Monday, February 29, 2016

70 x 7

It is said that we don't really know what we're missing until we've gotten a glimpse of it.

For me, it's been peace.  I had no idea how "on edge" I've been for most of my life.

Worry has been a constant since childhood and I didn't even know it.

Now that mindfulness, the practice of being more aware of one's thoughts and feelings moment by moment, has become a more conscious experience for me, I am noticing when the peace has landed, like a lovely guest, on my doorstep.  It's been coming around more and more these days.

A little over a month ago I was in a frantic and emotional phone conversation with one of my favorite spiritual leaders.  He interrupted my flow of complaint with a prayer suggestion.  My feelings felt hurt as I didn't feel my angst and terror was being acknowledged satisfactorily, but I became quiet and asked him to repeat himself so I could write it down.

I am familiar with the "Fear to Faith" prayer work that is promoted quite often in the classes I've taken through my local Center for Spiritual Living.  The idea is that when there is something heavy on our hearts or minds, we can follow the pathway of our beliefs until we find something incongruent with our vision of God.  We then release the belief, through repetitive chanting/prayer, along with whichever action we may have been exhibiting in support of that negative belief.  The work/prayer/chang is three-part, ending with  gratitude for a trait that better represents a supportive one.

Here is an example from my own life:

"I release the belief that I am powerless.  I release the need to be rescued.  I am grateful that God is the strength that I am."

(This is essentially the prayer that was suggested to me back when I was miserable and shaking and didn't really want to do my own work.  I eventually substituted the word "strength" instead of repeating the word "power" as was the original suggestion.

So, the 70 x 7 part comes in when one repeats the prayer 70 times for 7 days.  The idea is that with focus and repetition we are able to dislodge old thinking patterns and open up to new and more supportive thoughts and behaviors.

I gotta admit, when this concept was first "assigned" to me during a class quite a few years ago, I had a lot of resistance.  I tried using prayer beads to keep track of how many times I'd said the prayer and sometimes did it walking just to make it more interesting and get rid of some excess nervous energy. Other times I'd sit in my old blue chair in the dining room and say it silently or quietly to myself.

So backtrack to that day when I just wanted someone to fix my life for me and make the yucky go away and instead I was alone in my room, feeling terribly sorry for myself, and now I had committed to seven days of repetitive prayer.

To help keep track of the amount of times I said the prayer, I gathered 70 items and put them in a large storage lid.  Most of them were rocks and stones, with a few other natural items (a small twig, an acorn), plus a few man-made items such as some small, red plastic hearts and a cool wooden boar statue on a short string with a bell, a long-ago gift from my father who lives in Japan.

I wrote the prayer on a 3x5 card and put it in the middle of the lid, picked up the first rock, and got started.  I was very distracted and distressed.  It took me over 30 minutes to get through the prayer.  I did feel a little calmer at the end of it, though, although my feelings were still hurt for a variety of reasons, and I had some resentment and anger towards various people (and yeah, towards myself as well).

Adding body movement is a good way to incorporate change into our consciousness, so moving the left hand out and open while saying the first part, moving the right hand out and open when saying the second part, and bringing one's hands up and to oneself during the third part is suggested.  I did this with the rocks and stuff, one at a time.  Sometimes I had my eyes closed, other times I had them open.  Over time I became more aware of the texture of each item.  I found I really enjoyed the feel of some over others.

I kept on with it for almost two weeks.  Over time I swapped out some of the rocks for other beautiful stones that I have, of various sizes, colors, textures and shapes.

I also symbolically released a few stones that were representing a relationship from my past that still had some unresolved issues between me and an old friend.  (She had given me, a few years ago, a metal candle holder upon which she had glue-gunned various black stones.  She had made quite a few of these as teacher gifts for her children and I was very pleased when she gave me one.  Over the years, the stones had come off the metal plate but I had kept them.  Since they often had glue on one side, it was easy to keep track.)  (She and I had a falling out almost two years ago and now, although we never formally resolved anything, I have a  peace that comes from time and space from the situation.)  I took most of these glue-marked stones and threw them, with awareness, over the side of various parts of the property where I live.  No need to be constantly reminded of unhappiness.  (I still have a couple of those rocks left.  Healing is still being done between us.)

At the end of two weeks of the prayer, I was feeling a little more "in control" of my own destiny and the drama of my personal life had calmed a little.  I decided to keep up the 70 x 7 prayer but change it up a little.  (By this time, the prayer was taking me only about 12 minutes a day and I felt GOOD after doing the work.)

Next prayer:  "I release the belief that I am flawed. I release the need to be punished.  I am grateful that God is the Healing that I am."  This prayer felt powerful to me and cut right to the chase of some of my old issues.  I had been holding on to a deep-seated belief that I deserved punishment and should expect it. It was and has been interesting to look into this on a more regular basis.

One of the cool things about repetition is that the message or action starts coming "unbidden" to one's consciousness throughout the day, seeping into the edges and gracefully taking the place of old messages. Associating one of these prayers when my mind fills with worry or anxiety is a way to derail the panic and nervousness that life can sometimes bring, substituting it instead with a sense of "alrightness".

I haven't used the prayer rocks in over a week but they are still in the lid, on the floor of my beautiful and peaceful room, reminding me that at any time, I can do some more work on myself.

Acknowledge, release, acknowledge, release, acknowledge, keep.

Thanks for listening.