Thoughts can come and go, like a pendulum they reach a point and then swing to another point. We can slow the pendulum down and bring it to a place of stillness.
The pendulum on the old clock swung back and forth, left to right and then right to left.
Tick tock, and the sound of seconds passed out.
That pendulum helped to keep the clock on time.
Smooth and rhythmical. Things were functioning as they should, and as I watched the old clock, I realized that my thoughts also had a similar pattern.
Extremes of arc began to fill my awareness.
The Pendulum of Thoughts
My thoughts seem to swing to places of depression and then to places of anxiety.
Sometimes the arc is wide, and they travel to extremes of despair and then to fear.
Sometimes the pendulum seems to stick at one point for more than a brief moment. It feels like it wants to live there, that a magnet has my thoughts in a grip, but then off to the other extreme.
Then other times, the arc is small, even tiny, and imperceptible. It’s like the pendulum is hardly moving at all, but it is. In the background, an energy still wants to keep the pendulum clock ticking.
It takes attention to notice the pole that my thoughts are swinging into.
- Are they in the depression zone or the anxiety zone?
- How long have I been sitting in that place?
- What keeps me in that zone?
It begins with noticing and a kind of self-acceptance that this is happening.
I’m not talking about mood swings. No, this is more about your thoughts and discerning whether these are scripts of despair or fear.
Return to your rest
I love to listen to the Psalms. These are the songs of people like ourselves who also had a pendulum of life.
Hope, joy, anger, despair, and every other mood and thought explosion are contained within the pendulum poems.
This morning I was listening to Psalm 116:1-9 being read in the Daily Lectio Divina.
There was a verse that grabbed my attention.
Return, O my soul, to your rest Psalm 116:7
That’s what I want my pendulum to do. To come to rest.
I know for this brief moment of my existence, it won’t stay still for very long and will continue to swing, but it doesn’t have to go to such extremes and seemingly take up residence in places it was never meant to live in.
I want to find for my soul places of rest and stillness.
I think of Jesus and his followers in those days after he was crucified.
Imagine the pendulum of their thoughts.
Despair, loss, grief, puzzlement, fear, anxiety, worry, mystery unsolved and unresolved.
He steps into the pendulum swing and speaks words.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. John 20:19,20
The pendulum comes to rest. The attention of the soul rests itself on the awareness of the Christ.
Jesus speaks the word ‘eirḗnē’ (Phonetic Spelling: (i-ray’-nay) to his children.
eirḗnē – (from eirō, “to join, tie together into a whole“) – properly, wholeness, i.e., when all essential parts are joined together; peace (God’s gift of wholeness). Strongs
Bringing the thoughts to peace
I long for my thoughts to come to a place of wholeness – peace. No more pendulum swings into depression – a focus on the past or worry – a focus on the future.
It takes practice and discipline. It trains your brain to know that this is the new way we do things.
Here is what has helped me.
- Regular daily quiet times
For me, it is the first thing I do every morning. The day begins with my going to sleep, and now I wake fresh to spend those first few moments with God. First, I listen to a Bible reading via Daily Lectio Divina.
My brain knows this is my daily pattern. So I am training it to pay attention to the little words there for me today. Today it was ‘Return, O my soul, to your rest.’ I will ruminate and chew on this morsel of goodness throughout the day.
- Noticing where the mind is drifting to.
During the day, I quietly notice where my thoughts are drifting to. Are they floating away to the pendulum swing of despair and sadness or to a place of fear and anxiety? The invite is to stand back from them and notice them. Where are they going?
- Speaking truth and love
Please don’t be hard on your self but quietly speak love and compassion to the ruts in your thinking. For me, my favorite little reminders are these.I am loved
I am held
I am known
As I speak these, the pendulum slows and comes to a sense of stillness.
You could also add journalling, centering prayer, and mindfulness.
Paying attention to the pendulum can help you slow down and bring a new sense of quiet to the busy places of your life. Remember that where you focus is where you will go.
Quotes to consider
- Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. We have to try to cure our faults by attention and not by will. Simone Weil
- We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Richard Rohr
- What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positive/ good things will always give me hope.
- What’s the most important minute in life? I think it’s the next one. There is nothing we can do about the past, and we have limited influence over the hours and days to come. But the next minute—minute after minute after minute—is always full of possibility. Rick Hanson
- Without the inner discipline of faith, most lives end in negativity, blaming, or deep cynicism—without even knowing it. Richard Rohr
- Metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr Patience
- Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability
— and that it may take a very long time. Teilhard de Chardin
Questions to consider
- What swings of the pendulum have you noticed?
- Where does your pendulum seemingly want to take up residence?
- What helps you to bring your ‘soul to rest’?