A couple of weeks ago I sat down to write my weekly blog post and my mind went blank. I had no idea what my intended topic might be. It’s something that happens to all of us so I thought I should treat it as though it were a gift from God rather than a liability. Which made me realize that the best place to start my morning was by exercising the parts of my brain that were still functioning properly and do a little research on “blank mind syndrome.” I am sure most of you are not interested in the parts of the brain involved as they all have names like hypocanthus and hypothalamus, but you might be interested in some of the causes and what we can do to overcome it.
The most common causes of blank mind are anxiety, lack of sleep, medication, change and feeling overwhelmed. That particular morning I knew lack of sleep was the culprit. My dog vomited in the middle of the night and then coughed her way through until the morning. My husband slept through the whole thing, but I kept worrying about whether or not she was sick enough to take to an emergency vet. She wasn’t, but by the time I realized that, the whole night had passed.
Occasional mind blankness like this is not something to be afraid or ashamed of. In fact, according to Janis Leslie Evans in What is Mind Blanking? Tips to Get Rid of that Foggy Feeling. It helps to share problems with others, laugh at ourselves and reset our goals, which is exactly what I decided to do on that particular morning. I relished my blank mind because it led me into a new area of research, and taught me some new fun facts. It really was a gift and not a liability.
Evidently revisiting a sample of what we wrote or created in the past to remind ourselves of how productive we have been and can be again is helpful. “You are the same person with the same skills” What a great idea I thought. How rarely we remind ourselves of what we have accomplished and applaud ourselves for productivity. So I picked up The Gift of Wonder intending to read some of my favorite portions and exercises but I didn’t get past the first chapter. “What do I enjoy doing that makes me sense God’s pleasure?” I wrote and I realized that was God’s word for me again that day. God takes delight in us and what we accomplish and I don’t know about you, but I rarely take time to acknowledge that. So I stacked up the books I have written and thanked God for them. I looked through some of my prayer cards, and admired my Digging Deeper contemplative garden which sits on my desk. Finally I hurried out to the front porch where some of my warm weather seedlings are still waiting for warmer weather before they can go outside. My basil needed pinching out so that the plants will bush out and give us a generous crop of basil. I took great delight in completing that task and walked back to my desk with the wonderful aroma of basil clinging to my clothes.
When blank brain sets in do some deep breathing exercises, center your attention outside of yourself. Take notice of your environment with the help of your senses Evans suggests so now I sit breathing slowly in and out aware of the fragrance of God, all around me. It clings to us at all times yet we rarely pause to notice. Now as I breathed, that wonderful fragrance relaxed me, I collected my thoughts and allowed my memory to do its job.
So when blank brain sets in, look through your sermons or other work from the last year, and remind yourself of how productive you have been. Take some deep breaths and allow the spirit of God to guide you. I know many of us feel constrained by the lectionary, but maybe it is time for something different. Let your congregation know that this week you suffered from blank mind syndrome. Have a little fun with it. Teach your congregation some deep breathing exercises. Relax and get them to relax too. Like me I am sure you will be able to say “Wow, I think this might be what God wanted me to write about after all.”