Mindfulness

  • blogpic.prayerbeadsGod has made everything beautiful for it's own time. God has planted eternity in the human heart.   ~Eccl 3:11

    At the "Savor the Moment" Women's Retreat I mentioned two weeks ago, we made prayer beads to go along with the prayer I wrote below.

    Why beads? As our fingers touch each successive bead, the physical action helps keep our mind from wandering, and the rhythm of the prayers leads us more readily into stillness. They are a way to help us enter into meditative or contemplative prayer by using our mind, body and spirit. 

    A Prayer to Savor the Moment

    O Holy God, Loving Jesus, Blessing Spirit

    You have made everything for its own time.

    Help me open the gift of this moment,

    A present from your heart to mine.

    Draw my soul to your presence,

    Grace me with acceptance for what is,

    Bend my will to be present in the present,

    Release my urge to control,

    Unclutter my mind, quiet my spirit.

    You are all I need in this moment.

    As I see your beauty in this time,

    I feel your eternity in my heart.

    Amen

    Thank you to Brenda Blight and friends, who edited this prayer to a manageable length, and to Carol Ruppar for designing the prayer beads, and teaching us to make our own strand! Thank you also to Cher Stuewe-Portnoff, my new blog editor!

  • blogpic catherineweddingcroppedTwo weekends ago my husband, Dan and I joined his family in Augerville-la-Riviere, France to co-officiate at our niece’s wedding. In preparing for the service, our niece, who was raised in France (Dan’s sister married a Frenchman), told us that the French like to savor experiences. Such savoring was an expectation not only for dinner (their wedding dinner lasted about four hours!), but the French also expected to savor the wedding service itself. A twenty-minute-get-‘em-in-and-get-‘em-out-wedding just wasn’t going to cut it. It was a new experience to bring this expansive attitude and energy to the planning of the service.

    Being freed from both time constraints and the worry about them, allowed us all to breathe deeply and step into the experience with a sense of expansiveness and wonder. We had the time to take it all in, so that the emotions were felt more deeply, the significance of the moment was experienced more profoundly, and the bridging of family, cultures, languages, countries and continents was celebrated more vividly.

    Because it was done in both French and English, the service was naturally longer than most American weddings. Some parts of the service were spoken in French and printed in the program in English and vice versa. Other parts were done in both languages. The homily (short sermon) was translated live by the groom’s two sisters who stood arm in arm and naturally took turns offering their interpretation.

    Hand-written blessings from their immediate family members were written a year ago and kept in a small bag with their wedding bands. Then every guest at the service added their own silent prayer to bless the rings as the bag was passed around the congregation. Following the exchange of these very blessed rings, the immediate family members stood by the bride and groom and shared their blessing and hopes for them in both French and English.

    This expansiveness of time and space that “savoring” the service offered, enabled us not just to talk about love, but to see it in action and to feel it in the moment. Savoring gave us time for honesty about the challenges of life together as well as its deep joys. Savoring allowed us time to build a community among people from such diverse places as we all affirmed that the deepest meaning and purpose in our lives comes through love and the relationships that sustain us.

    I realized that savoring an experience is a spiritual practice. It helps me with what I think is intended when we talk about “mindfulness”—being fully present to the moment with an expansiveness that is freed from anxiety about the next thing. I wonder what else I might learn to savor? Perhaps this is also a gift of summer—taking time to savor a good book, our toes in the sand, a family game night, or time with our beloved. Perhaps prayer can also be savored--savoring God's presence and allowing God to savor being with us as well.

  • blogpic womanonstairsFor the last two months, I’ve been in physical therapy for both of my knees. I’ve been experiencing pain going up and down stairs accompanied by a crackling, crunching sound. Welcome to the 50+ club. Apparently women’s knee caps are more prone to misalignment. The goal of therapy is to first strengthen the muscles around the knee to hold the knee cap in the proper place and second, to stretch the tight muscles along the outside of the quads which, when constricted pulls the knee out of alignment. We have also used tape to try and hold my knee cap in place for 48 hours at a time.

    In order for these therapies to work, I need to do a regimen of exercises everyday – strengthening and stretching, building and loosening, pushing forward and letting go. If I strengthen without stretching, the muscles up my leg still pull the knee out of alignment. If I stretch without strengthening, there’s not sufficient muscle to hold my knee in place.

    In addition, I have to pay attention to how I walk up and down stairs – keeping my feet straight, pressing with even weight, stepping with intention—no more dashing up and down stairs in a hurried jog or a happy jump. The daily exercises to strengthen and stretch help me to be present to how I move my legs and feet throughout the day.

    What a wonderful metaphor and pattern for our daily spiritual life. We have exercises that help us strengthen our faith like prayer, meditation, contemplation, devotional reading and more. In and of itself, these practices do not make up a full spiritual regimen, however. We also must engage in stretching and letting go of the places where we hold tension, control, or rigidity. Releasing to God’s care the outcomes, events and people over which we have no control is a second and necessary part of our spiritual exercises.

    If I strengthen my relationship with God through daily spiritual practices, but don’t allow myself to be released from that over which I desire control, my ego can pull my soul out of spiritual alignment. If I let go of all my tension and control needs, but don’t also engage in strengthening my faith through prayer, meditation or other practices, I am flapping in the wind and blown off course by whatever whim comes my way.

    Like physical therapy, both of these spiritual emphases of strengthening and stretching, building and loosening, pushing forward and letting go, invite us to pay attention to how we move through the day. Rather than dashing around in a hurried flurry, we can step forward with mindful intention—both in body and in spirit.

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