There is a lazy Susan in my head. It spins around and around, presenting me with infinite ideas, concerns, and undone projects.
- The teachings for the weekend conference.
- The adult son wrestling with his faith.
- The maple tree that leans ever closer to the house but also has the most beautiful foliage on our property. Do we cut it down or risk a winter storm knocking it down?
- The dog with the systemic skin infection.
- The friend who has been devastated by her spouse’s infidelity.
- National politics.
Those were the thoughts that roused me from sleep long before the sun swallowed the darkness.
The capacity to truly clear my mind evades me. Perhaps that’s why yoga, centering prayer, and silent retreats don’t work. Regarding the latter, it’s easy for me to not talk for forty-eight hours but seemingly impossible to silence the babble of my brain.
Given the many Scriptures that admonish us to be still, my overactive thought-life can feel like a flaw or a deficit. As if there’s something irrevocably wrong with me because I can’t stop thinking. There’s an assumption that a busy mind is an anxious mind and an anxious mind is somehow antithetical for anyone who claims to be spiritual.
People like me who are sensitive, creative, and introspective struggle to conform to rigid templates. If we are forced to think—and stay—inside the box, we become smaller, frustrated versions of ourselves.
When I was in grammar school, we would take turns cleaning the blackboard at the end of the day. It felt incredibly satisfying to wipe the wet cloth across the slate, eradicating all evidence of our geography, math, and grammar lessons. I imagine it might feel equally wonderful if I could clear my mind so easily.
But despite my efforts to be utterly Zen-like as I go about my life, I cannot stop thinking. I can slow the pace. I can appreciate the moment. I can choose not to stress or worry, but I cannot become a blank slate.
After almost sixty years on the planet, maybe it’s time to stop trying.