The words in Mark 4:38 could have been spoken by my own lips—“Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Much like the ancient apostles, facing what they thought was certain death by drowning, I too was looking down at a murky abyss, seemingly adrift in a raging sea of anxiety and depression. It had seemed like months had gone by with little or no relief to the storms that were raging in my mind and thoughts. Prayers were offered and yet I languished still. In my despair I too spoke the words, “Master, carest thou not that I perish?
As I look back during the worst of the storm and remember the almost desperate pleas for relief, I noticed that more or less, the content was simply, “Please remove this burden.” That was it. No offered stones to be touched for light, no asking for insight into where I might obtain good hunting. No, unlike my Book of Mormon counterparts who sought to be empowered to change or bear their circumstances, I wanted the light and food for the taking so to speak—forget the tools.
Yet, in the Lord’s infinite wisdom and love, I was taught how to change the way I looked for and requested deliverance. A starting point, for me, was to look seriously at meditation and mindfulness as a way to steady my mind. A book by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others had sat mindlessly on the shelf, but finding that my old habits of distraction and sleep were not even providing temporary relief I decided to try something new. Line upon line, I began to learn how to deal with the feelings I had been feeling. Instead of just ‘wanting them to go away’ into oblivion, I became intimately acquainted with them and not just that, I gradually learned what to do with them.
It was no coincidence that my study of mindfulness coincided with an equally serious study of the Atonement–specifically how one can be healed through this power. As I both studied and practiced, several themes seemed to emerge. First and foremost the grace by which we can be healed happens, as Nephi states, “after all we can do.” Engaging myself in the struggle, reading, meditating and striving to be mindful on a daily basis was my part. The Lord then, I believe, consecrated my efforts and magnified my understanding of how I could first handle my burden and then ultimately overcome.
Second, becoming mindful allowed me to “wake up” to what was really going on in my head. I could let go of my judgmental and critical thoughts about myself and situation and allow things, as Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks, “to be exactly as you find them.” That didn’t mean I was submissive to the waves and storms, the ups and downs, but rather an invitation to stop fighting and start ‘attending’ to my racing and depressive thoughts. As my ‘nonreactive’ self began to develop, I could better listen to the comfort and guidance from the Holy Spirit and allow patience and experience turn into hope.
Finally, as mindfulness steadied my mind, I was able to become aware of potential storms in the distance. When I became lost in unhelpful thought I could redirect my thinking through mindful attending and then involve myself in some sort of ‘action’ that set my day, my hour, even my minutes on a new path. Of course, this did not always bring immediate relief nor was it an easy task but the very action of my doing it provided a way for the Lord to empower me to change my circumstance.
My initial wondering of ‘…carest thou not that I perish?’ has changed considerably as I marvel how the Lord never let me perish, but allowed me to learn to use tools as He calmed the storm.