There are certain go-to questions that are really helpful for me when I start to get mired, to get stuck in negativity and unhealthy behaviors, and while those go-to questions, or sometimes statements, and occasionally entire books may change depending on what phase of my life I’m in, I have thus far found it really, wonderfully helpful to have my lifeline when I feel stuck. And that is what a life of faith really is – it’s not an illusion that you never get stuck, but that when you inevitably are, you know what to do to get unstuck. And the things that help you get unstuck? Those are spiritual practices, and that’s one of the three functions of spiritual practices. (What are all three? To build you up, to shake you down and to pry you loose.)
And organizing your mind, your habitual patterns that way is a little like organizing your desk or your closet or your kitchen – not that it must meet someone else’s standards for tidiness, but that everything has a place and everything is in that place and you know blindfolded exactly where to reach for it when you need it. It’s the blindfolded part that is the most important, because when we’re stuck, be it stuck in a negative thought pattern (that however negative is really familiar and comfortable), or a powerful swirl of negative emotion, or even an unhealthy habit that we only recognize we’re doing when we’re halfway through it, when we are stuck we’re already not operating at our best. When we’re stuck we need to be able to know exactly where to reach blindly so that our hand falls on the helpful object. And the helpful object, in this particular case, is that thing. That spiritual practice, the saying, the mantra, the question, the book that will cut through the negativity and the smokescreen and cut straight to the heart of what is really going on, because our negative behaviors are always a mask. Our unhealthy behaviors are trying (and trying badly) to fix something they can’t hope to fix.
So what does it look like?
In my own life just yesterday a friend gave me a great series of questions to ask myself in that first moment when I catch myself procrastinating (and yes, procrastination is one of my unhealthy behaviors that just feels so good, so natural). Here is the short series of questions that help to break me out of the unhelpful pattern of behavior: Am I avoiding anything? If I suspect I am avoiding something, why? What am I afraid of? What small step can I take toward my goal?
That’s just one example for one behavior. What is going on in your life? What is your go-to spiritual practice for healing? (And healing is just one more way of saying ‘getting unstuck’, or ‘prying yourself loose’.) Don’t have one and need one? Describe your situation!