One of my favorite people on the planet is Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior and blogger at Momastery.com.
She talks about the concept of Canaries in Mines: In the old days, mine-workers would take canaries down in the mines with them. These canaries were more sensitive to the toxins in the air than the human beings were, and when their song would grow silent, the men knew they were in danger and needed to get out of there.
The canaries could sense the poison that the men had grown accustomed to. The canaries’ sensitivity could save the men from acclimating to their toxic climate before it killed them unawares.
Glennon asserts that we as women may be just like these canaries, that feelings of anxiety, depression, fear, worry, body-image obsession, and low self-esteem are signs not that there is something wrong with us, but that something is wrong with our culture.
Could it be that our spirits are actually reacting to the toxins in our culture, the poisonous air we breathe in day after day in “the daily deluge of images of women’s bodies for sale and the onslaught of emaciated women’s bodies held up as the pinnacle of female achievement and the pervasive message that women exist to please men…” among all the other lies that saturate the world we live in?
In October, 2015, Elder Russell M Nelson also encouraged our canary-like divine qualities as he taught: “We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.”
So, how can we tap into our “gift of discernment”?
Is it possible to actually EMBRACE these feelings of discomfort as “Canary-like” warning signs rather than interpreting them as “Something is wrong with me–fix it, numb it, make it go away!”?
Here are some things that are working for me as I strive to live each day in the practice of awareness and discernment.
5 Ways to Nurture your “Gift of Discernment”
- Tap into emotions. What am I feeling in any given moment? Come to recognize when I am sitting in serenity, and learn to become aware when I instead have gone to a place of fear, anxiety, or despair.
- No judgment. Don’t label these emotions as good or bad. Start to think of them as my teachers. When I recognize fear, allow it to be…sit and watch it float across my consciousness like I am watching a cloud. Then let it teach me. Why am I feeling fear/sadness/anxiety? Where is it coming from? What has happened in my outside world that is causing my inside world to feel off-balance? Am I buying into false messages that come from a toxic culture? This is where my gift of discernment really begins.
- Stay present. I have found that it is almost impossible to live in awareness and discernment if I am not living in the present moment. When my mind starts spinning into trying to plan and control the construction of a picture-perfect tomorrow, or replaying the pain of sad yesterdays, I am lost in confusion, anxiety, and fear. As I focus on living one moment at a time, I grow in my ability to feel and discern. I know when things are right and when things are off, because I can feel it. As I catch myself believing the lies of a toxic world, I make a conscious decision to let go of the lie, and ask God to replace it with His truth. I accept that I cannot control the future and trust that God really will provide all that I need. And, most importantly, I deepen my gratitude and trust in my Heavenly Father as He does. I am learning to relax into His care.
- Avoid worldly influences. For me, discernment has come as I have shut out the voices that I know for sure are not leading me towards God. For me, that means I avoid social media, I watch very little television, I rarely listen to the radio, and I set boundaries on relationships that consistently bring negativity into my life. Sound extreme? Maybe it is, but for me, it’s not about any set of stringent rules. It’s about EMPOWERMENT. I am realizing that I get to choose which voices I let into my mind and heart. I can avoid so much confusion if I shut out the voices that add to confusion, fear, anxiety…feelings of not being good enough or confusion about where my value lies. It is difficult for me to breathe in this cultural air without poisoning my mind and heart with the toxins it carries, and it is difficult to feel truly centered on God when my mind and heart are distracted by what Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest, or anybody besides God, thinks. Without these influences in my life, I have found it much easier to stay in a place of safety and serenity.
- Connect with God. As I become more attune to my inner peace, I feel more connected with God, because that peace is His. He is no longer far away; He begins to feel like a friend. And miraculously, as I know Him better, I begin to know myself–not the me that you can see in the mirror, that can be described in a story or defined by my life circumstances…but the me that transcends all of that…the me that is eternal, that is divine, that is literally part of Him. That’s the real me. That me is of infinite and eternal value completely separate from my circumstance, my appearance, my body, my family, my successes, my failures. That is the me that is being shaped and refined by each challenge I face, but is always and ever infinitely in His perfect care.
So, this is what works for me. I would love your comments and insight.