It is not a word often used in routine conversation. But it is a reality frequently present in many lives. There are situations for most of us when we find ourselves perseverating.

To “perseverate” is to experience

the uncontrollable repetition of a particular response, thought, word, phrase, or feeling that is disproportionate to any obvious or present cause.

Most spiritual practices teach that in the presence of “the uncontrollable repetition of” thoughts and/or feelings, the recommended strategy is simply to let them go.

Cynthia Bourgeault, in her teaching on Centering Prayer says,

As we let go of our thoughts/feelings, we discover that we are beyond these thoughts and feelings. We learn to distance ourselves from this through the practice of consent and surrender.

The wisdom of letting go is deep and profound. The practices of consent and surrender will always enable us to open to the reality that there is something about us that is “beyond these thoughts and feelings.”

The problem is that the very point of a thought/feeling about which I “perseverate” is that the thought/feeling repeats itself uncontrollably.  By definition a “perseverating” thought/feeling is one I cannot control and will therefore have a hard time letting go.

Before I am ready to let go of a thought/feeling I need to be willing to see the true nature of that thought/feeling with which I am struggling.

The thoughts/feelings about which I perseverate tend to have one thing in common. They all involve pain.

I perseverate about situations, people, things in life that are not the way I want them to be and that therefore trigger in me a pain response. I do not want to feel pain and I hope that by perseverating about the situation I will either fix it, find a way out of it, or change myself so I no longer feel this pain. But, the common goal of all my perseverating is my aim to avoid pain.

The beginning of letting go is acknowledging that I cannot remove all pain from life.

Jesus said,

In this world you will have trouble.

Jesus did not fix all the troubles of the world. He did not heal all sickness, did not resolve all human conflicts, or remove all violence from the human community. But he did go on to say,

take heart I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV).

When I am perseverating, it is hard to see that Jesus has “overcome the world.”

The truth is that the circumstances of life are often not the way I want them to be. Terrible things happen; I do not always get what I want, or even what I may think is best. So, if I am to see that Jesus has indeed “overcome the world,” I must look deeper than the story my perseverating thoughts tell me.

In the midst of the pain, I am trying to avoid, it is possible to stop for a second, look honestly at my situation and allow a small space to open at the heart of my being. This small space is the place where my perseverating stops even if just for a second and I am able to glimpse another possibility.

Immediately before his gloomy prediction of trouble in the world, Jesus said,

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. (John 16:33)

Peace is possible because the power of love and truth is present in my life. Jesus is present with me in the midst of whatever pain I may be experiencing. I do not need to fix it, heal it, get rid of it, or deny it. The pain I experience is not stronger than the presence I know when I stop for a moment and open to the reality of that love which transcends all the external circumstances of my life.

There will always be painful circumstances. But, when my heart opens to it, I know there is also always a peaceful presence available even in the midst of the pain.

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