Essentially, the "trick" I've found is meditation.
But, while many people can let their minds flow freely while they meditate, I run into emotional quicksand if I do that, so I've decided to control where my mind wanders. It started with counting by threes in French and, recently, has begun to include some passages that I find peaceful.
I began with The Lord's Prayer, a good prayer-time staple. I was a little surprised that I had to look up the words, even though I've probably recited it more times than I've said my own name.
Our Father who art in heaven,I found this calming and comforting. I started repeating it ten times (I use my fingers to keep track), slightly slower each time (I've noticed that I always seem to start out spewing it as if it were a job to be done with!). Occasionally, I find myself merely meditating on the rhythm -- there's nothing wrong with that.
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
After the recent American elections, as I struggled to know how to approach what I perceived as an unloving and hateful form of Christianity, I added the Prayer of St. Francis. This was a popular song while I was a youth, and Stephen and I had it sung at our wedding.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,Again, I memorized this and repeat it several times (in my head), really contemplating what each of those words means. Pardon, in particular, I prefer to conceive as "forgive" because I think it has more contemporary meaning.
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying to the self that we are born to eternal life.
If I'm still awake (and I often am), I add the Bible verse I've posted at the top of this page:
Finally, beloved,To people like my husband who usually fall asleep within thirty seconds of their heads hitting the pillow, this will undoubtedly seem extremely elaborate and even time-consuming. But I assure you, they are for less stressful than contemplating the demise of my career, the loss of my mother, or the heartaches of parenthood.
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things.
Eventually, I do fall asleep, which is the miracle. I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to actually get out of bed and start my bedtime routine from scratch, which was something I did on a regular basis before starting this.
I expect I'll modify which texts I'll memorize and mentally recite, but I believe that this kind of "directed thinking" or meditation is something that will continue to help me and may be of help to others out there.
If nothing else, memorization is good mental exercise, so it can't hurt. Right?