreat may help one reconnect with one’s inner life, one’s hopes and aspirations, values and principles. The religious person may use some of the time to engage in self reflection and prayer with the aim of reconnecting with God.

Practising meditation to heal distress

Meditation is passively observing our experiences simply as mental events without personal attachment to them; trying to focus attention and suspend judgement whilst maintaining objectivity. A huge challenge I believe if you are suffering more than a mild degree of anxiety or depression.

However it is possible with repeated practice to learn to focus  the mind and emotionally distance oneself from random thoughts and feelings. It needs self-discipline to sit down quietly staying focused on one thing at a time: not easy with a mind that is easily distracted by fearful thoughts and is prone to wander off into fantasy.

I would suggest that from a religious perspective, meditation —  say on the words of sacred scripture — brings about calm because it involves transcending self-orientated concerns, opening up an inert life force, and gaining spiritual awareness of the Divine.

Adopting an attitude of mindfulness to heal distress

Those who advocate an attitude of mindfulness in the hum-drum of ordinary situations, claim it can bring about a greater attention to reality. This means being in the moment and getting absorbed in the here and now. For example being aware of one’s surroundings; listening more fully to what others are saying.

With this attitude of mind it is said we become less occupied by mistakes of the past and worries about the future for we see things as they are rather than in terms of our desires and fears.

Being mindful of habitual ways of thinking is central to a well researched form of therapy known as cognitive-behavioural therapy.  Individuals with self-defeating and irrational thoughts, are helped to create and focus instead on constructive realistic ways of thinking. Focusing on how things really are means facing reality instead of fighting the experience of trying to make it something else.

From a religious perspective, being in the moment brings about a consciousness of what is called the eternal now. This is an illuminating perception that transcends time-bound concerns. It flows from a Divine Mind which is both present within and also beyond time and place.

Christians believe in this Holy Spirit of God whose presence many say they feel when sitting in silence to create a space in the heart for Him to find a home in.

They say, when you turn to this source, the Divine can flow more consciously into your  experiences of life and you feel uplifted, creative, illuminated. When the love of self no longer rules your heart, then you  rise above your worries concerning the transient things of the world.

Confessing guilty feelings to heal distress

Many distressed people are able gain self-insights and begin to acknowledge their guilty feelings with a non-judgmental counsellor. This confession would be meaningless without a degree of self-examination. It is all about searching one’s heart to discover any repeated desires that infringe one’s own principles — one’s own conscience of what is right and wrong in human conduct.

Would it not be nice if we could just change our bad feelings simply by better understanding them? Just having clearest self insight? However, according to the spiritual philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg, to heal the understanding with its thoughts and insights, is to heal a person only outwardly. What needs also to change is the inward aspect of the individual — what is felt, wanted and chosen. Therapy for the understanding alone would be like palliative healing, failing to touch the inner malignity.

Psychotherapists talk about resistance by the patient to making personal change because of self-insights that remain only on an intellectual level. Emotional acceptance of what change is needed is more of a wrench than mere acknowledgment because it means real acceptance of the consequences of giving up old ways, old pleasures and old attitudes.

One religious view is that unless we have a change of heart, we can easily retract something that we had only acknowledged in the mind the previous day. We may have recognised where we are going wrong but what is crucially important is an emotional acceptance of a way forward. Religion and psychotherapy are about personal change if they are about anything. The challenge of both is accepting a need to change.

From a modern Christian perspective, repentance is to do with wanting to change from ways of living that are recognised as self-defeating and unworthy.

Just as many alcoholics attending Alcoholics Anonymous may believe that they cannot cure themselves without surrendering to a higher power to help them conquer the demon drink, so religious people believe that it is God who heals the spirit, and it is the gift of healing that can transform the persons life and character through a process known as salvation. For them healing of the spirit takes place through a humble turning to God in prayer.

“Pythagoras said that … if the healing art is most Divine, it must occupy itself with the soul as well as with the body; for no creature can be sound so long as the higher part of it is sickly.” (Apollonius of Tyrana – Greek philosopher)

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems