I Once Knew a Girl who Gave Up Thinking…

metamorphosis

The mind is a complete idiot. – Dr. David R. Hawkins M.D., PhD.

I have a young friend who never ceases to amaze me. When Andrea and I first met, I took her soft-spokeness as mousy. Inside and out, she seemed pretty ordinary. It didn’t take long for me to realize behind her quiet demeanor, was a girl of fire and determination.

When Lent rolled around a few years back, Andrea’s priest told the congregation it wasn’t always necessary to give something up as a sacrifice. When preparing for Easter, he suggested that instead of depravation, Lent could be observed by taking on a practice that would be a blessing to the observer. Gathering with a group to study scripture or meditating each morning could also be a way to revere this high, holy time. And that’s when it hit Andrea, she would give up thinking for Lent.

When she first told me her idea I laughed. Give up thinking for Lent? How could that be possible? Don’t we need our thoughts to help move us through life? No, what Andrea was talking about was obsessive thinking. You know, the kind of thinking that gives you no rest. The kind of thinking that analyzes and tries to control every aspect of your life.

The last seven years had been rough for her. Pregnant at 17, she married her son’s father only to divorce him two years later because of a mental illness and drug abuse. After that, Andrea felt she had no choice but to move back home to her parents’ with their son Adrian. Living with a critical and condescending mother was less than ideal, but she needed help with her little boy. She saw no other way to keep her full-time job while working on a college degree.

Fear loomed large in Andrea’s life. She felt stuck and wondered if she would ever be able to give Adrian the life he deserved. Her ex-husband’s instability constantly disappointed them. Recently, he had checked himself into rehab, yet again, but she didn’t have much hope for a positive outcome. The gears in her brain turned around the clock with “what ifs.”

It was during this time the brilliant idea to give up thinking for Lent came to Andrea. She quickly learned she had to pay constant attention to her thoughts if she were going to be successful. In particular, her drive to work always signaled the wheels of her obsession to begin rolling. An hour later, when she pulled into the parking lot, she couldn’t even remember the route she took, her mind was so consumed. To unhook she began practicing being present by noticing her surroundings.

Andrea quickly discovered there was so much beauty in her daily drive she had never been aware of. It was spring. The flowers were blooming and everything was fresh and new. And the birds! She had never noticed the riot of their chirping. She began seeing hawks everywhere. She couldn’t believe she’d been so locked inside her mind that their majesty had gone unnoticed.

The more Andrea let go by staying in the now, the more she saw that everything she was fixated on resolved itself on its own. Maybe by relaxing her grip she was actually allowing God to work things out more quickly.

All will be revealed – not all will be figured out.– Mary Karr

I too have been held hostage by my brain. As of late, not knowing where my career as an author/illustrator is going has been weighing heavy on my mind. The publishing industry was turned upside down by the 2008 financial collapse and left me on the outside looking in. With the invention of electronic readers, the industry is now reworking itself in a way that makes sense with today’s technology. That means it’s harder than ever to get an editor to even glance at a submission. What to do? What to do? Should I continue to search for an agent, publisher or self-publish?

Lucky for me Lent is here and reminded me of Andrea and her bright idea. I took a cue from her and consciously gave up my need to analyze and force a solution. The moment I surrendered my thinking, peace washed over me and was immediately followed by the ding of an an email in my inbox. It was a note from a film company that wants to make a short documentary about my art. How cool is that? And with my mind out of the way, who knows what other miracles wil manifest in my life. That Andrea is a genius.

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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

15 thoughts on “I Once Knew a Girl who Gave Up Thinking…

  1. I also tend to worry and obsess so much that I don’t see the beauty around me. Today most of us in the Chicago area are fed up with a fresh snowstorm. But if we take the time to LOOK at it, it’s beautiful. The trees are all frosted with snow. Thanks for the reminder to focus on the beauty around us.
    And I can’t wait to see the documentary! What great news.

    • I agree about the snow being breathtaking. My backyard went from drab to a wonderland. Focusing on the now is the only way to go with the winter we’ve had in Chicago. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dear Sue, I first want to say how much I love this picture! And…thank you for your inspiring words. You know, it seems quite amazing to me that finding a publisher has been so difficult for you. I find your work to be exceptional. Perhaps after your documentary, those in the publishing world will come to the same conclusion. Please let me know when the documentary is available for viewing. I am looking forward to seeing it! Blessings, Lois

  3. I’m glad I knew you before you were Sue Shanahan, because the young lady I knew then was just as powerful…. Sue to see how you have grown is so amazing… God bless you in all you do… A documentary…. Congrats girlfriend!!!!

  4. A film! How exciting. And, what a great quote you shared: All will be revealed – not all will be figured out.– Mary Karr

  5. This piece arrived at such an appropriate time for me as I’ve just realized that I’m always thinking and processing and trying to figure out everything, which only complicates and sometimes creates problems (in my mind) that don’t even exist! If I wake up in the middle of the night, my brain immediately kicks into gear. I so want to be able to “be here now” and enjoy the present moment!

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