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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Problems with My Mind… Any Ideas?

November 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Anonymous, Practicing Presence, Prayer

courbet_01To love God is everything to me – to serve him – more than everything. He is worthy of all that I have, all that I am. However, I have a problem. I have a very active mind. From the moment I rise to the moment I sleep my mind is racing. When I sleep, or I should say on the rare occasion that I do sleep, my mind is still racing.

So, who cares? Well, I thought it may be of interest to those who, like me, have a similar struggle and are looking for answers. We desire to reserve some capacity every moment of every waking hour for Christ. We want him present with us. We want to be present with him. We rise with that desire, we pray, we meditate, we discipline ourselves to hours of prayer. However, in the mean times – when we are not on our knees dedicated to the specific task of prayer (and unfortunately sometimes when we are), our minds are racing.

Then, the day suddenly comes to a close. Yes, we have given a good deal of time to prayer. However, as we close the day we realize that the majority of the time passed without even a hint of prayer. We created our tasks lists, even with our sacred callings in mind. However, once off of our knees, he really was nowhere to be found (in our hearts and minds). Not that he was not with us, but we were not with him. We are constantly in a flurry of self-sufficiency. Such that it even threatens and encroaches on our other spiritual commitments. Tasks and thoughts about tasks constantly push in to crowd him out as if they desire that he not be present – as if they, though good tasks, were presented by the devil himself – anything to keep us from him – even that which is “good.”

So, what is the answer? Really, I don't know for sure. Thus far my attempts have been focused on nurturing my prayer life (morning and evening prayer etc.). By God's mercy this effort has yielded great fruit. However, I don't seem to be making much progress with the idea of staying present with Christ in between specific times of prayer.

This morning I read something helpful by Brother Lawrence. He said that evil begins in our thoughts. That we must be careful to reject each of these thoughts “as soon as we become aware that they are not essential to our present duties, or our salvation.” This idea struck me as very wise. I realized that I constantly entertain thoughts that though not evil or sinful in and of themselves, they fail to rise to the standard of helping with present duties and my salvation.

Is this the next great battle ground of my growth in faith? I think so. So why bring this to your attention? My hope is that if there is anyone out there that has overcome this challenge, that you might offer up suggestions to aid me and others in the fight.

With such an active mind and naturally aggressive work ethic, how can I reserve a portion of myself as always attentive to Christ – every waking moment of my life?

Anonymous

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  • I have by no means arrived in this area!
    Some ideas: tie regular practices in your day to prayer moments. Pray when you eat, pray when you get a cup of coffee, pray before you make a phone call-little quick prayers with an association to what you are working on in your heart–“Jesus, give me wisdom!”; ” Oh Lord teach me contentment!”, etc. If you listen to music when you work, cycle Christ-centered music into the Pandora loop, or load it onto your ipod. If you can embellish your workspace, put up images of Christ or Mary that you like that inspire you near where your attention wanders when you are working- write prayers memory verse or prayer request lists on cards and put them near your computer screen or behind the kitchen sink or on the bathroom mirror. Set your watch or computer schedule reminder with prayer reminders- Angelus at noon, Divine Mercy at 3 pm etc. Spend two to five more minutes training yourself to focus mentally on loving Christ or hearing Him speaking to your heart after each set time of prayer until you build up to a set goal of focused time.
    I think it can be like working out, build up slowly by disciplined effort, a little at a time. I think each personality type also has to find a motivating path. For some,the goal of sharing what they have experienced by preparing to teach faith formation might help them become more attentive because it’s on their minds as part of their task list. These things are helpful to me!

  • Dorothy Miller

    Hello and Good Morning, Anonymous!
    YES, I do know you!(you need not a name.) I do know your pain & suffering. I went on a retreat about 2 years ago, and can honestly say I will never be the same!
    Something beautiful happens when you have eyes of faith. When Jesus cures your blindness. When the Zeal of the Lord possesses you. But know that this Zeal is rejected in this culture of Death. Know that you will now live a life of pain & suffering. This is your gift, your cross. I so wish you to kiss it & accept it & love it! I will pray for you. 🙂
    My advice…Surrender. Surrender everything back to Our Father! Tell Him,”I have this & this on my mind. If You need my help lead me, for I’m placing it ALL back in YOUR HANDS now Father.”
    (YOU WILL SLEEP BETTER!)
    I just read THE BEST BOOK! Transformed by Grace Scripture, Sacraments & the Sonship of Christ by Dom Walstan Mork, O.S.B. The first chapter is how you CAN NOT live on two levels, “split-level living.” “They give time and effort to religious duties, but when these have been taken care of, they descend, as it were, to daily life as to a lower plane. They fail to relate religion to living.”(page 5)
    “There cannot be two levels in our life because for us Catholics there is only one that we can possibly live on, and this is the supernatural.”(page 6)
    “Come, you say, what about eating, and working, and playing golf, all perfectly good acts, willed by God. These are natural, arising from the needs of the natural man. We can’t give up the necessities of life. Why, even the Trappists eat, sleep, and work.” (page 6)
    I sure hope this helps.

    Your Sister in Christ,
    Dorothy

  • Well I can relate to everything you say! In my case I have late onset bi-polar affective disorder, treated by medication. I still have racing thoughts continuously. I find it easier to pray & read at the Birmingham Oratory. Very calming & also during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Provost found me to receive a special blessing yesterday! Check my blog!

