Being a mind reader

In his book A Lenten Hobo Honeymoon, Ed Hays tells a story about a traveler in the Missouri Ozarks who stopped at a general store, in front of which a hound dog sat howling its head off. The traveler asked a man standing outside the store, “Why’s that hound dog howling so much?” He replied, “Cause he’s a’ sitting on a thistle.” The traveler asked, “Well, why doesn’t he just sit somewhere else?” “Well, friend, “the man said, “its cause he’d rather howl.”

Sometimes I think I would rather howl then accept my life for what it is. I can’t seem to stop looking at other folks lives and wanting there’s instead of mine. I look at people younger than me and I think, “If only I had done that, I would be so much happier.” I tend to moan and groan instead of accepting and living with what I have. Hays refers to Lent as a soul garden. “In the garden of your soul, are the trees rich with fruit or are they barren?” Lent is a time to think about how my garden is growing.

utne articleIn the Jan-Feb. issue of Utne Reader there is an article by Robert Straus called “Mind over Misery.” In it, Strauss tells about Stanford psychiatrist David Burns and his book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. I haven’t read it but Straus calls it, “one of the most successful psychotherapy books ever written … and 50,000 therapists have attended his training programs over the past 35 years.

What interested me was his emphasis on thought patterns or what therapists call “cognitive distortions.” I use all three distortions listed so I’ve decided to change my hobo map (see 3/18/14 “A Lenten Goal”) to work on these distortions. They are: 1. catastrophizing – expecting only the worst to happen. 2) Emotional reasoning – believing, for example, that if we feel stupid, then we must be stupid. 3) Mind reading – assuming that what we imagine other people are thinking is what they actually think. It probably isn’t realistic for me to work on all three, but the third one in particular seems possible.

I already had a little bit of practice when I swam laps at the pool this afternoon. I cannot use my hand yet since it still hurts so all I can do us practice my kick. The man who gave me swim lessons back in July told me not to use the flippers when I kick since it is cheating. However, my kick is still pretty weak so I end up moving very slowly without using them. One of the life guards also told me the same thing but she understood why I get frustrated and use them anyway.

This afternoon my swim teacher kept walking through the pool area and saw me cheating. I kept thinking, “Oh, he thinks I’m a terrible person because I’m cheating!” I kept asking myself, “Why does it matter what he thinks? I’m using the flippers because it is easier to kick with them and I haven’t swum laps since December so I need to get myself back in shape.” I also realized that he has a whole lot of things to think about and he’s probably not even thinking about me at all.

So this Lent as I ask, “How is my garden growing?” I’m going to try and get rid of some weeds. The first week is “mind reading.” This will be a tough one for me but it is a good one.

Do you do any work in the garden called Lent? How do you celebrate the journey towards Easter? I would love to hear your ideas.

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