When I’m flat on my back at the physiotherapist’s is when I think of it.
She’s pressing her fingers slowly all down the ache of my taut shoulder blade: “The way you’re managing stress, the way you’re holding yourself through stress, your posture through the day — is causing your shoulder and arm to scream out its own kind of pain SOS.”
“Stress speaks through skin.”
The body talks. The body translates trauma so we can hear it clearer in a deafening world. Stress speaks through skin.
“The only way to work through pain like this, you know, this kinda paralyzing, debilitating kind, is just a steady rhythm of gentle, consistent exercises.”
And I want to nod, but my neck hurts, and I realize this too:
My physiotherapist hands me several sheets of exercises to work out the stress knots— much like my therapist has also given me mind and soul homework: Have a thought log.
The concept being: Every time your thoughts vortex around this toxic situation, jot it down.
Just tally how many times your mind is sucked back to ruminating about this mess, or this dysfunctional system, or that criticism, or this crisis, like an addict that keeps coming back to it.
“All the brooding in the world never hatches hope.”
Mentally circling something is the mind’s way of fooling itself that it’s controlling something, which it finds self-soothing. But: All the brooding in the world never hatches hope.
No soul is no hen or cow: no soul is meant to brood or ruminate.
You are not a ruminant, and you are never meant to ruminate. You are a celebrant, made to celebrate. Your soul doesn’t need cud to ruminate on; your soul needs God to celebrate in.
A soul is meant to sing love songs.
So while I tie this green band from the physiotherapist around a post on the porch by the flower garden and start to stretch it out right there on the porch, all my knotted muscles, all my knotted stress, in all these slow exercises — I too keep exercising my own soul:
All intrusive ruminations need a gratitude intervention.
Mind keeps circling that toxic situation? Immediately: Gratitude intervention.
Giving too much air time in your mind to a dark narrative? Immediately: Give thanks.
Instead of counting grievances, count gifts.
Counter that barrage of negative thoughts by counting gifts.
“Gratitude interventions cure thought ruminations.”
Gratitude interventions cure thought ruminations.
Being grateful isn’t being a naive pollyanna, it’s being neurally proactive. If you let your mind keep returning over and over to toxic, dark, knotting thoughts — you create a rut through your mind that keeps you going in pointless circles of pain.
Do the things you can do, deal with what you can, use your agency — and then refuse to make mental ruts by returning to the situation but instead choose daily gratitude interventions.
We definitely do not live in denial, and we definitely deal with situations, but we don’t fixate on situations, we fixate on grace — because we live in doxology.
Why be obsessed with certain thoughts — when you can be obsessed with the grace of God?
I keep exercising and pulling on the tension band to work out the painful knots in my shoulder — knowing that I have to also keep exercising the painful knots in my mind and heart, if I want to give my body any and every possible chance to heal. Maybe the best kind of stretches is to stretch my heart to find things to give thanks for, even in this.
My body is keeping score, just like van der Kolk wrote, and I’m keeping score of my thoughts, and I’m changing the score by counting gifts, interrupting all thought rumination with a thankfulness celebration.
“If you want to change how your body is keeping score, start counting your gifts. Gratitude Interventions change the score of everything.“
Because my knotted shoulder and my knotted soul know it: If you want to change how your body is keeping score, start counting your gifts.
All the best thinking is always thanksgiving.
And? Doxology is the best direction for our thinking, because we’ll be giving thanks to God for forever. Exercise now to shape eternity.
I exercise and stretch out a soul knot and jot it down in my Counting Gifts Gratitude Journal:
…breakfast dishes stacking satisfied in the sink,
…the laundry spinning its happy song in the mudroom,
…rose petals falling surrendered in the garden,
…September sun slanting across old scuffed floors,
…a brimming cup of coffee steaming with promise
…now, this moment, and being soul-safe always in Christ.
While in some churches, the celebrant is the one leads the thankful celebration of the sacrament of the Last Supper, this living doxology is what it means to be a thankful celebrant in the feast of sacred moments in your every day life.
And I can feel it right there in my back, my shoulder, my soul: Gratitude Interventions change the score of everything.
Another rose petal in the September garden loosens and gives way, and I notice and give thanks — and all these knots loosen into love.
When life hurts and you need a way through?
What you actually need is a way of life — a SACRED way of life — that gives you tools to live into gratitude interventions, doxology, doxology, doxology. Because so many toxic situations and toxic thoughts — need the detox of doxology.
For every person who is walking a hard way and looking for a way through, WayMaker is your sign, that there is hope, that there are miracles, and that everything you are trying to find a way to, is actually coming to meet you in ways far more fulfilling than you ever imagined.