  • Gina

    Try journaling each day writing down all the thoughts, worries, failures and give them all to God. Offer your day and all the times you may have forgotten God was present to Him. Ask Our sweet Mother Mary to take the thoughts and racing and make them into a beautiful gift to God. God has given you this incredible intellect and only He will tell you how to keep it in balance. It is a daily prayer to ask God and your guardian angel to keep you focused on Him alone. Giving praise and Thanksgiving for the moments, living each task in the moment, loving God in each moment. The Sleepless hours are our Lord calling you for quiet time with Him.
    I can offer this advice because I too have to practice daily these habits of paying attention. Don’t be so hard on yourself, God knows your heart and loves you no matter what.

    • judeen

      sleepless nights , start a chaplet of mercy.. for others. all you can think of… pray… . or read a spiritual book… sleep will come fast..

  • Mary

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I too struggle with this, and it helps so to know I am not alone. The only thing I think I can add to what has already been suggested, is to seek silence. Over the past years, I now drive in a silent car (when alone) and rarely have the tv on. I listen to radio–but rarely, and then, usually Catholic talk radio. Still, that often puts too many ideas into my head to add to the frenzy already there. This time of year is particularly painful to me as grocery and all manner of stores are filled with “noise”. I avoid as much as possible, though as a busy mom, I cannot avoid them altogether. I think the next step I am being called to is to limit the input into my brain. I am a voracious reader, but really, it just adds more and more thoughts into my already active brain. In the short time I have been working on this (reducing my reading), I do notice a difference. Again, thank you for sharing. I hope you find some help in all the thoughts offered here–by everyone.

    • judeen

      praise to God.. music will calm 1 .. Klove on the radio.. all over the us.. and satilite – messanger… christian music of love of God .. music for the soul and good listening… it quiets the souls and renews the spirit…

  • Monica

    Dear Anonymous,

    The purpose of prayer is to grow in union with Our Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer should help you to form an interior attitude that desires that “Thy will be done” (not my will be done).

    This conversion to Christ is lived out in daily life with all of its struggle, hardships, beauty and joys. The words and beliefs you hold in your mind and heart cannot be compartmentalized and separated from your actions. We are called to be saints or “spiritual pros”.

    It is similar to achieving athletic excellence. A professional baseball player may read many books about how to be a great pitcher ~ almost anyone can think about and understand it ~ but it is quite different to achieve it. It takes a LOT of practice.

    Similarly, in your life, if you see everything (good and bad) as coming from Christ then you will view all situations as opportunities to exercise your faith and charity. You will have peace and give witness to others. Your life will be a prayer. It is my opinion that actions speak louder than words. A life well lived is better than a thousand insincere prayers checked off of a “To Do” list.

  • I have the same problem like you, Jackie Parker, which keeps my mind racing in all directions always. At times, I lose track of what I was thinking of just a few minutes earlier. Even when I am having a coversation with someone, I lose track of what I was just saying and it is very frustrating. Even though I have a lot of free time the same distrations hamper whatever I am doing. I lose things, forget what I was doing and I have a hard time remembering names of people I have known all my life.

    The agony is when I begin to pray – at times, I feel like all the devils are competing to see which group will keep me off balance better than the other. But I keep on struggling. At times, I have to repeat the prayer I am saying several times. By the grace of God, one day during Confession Jesus (through the Priest) told me not to worry too much about these distractions and wandering throughts. He knows my condition and He is pleased with my gallant efforts and He assists me in the struggle and that is why I continue praying without giving up. Before that loving encouragement, I always felt I was wasting time and God could not accept my confused prayers. I ended by being so depressed at the end of my prayers convinced I will never please God no matter how hard I tried to pray. In turn, the depression aggravated my condition

    To all my fellow suffers, God knows our shortcomings – in fact,He know us better than we know ourselves. Therefore,our resolution to perserve and offer the frustrations to Him will help us grow, abeit painfully, in our faith. God bless you, Brother Lawrence for your wonderful Spiritual Direction

    • judeen

      there are times my freinds and I coud not even remember the our Father…. it is an attack.. dont worry . God knows what is in your heart… He Knew you wanted to say it before you did… ask someone to pray with you over the phone it will get better immediately…. God knows everything.. so why do we worry.. we do the best we can…. and in honesty and goodness it becomes a prayer… for your living a prayer …

  • fran

    Some thoughts on praying throughout the day:
    REMEMBER- be present to the Sacrament of the moment. Look for God in all you do – ensure you keep visible reminders(rosary,crucifix)of HIS love in your car, office.
    As you become more present in the Sacrament of the Moment – you will feel His presence and thank HIM for the good you do –as HE is the one who gives you those gifts to accomplish your tasks at hand. Thanking God -knowing HIS presence -is a form of prayer.
    Recommend you buy “THE BETTER PART” -Christ the Lord, Teacher, Friend, Christ in MY LIFE. Also for iphone download Pray as you GO.

  • judeen

     bind up busyness, control,anxiousness, worry… make them weak oH LORD , give me virtues of pacients, trust In You OH LORD. give me the grace of peace.  
            my husband lays His hand on me and prays for Peace… quietness…     offering up anxiousness or frustrated feelings up to God for souls.. if not from God it will quit. for it will not want to save souls…

  • Shandra Emrich

    I use some habits to remind me frequently throughout the day of the Trinity in my soul. I wear something a little irritating, maybe slightly uncomfortable shoes, or something with a tag that bugs my neck. When I notice it, I say “hi” to God and give it to Him and tell Him I love Him, etc. I sometimes light a candle, and every time I walk past it I remember that he is in me. I put a picture of the Face on the Shroud on my kitchen counter and every time I walk by it, it reminds me. The next day I put a different picture in a different place. I move a statue into a slightly different place so I notice it and use that to remind me. I put on a medal that swings around and constantly reminds me. I have lots of these kinds of reminders and I change them up regularly so that I don’t get used to them. Then every time I notice I make an “Act of the Presence of the Blessed Trinity in my soul.” I am sure every one has some great concrete things that will help them in their own space!

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