This week a dear friend called with some bad news. Like me, she's been dealing with many recent losses. Her lifelong career as a freelance writer was interrupted by serious illness, including breast cancer and depression. Last week her husband lost his job.
The desperation in her voice was palpable. She lives two states away so I couldn’t just jump in my car to be with her. I spent 90 minutes on the phone with her, listening to the twists and turns of recent events. A new concern was revealed — she's been sick for a few weeks with acute shortness of breath. With her cancer history, she was reluctant to look into this; she just didn’t want any more bad news.
As the conversation continued, I felt a growing sense of inadequacy. What could I do? I've got my own burdens, yes, but turning my back on suffering is not in my nature. What could I offer? At the end of our talk I told her I’d concoct a “spiritual prescription.” It was the best I could do.
She is not really religious, but embraced Buddhist principles and meditation a long time ago; she was so helpful and encouraging to me when I started meditating last year. I was surprised to learn she'd fallen off the routine herself around the Christmas holidays. The first component of the prescription was a no-brainer — resume the meditation!
The second element I suggested was recommended to me a few months ago by a friend — keep a blessings list. I told her to write her blessings down every day or two, even if she could only think of one! When I started my list in February, I included things like ‘warm apartment,’ ‘junco at birdfeeder,’ ‘YMCA pool and lifeguards.’ No matter how her world was crashing, I knew she would find something.
There are blessings to be found every day in our lives, we just have to look for them. I suggested she review the list every few days, especially when she was feeling overwhelmed. By reorienting her mind to the good, she would feel some relief, however brief. I knew how helpful this could be.
Next — affirmations. “I affirm, therefore I get” is a frequent misconception. We all know it doesn’t work that way. I reminded her that the unconscious mind pays attention to our conscious input, to what we see, hear, speak and think, to the components we feed it. The unconscious will follow the path we create for it. If we pave a negative road, that's where it goes.
Even a few affirming thoughts can start to turn this around. I asked her to commit to it, and to be consistent and honest to the best of her capacity. Affirming that “I am the most wonderful person on the planet” is a bit much, but there's nothing wrong with telling our unconscious that “I am capable of change” or “I am good.” At one point I had written, "I am intelligent, capable of change, hard-working, aware." I wrote this many times, and eventually began to believe it!
The depressed mind is starving for this information, as it has been struggling to get by on scraps and crumbs of negatives.
Next — enlist the help of Mother Nature, a personal favorite of mine. If your physical situation makes it difficult to get outdoors, you can use your imagination to reflect, meditate or visualize. Of course, direct contact is best. Either way, I like to keep it simple by interacting through the basic elements — earth, fire, wind and water.
I've developed my own approach. First, I thank Mother Earth for what she provides me — my apartment, clothes, food, “stuff,” etc. Everything that fills my basic needs is earth-derived. She is generous in her outpouring, and has a tremendous power to transmute. With feet on the ground, I ask her to take the negative energy in my body and change it into something to nurture other creatures. She will do this for us time and again, we only have to ask.
I turn next to the sun, so indispensable for the energy, heat and light that we receive — 24/7, 365 — all free of charge, no need to ask. If it's nice outside, I spend a few minutes allowing the sun to warm my skin. In my own case, it helps to correct my vitamin D deficiency! And of course we would all be dead without air. When I thank air, I remember it as the first gift a newborn baby receives, even before the comforting touch of a mother’s hand or breast.
It is the last gift we are given as we leave this earthly plane. I ask the wind to waft away my troubles — sometimes I blow kiddie bubbles, asking air to take away my troubles as I think or speak them into the wand. I found a pocket-size three-pack of bubbles at Walmart for 99 cents, and carry one in my purse at all times. It's amazing how therapeutic this can be!
And last but not least, I thank water, for sustaining us, for making us who we are, for providing the rain and moisture we need for nourishment and growth. Water is cleansing and can wash our worries away. It's amazing how calming a nice bubble bath or long, hot shower can be.
I put this prescription in an e-mail to her, and hit "send" while invoking the help of Spirit and angels. I know she'll take it seriously, and use it as best she can. I knew that she'll try, that she's only human, she's just like me.
She'll take all the help she can get.