Mental Health, Wellness

November 30, 2020


I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” 

~ Eckhart Tolle ~

Peace is…
As I write this blog, I am sitting in our living room looking out into our backyard, covered with remnants of the last snow fall. The power is out. The house is silent, with the exception of the keys as I tap them on my laptop and our cat purring loudly beside me.

As I sit here in the silence, I am experiencing peace. It is an inner peace. It is a calm.

Often times, when I have thought of peace, my mind goes to places of
conflict around our globe. I wonder if we will ever experience peace among
nations, among groups of people, within our communities, within our
neighbourhoods, within our own families, and within our own homes.
Peace can be tenuous at times. As the stresses in life mount, so too does
the potential for conflict. I see this time and time again in the lives of
families and couples to whom I offer pastoral care through my ministry.

Today, and in this season of Advent, I have found myself reflecting on inner
peace. Inner peace is that sense of calm that exists within, in spite of the
various stressors that may be a part of life. It can be difficult to find the
small joys in everyday life in such circumstances. My belief is that if we
could all get to a place of inner peace, we would be more likely to have
peaceful relationships with others, whether in our own homes,
neighbourhoods, communities or globe. Inner peace can be elusive
especially as pressures mount from the external world. Our minds have a
way in the middle of the night to attempt to disrupt that inner peace.
There are nights I lie awake unable to sleep. I replay meetings from the
previous day. I replay decisions made and explore all of the other
possibilities that my middle of the night brain says I should have tried. I
wonder…No, let’s be honest, I worry about loved ones. I worry about
church folks. I worry about the pandemic and its far-reaching impact on us,
on our mental health, on our communities. I worry…worry…worry… I also
pray…pray…and pray some more. When that fails, I play games on my
iPad. What I am seeking is what we all seek- inner peace.

It has taken me decades of my life to get to a place where I can experience
inner peace, not all the time, but often enough to know what a beautiful gift
it is. Inner peace for me is that state where everything in my heart and
mind quiets down. It is a time when I can breathe. It is a time when I can
feel and see things more clearly. It is a place of solitude and a place free of
the noise of the world. It provides me with perspective. It is a time when I
can step back and breathe, observe and take note.

It sounds so simple but as I said, it has taken me decades to get to this

I needed to learn to let go of self-blame. You know, that recognizing that
there are things I need to take responsibility for, and there are other things
that are out of my control! Not everything that goes wrong is my fault.
I needed to free myself from feeling like the victim. For some of us who
have been victimized in our lives, it is a comfortable place to be. It is
comfortable, in that it is what we know. Seeing one’s self as the victim
though is like a chain attached to a cinderblock. It drags us down and
holds us back from imagining a better life. I needed to learn that I was a
person who could direct my own life. I was not at the whim of others and I
was not defined by my past. It did not need to be my story for the rest of
my life.

I needed to notice that I was a people pleaser. I spent much of my
childhood, teenage years and early adult life trying to please everyone. I
sought acceptance from others and at times it prevented me from listening
to my own heart. When I began to realize this and explored the underlying
reasons for why I was like that, I was able to let go of the intense desire to
make everyone happy. Sure, I still struggle with putting the needs of others
before myself, but it is not debilitating as it once was. It prevented me from
being who I was created to be and to be at peace with that.

I needed to let go of grudges. I needed to let go of the resentment and
anger that had built up within me over the years. I needed to let go of my
anger towards individuals. The grudges I was holding onto, the forgiveness
I struggled with, sapped all of my emotional and mental energy, at times
even draining my physical energy. I needed to free myself from the prison
of my past. The only one I was hurting was myself. Once I had worked
through that I came to find a peace that I had never known before.

I needed to be okay with failure and making mistakes. We all do make
them, but for those of us who seek perfection it can be devastating. I have
learned to laugh at myself and I have learned to roll with things when they
don’t go smoothly. I wasn’t created to be perfect. Rather, I was created to
be the best person I can be. I also realized that when I could lighten up on
myself, my expectations for others were relaxed. I was less disappointed
with others and myself.

So how have I managed that?

Years of therapy! And a whole lot of hard work on my own. It also took a
strong desire within me to find that inner peace. I needed to want it.
I began with meditation. It was slow but over time my 5 minutes of guided
meditation turned into 15 minutes, then turned into 30 minutes. Throughout the day I would try a couple of times to focus on something
particular. It might be the steering wheel of my car. I would focus on how it
felt in my hands. I would pay attention to its colour, to its size, to its
movement in my hands. As I became better able to do that, I found myself
in moments of high stress automatically focusing on something that would
ground me. It would take me to that place of inner peace and calm.

I began to rephrase my negative thoughts. I started to intentionally
rephrase the negative self-talk that had filled my brain over the years. I
replaced it with affirmations that I didn’t believe at first. I spoke my way into believing. I would stand in front of the mirror and say to myself “You are valued.” “You are intelligent.” “You are strong.” “You are a survivor.” The hardest one – “I love you!” Over time I found that the negative self-talk
slowed up and I was less harsh on myself.

As I learned to love myself, as I learned to take notice of the world around
me, as I learned to seek quiet in my mind and heart, I discovered inner
peace. I found a source of life for me in the chaos, pain, disappointment,
noise and brokenness of my life and the world. It is an inner peace that
sustains me and is fed by knowing that I am loved. It is sustained by
knowing that I am beautiful for who I am. It enables me to take responsibility for some things in this world that are mine to take responsibility for, and where I can, to make the world just that little bit brighter.

Rev. Michelle

Rev. Michelle Brotherton

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  1. Deb P. says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, thank you for this beautiful piece. I feel like you just opened up my soul and turned on a light in there. I know I will re-read this many times. This has been my journey, to seek this as well…and you give me hope with the last few stubborn pieces I’m wrestling with, that I will get there. Blessings back to you as well.

  2. Judy Vanderluit says:

    Beautifully said.
    P. S. Michelle, God is teaching me this on this journey. ❤️????

Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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