Happy new year!
First, Updates: I've reported here several times of a crisis I had been going through for several years. In the past 2 years, I've moved to a European country without friends or family and lost my father. It is was bittersweet. I had reached a point where I had been praying to God and our lady not just for his soul but for him to "rest". It was too much to know he was suffering so much, daily. I cried for three days straight when he passed, all alone in this new country because the closest affordable flight I could get was days away. It was a blessing in disguise. I said my good byes alone. Then I went home and was with my family. But I was also very relieved by the thought that my dad's suffering was hopefully over.
Anyway, I have also gone through a lot of rejection, loneliness and failure (at work, and work that I don't enjoy at all, and where I struggle to make good friends) in these two years, destroying my confidence. At the same time, the church's crisis with the debates on marriage made me doubt the church which shook me even more. Being unable to find an English speaking church and no believing persons around, I grew lazy and stopped going to mass.
Now, this new year, I have an English speaking church that I have resolved to attend mass and confession. I am also slowly returning to my rosary and short meditations/conversations with God.
The real question: I was desperately looking for a way to stop my emotional problems. Every time someone says or does something rejecting at work, I feel so hurt it affects me almost physically. This Christmas holidays I started doing these exercise:
1) A visualization where I become aware of my emotional agitations in the form of storms. I find peace by saying, I accept the storms as they are while breathing in and I surrender my resistance to the storms as they are while breathing out.
This helped me calm down and begin to realize in direct experiential way that I am in very little control of much, not just in my inner world but in my outer world. Which brought me ease. I could "let go" of the desire to control in panic as I realized "I am not in charge, let the one in charge take care of it". Which led me to prayer and offering of myself to God and another time to Our Lady as I recalled a consecration I made to her long ago.
2) I also did a vipassana meditation on youtube where I would focuss on my breath and simply label thoughts and emotions once I was aware I had drifted from the breath. I understood it as a way to learn the habits of the mind and began to realize how much my mind can make me go crazy by spinning lots of stories that agitate me, work me up and get me to do things I regret or just be miserable alone for a very long time before I calmed down.
Once I realized all this, I was so happy, I sent the link to a family member who is not religious but gets so agitated so easily and gets into all sorts of fights with another family member of similar bent.
But later I began to wonder if that was OK to do, if I should tell him to not do it, if this Eastern thing would get him possessed? Now I hear the same type of thing by some Catholics about mindfulness and oppression/possession by demons and I'm terrified.
I'll be honest, this seems to be the easiest and most effective thing I have found to help me not to buy into the upsetting stories and imaginations of my mind about things that happen to me or jumping to conclusions about other people. I find that I am able not to be impulsive with my emotions, thinking and actions just because I am now aware that believing the stories in my head without question is unwise.
What do you guys think about these types of breathing exercises where you just sort of pay attention to what is going on inside you? Your sensations, emotions and thoughts?
Hi, St. Rubia,
It's great to hear from you, and thanks for checking in with us.
For your point (2), I went through a vipassana phase some years ago. My conclusion is that attending to sensations is not really necessary. The important thing is to know how your thought-patterns work, and to know what you feel.
Similarly for your point (1), I would say the visualization part is unnecessary. Just feel your feelings without resisting them. Let them flow. Even love each feeling, no matter how conventionally unwelcome that feeling might seem.
Good to hear from you again, St. Rubia. I've wondered how things were going with you and it sounds like you've been through a rough time of it.
Echoing Derek's point -- visualizations or words in sync with your breathing are not always necessary to calm the mind, but sometimes the mind is so noisy that it does help to have something to anchor the attention.
What is happening in vipassana and similar concentrative exercises is that attention is being moved from a reflective to a non-reflective state, which is naturally more calm and peaceful. That's a good thing, for sure, but it's good at some point to introduce a very gentle intentionality along the lines of centering prayer practice. If you're not familiar with that form of prayer, see the link below:
Wow. Thanks so much guys. I knew I'd find good advice here and not the scare mongering I've seen from good, well-meaning but uninformed Catholics (about this type of thing, at least). This non-reflective awareness does not seem to me to be emptyness as I am not "out of it" just a bit free from the instinct to follow thoughts and emotions wherever they may lead. So the idea this is a dangerous "altered state" that leaves you open to demonic activity really scared me but didnt feel true. Im glad this place is still open for questions.
Thanks Phil for the document. Yes, I was feeling an incompleteness I guess from the instinct to attend to God and I hope the centering prayer will help. Will keep you guys posted.
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