For most of my life, I have been an easy-going person; unflappable. I prefer my days to unfold and find schedules to be anxiety-producing. Some would break out in a cold sweat thinking about an unscheduled or unstructured day. Some find solace in routine. I find it in flexibility.
However, after my children were born, I found myself living in a structured, scheduled daily routine. Babies like to eat at regular intervals and prefer sleeping routines that follow suit. And my life changed.
I discovered my mind would race throughout the day overwhelmed by the things I was trying to remember. My to-do list was growing longer and the anxiety was building.
At night, when I lay my head on the pillow, all I wanted was for my mind to stop…thinking. It felt as if my mind would explode trying to remember it all.
I was already using a calendar and I had a couple of systems in place. But my mind didn’t want me to forget. So it kept reminding me.
It was around this time that a friend introduced me to the book, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Allen’s system is a great step to productivity. But the concept of “Mind Dump” is the biggest takeaway that most people neglect.
Allen contends that the reason most of us experience insomnia is the inability to turn off our brains. And our brains don’t want to shut down because there is nowhere to put the information it is trying to remember. If we give our brains a safe place to store the information, then it can trust itself to rest.
The first step in doing this is called a Mind Dump.
Step One: get yourself a blank notebook or journal
Step Two: write everything that comes to your mind
- ideas you want to explore
- projects that need to get done
- appointments you need to keep or schedule
- errands you need to run
- people you want to talk to about something specific
- places you want to go or visit
- things you want to accomplish
- stuff you hate about your job, family, life, house, etc.
- keep writing until you run out of stuff to write
- put the notebook somewhere you will see it in the morning
- schedule a time/date on your calendar/phone to review it
- go to sleep
Step Three: you will need to keep that appointment (of reviewing the list) or your mind will return to reminding you of all the stuff
Step Four: at the appointment, begin to categorize the items on the list.
Step Five: create a “next step” for each category. If your mind knows there is a list you will review and the next step to follow, then it will allow you to rest. Follow through is the key to getting your mind to stop and rest though.
Since I have implemented the mind dump, I rarely have trouble falling asleep (unless caffeine is involved). On those nights, or even during the day, when I’m feeling anxious, I use the mind dump to clear my anxious thoughts. It’s one of the greatest gifts I have been given! Give it a try and you just might get some rest.
Someone I know is going through a “season of silence”. God seems to have ceased all forms of communication. He is not there.
My spirit resonates with every description she gives of this season. I have been through seasons of silence as well. Those seasons made me wish I had never heard God speak in the first place.
Before I knew Christ, there was a sense of emptiness in my soul. But once I heard Him calling to me, I was filled with purpose, meaning, love, and peace. God filled me with His Spirit and He filled me with awe for the Divine. And then one day, it was gone.
I am not alone in my experience and neither is my friend. There are many reasons God seems to go radio silent on us. It could be that we have pulled away from Him. It could be we no longer place ourselves in grace’s way. It could be we have chosen sin over God’s presence.
But what if it is none of those…
St. John of the Cross, one of the great Catholic mystics, called it “The Dark Night of the Soul”. The dark night of the soul is a poem written by St. John to describe an intense season of spiritual dryness. And yet it is more than spiritual dryness. The dark night of the soul is more akin to a mid-life crisis except that it can happen at any age and more than once.
In Chuck DeGroat’s article, he highlights that the dark night of the soul prompts us to wade into the deep waters of life. We ask the deep questions; the ones with answers only God knows. It is a time when we are certain we are losing our minds, but in reality, we are finding our soul.
During my dark night(s) of the soul, there were a few things that helped me through the silent days and still more silent nights.
Listening – I stopped thinking of God as being silent and started thinking of Him as being a really good listener. There have been many times in my marriage when my husband and I are having an intense conversation. At some point, he will “accuse” me of not participating. And my rebuttal is usually, “I am participating. I’m listening”. So let God listen to you. And every once in awhile stop to listen to him.
Go Deeper – My dark nights of the soul were often precipitated by answers that no longer worked for me. I thought I had figured out life and God and people and myself. Then I realized I was wrong. It’s a time to take things apart, examine them, and put them back together. And God wants to help us do this.
Confess – During my dark nights, I confessed…everything. I confessed sin. I confessed doubt. I confessed to God. And I also found at least one person I could confess to my season of spiritual crisis. In confessing to that one person, I discovered that my problem had a name; the Dark Night of the Soul. And somehow I felt normal again in my abnormality.
Read – I read other people’s accounts of their Dark Nights. I read St. John of the Cross. I read the book of Ecclesiastes. I read Job. I read Spurgeon and Finney and Wesley. And I found comfort that God didn’t stay silent forever.
Hang in there! God appears to be asleep in a recliner. But He is preparing you for a spiritual awakening like no other.
Devon Aire Community Church of the Nazarene is taking their first mission trip outside of the continental U.S.!
We are flying to the Philippines for a week of manual labor and faith sharing. We will be tackling several small projects on the Bible college campus. We will also be sharing our faith with local Nazarene churches.
The cost of the projects along with travel expenses will cost our team about $15,000. We are a small church with a big heart for the Kingdom of God! Would you help us take the Good News around the world? We want to show others the goodness of God.
Would you mind helping us take the Good News around the world? We want to show others the goodness of God. You can invest your tax-deductible donation through our Crowdrise platform.
We depart in April 2018, but we need to secure airfare by the first of the year. Any amount is appreciated. We also accept prayer partners!
A sincere thank you from the team!
Rob & JoAnn Bastien, Rebecca Bastien, Rex & Pearl Dela Peret, Jade Cox, and two unconfirmed team members