What does “laying down swords” mean? Here’s what it means to me.
When I was newly diagnosed, there was a huge amount of shock that entered my mind and body. Anything that big messes with your mind. So many questions, concerns, thoughts of the future… all of the things we get inundated with when our mind goes out into left field after news such as this. It’s a huge megaphone of a soundtrack playing over and over in your mind.
That soundtrack feels like little swords coming at me all the time. Watching TV, and thinking, “They don’t have cancer… they can laugh like that…” Or being with friends or family and wondering if you can remember how it felt before your diagnosis. (Or if they can.) Looking out at the rain, and feeling like that on the inside. Or wondering if anyone can tell you are in treatment because you’re wearing a hat. Or have a balding head. Or if they feel sorry for you.
The thoughts come on over and over again. They are loud, sharp, and painful. They seem to pierce you and stay stuck there. Nighttime, daytime, lunchtime, dinnertime, all the times. It’s exhausting, and messes with your energy levels and your sleep patterns. And sometimes it’s all too much, and you just want to scream. It won’t shut off until you decide it’s time to lay them down. And then take action.
Laying down swords.
I had a lovely tea with some dear friends, and we talked about this very thing. The advice I was given was, “prayerfully lay them down”. Prayerfully lay down the swords. That’s a simple concept, but a big one I didn’t know if I had the power to do. But even trying and failing at laying down the swords was better than them all coming at me over and over every day, and reeling from the pain. I was determined to try to lay them down.
What’s working for me now.
There are three things I find have quieted my mind and helped me lay down the swords.
1. Morning Pages: If you’ve never done this, it’s very simple. First thing in the morning (ok, after I’ve had breakfast), take a pencil and paper, and write out whatever thoughts are coming into your head. No punctuation or editing, just write. Do that for three pages. Do it every morning.
Why it works for me: This has given me some peace in my head, since I’m getting out the cobwebs on a consistent basis each morning. I noticed a big difference in my mind quieting down at night after just a few days.
2. A visual: Have you seen the movie, The Matrix? Remember at the end when he is being shot at, and he puts his hand up and simply says, “No”? All the bullets stop and drop to the ground, and he sees the Matrix for what it really is. (Yes, I do love scifi.) I replace the bullets with my swords. They clang to the ground and don’t have a chance to get near me.
Why it works for me: This gives me a visual to deal with whatever thoughts are coming toward me, and the satisfaction that they drop and have no effect. And I see them for what they truly are. Powerless. Is it perfect? No, but it’s a start.
3. Meditation or prayer: Whatever you call it in your tradition. I learned how to do centering prayer, so I practice a form of that.
Why it works for me: It helps me quiet my mind, and practice getting stuff cleared out of my mind. I put anything that comes into my mind on a boat on the river, and sail it away (or clouds in the sky, or a leaf on a stream). Frankly I suck at it, but I’ll keep practicing with my breath and the mediation while I get better.
So this is what I do in practicing “laying down swords”. What I do isn’t perfect, but I’m working at it everyday to “prayerfully lay them down”. Sucking at it is better than dealing with the painful onslaught I had in the beginning. It’s a step in the right direction.
How are you “laying down swords”?