I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Dianne Jones' wisdom on living as a monk in the world:
Stop Breathe Believe – A Beginning to a New Way of Being
Several years ago I began PrairieFire, a three-year program of spiritual formation, to learn to walk alongside others in the process of slowing down and discovering the heart of their spirituality. My classmates and I often called ourselves the Monkettes. We learned together, we cried together, we dared greatly together, we shared deeply with one another, we listened to one another and we listened to God.
In the final year of the program I was in the beginning processes of giving birth to a book based on a practice I used as an individual and couple’s therapist. I had developed the practice when I was struggling with my own thinking – struggling with my own path, struggling with some major decisions regarding my career. I often give credit to the Monkettes as being the midwives, along with many others, of the book.
The practice of Stop Breathe Believe® is a practice that will help you first become aware of your thoughts, and then harness the power to allow in only the thoughts that help you on the journey to wholehearted living, while gently, without judgment, turning away the thoughts that impede you.
Stop Breathe Believe, like any new skill, takes practice, but you will get better at it, and the more adept you are at implementing it as a practice in your daily life, the more effective it is. With healthy patterns of thinking, you get healthy patterns of being.
Stop: At a predetermined cue (like a stoplight) orat a moment you find yourself struggling, stopwhat you’re doing and become aware of what you’re thinking. You may even want to say the words aloud, using your name: “Stop, Brenda;” or “Stop, Stephen.” Speak to yourself with kindness but firmness. Now, notice what’s going on in your mind. Whatever thought you find—and believe me, it could be anything!—simply become aware of it. Just recognize it, and note it without judgment. In keeping with the stoplight metaphor, if your thought is a green, life-affirming thought, take a moment to be grateful! If it’s a “red” or life-draining thought, move on to Breathe.
Breathe: As you’re able, change your physical position. Sit up straight so as to be able to make use of your lungs’ maximum capacity. Now, breathe in slowly through the nose for a count of four, and then at the top of the breath, exhale through the mouth for a count of eight. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to relax the body—your heart rate slows, your respiratory rate slows, your muscles loosen. With each exhalation, you’ll feel your mind and your body begin to relax. Even if it’s for just a moment, you’re redirecting your attention away from the negative thought you noticed during Stop. You can rest and recharge in the Breathe portion of Stop Breathe Believe as long as you like.
Believe: When you feel ready, start to create a belief statement that truthfully addresses the thought you observed during Stop. Let’s say that the thought you became aware of was “I’m such an idiot for losing my temper.” An effective belief statement could be: “I’m so human.” Or: “I’m learning a new process that will help.” Or: “Anger does not define who I am.” Whatever your belief statement, it’s the stepping-stone to get you through the next obstacle. You can use your belief statement in the midst of a tense situation, or as an anchor throughout the day.
Through the process of Stop Breathe Believe you can stop the endless stream of thoughts and become awareof one thought that needs replacing, breathe your way to a state of calm openness, and then believe a unique truth statement of your own creation that brings release from the unhealthy thought that’s hindering you.
Stop Breathe Believe is a contemplative practice that can be essential during times of struggle and heartache. It can also help in the day to day events that cause us stress: an overburdened schedule, the difficult conversations we all face from time to time, the running late to an appointment, the miscalculation of the budget for the month. Each day offers an opportunity to practice beginning again – and reflecting in a calm way on how you want to relate to and respond to the world around you.
This blog post is adapted from STOP BREATHE BELIEVE: Mindful Living One Thought At A Time © Stop Breathe Believe, LLC.
Dianne Morris Jones is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator – Consultant (CDWF-C), a Laughter Yoga Instructor, has training in Spiritual Direction and the Enneagram, and author of STOP BREATHE BELIEVE: Mindful Living One Thought At A Time. She practices at Family Legacy Counseling in Des Moines, Iowa.