Some Thoughts on Rumination Shared in Worship

by Mariellen Gilpin June 26, 2016

Rumination is a word therapists use that describes when a client goes over and over the same memory, time and time again. It is a metaphor, based on a digestive process. Grass is basically indigestible. When a cow eats grass, she chews it and chews it and swallows it. After awhile she burps it up and chews on it some more, swallows it again, then later burps and chews it some more. All of us have had experiences that basically are indigestible lumps, and we need to chew them many times over to find resolution.  Rumination is a healthy digestion process, which many therapists tend to use exclusively to describe an unhealthy psychological process. I want to reclaim the health in a process that is all-too-necessary when we have an unpleasant memory to deal with. Which leads me to ask, “How does a cow know when she’s chewed that indigestible lump enough to swallow it again? When am I chewing over that memory in a healthy way? How can I learn to tell the difference?”

This is a lifelong learning process.

What I’ve learned, so far, is to expect that it’s going to take lots of chewing to resolve an unpleasant memory. It helps me to write about the memory in my journal. What I’m working for is insight. When I can tell my feelings are starting to dig me into a deeper hole, I stop writing. I put the journal away, maybe a few days; maybe several months. When I am ready, I re-read what I wrote. Re-reading, for me, is labor-saving; I can read about the memory without having to feel every one of my feelings all over again. I can instead read until I spot where it was I started to spin my wheels last time, and then start my re-thinking process there. I’ve saved my time and energy for the next phase, for what can be a healthy psychological digestive process.

It is a lifelong learning experience.

Editor’s note: We are reminding Friends that the next Gathering of Friendly Mystics is September 30th  – October 2nd at the Cenacle in Chicago. Although the deadline has passed, we allowed a few extra spaces for late registrants. Contact Mike Resman if you are interested: <>