Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mindful Attention to a Need for Self-Importance

Contentment is about resting, about removing ourselves from the vain strivings of the world and finding peace and quiet in God's will. 

-Gary Thomas, "Authentic Faith"


Don't you love it when you read a passage from Scripture or from a saintly person, and God pokes you with a "This means you!"  That happened to me this morning with a meditation passage from Frances de Sales that said:  "Nothing stands in the way of our spiritual growth more than self-love or a sense of self-importance." 

I can no more get rid of my need for recognition than I can change my fingers.  I need God's grace to do so, and I've confessed and asked for grace.  But as I mindfully look at my day today, I see that I haven't made much progress in the self-importance front.  Indeed, I internally complain about a pattern in my career in which others have gotten credit for my work.  

Perhaps that is why it happens a lot.  The Lord is trying to work out my own need for recognition, trying to help me to find contentment.

I loved Gary Thomas' quote above, although I have to say that doing God's Will hasn't been the fast track to peace and quiet for me.  But I do need to remember, as Frances de Sales points out: "We have come to expect that our prayers - our life - should be steeped in orange water, our virtues nourished by a diet of candy. As a result we forget Jesus prostrate on the ground, sweating blood and water in agony, because of the deadly conflict in his soul. Self-love blinds us, makes us forget how it really is."
 


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Christian Mindfulness at Lent


Considering that I just discovered that I booked my annual Florida Keys vacation with the hotel on one week and the air travel on the next, I'm not sure I should be writing about Christian mindfulness today.  But all is fixed ... at a price ... and I promise to pay more attention the next time. Paying attention is just about everything there is to say about mindfulness. As I move forward, I want to enjoy this Lent as a time to grow intentionally closer to God and to ask for the grace of contentment.

One way I do so is to replace my regular reading material with spiritual books.  This time they are:

"The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection: My copy was given to me in the 1977 by a fellow journalist in Tupelo, MS. I've read and re-read it. In my 20s, I was disappointed with the content. Today, nearly 40 years later, I ponder its words in wonder and hope.  It is the central text for Christian mindfulness.

"Motherhood and God" by Margaret Hebblethwaite:  My yellowed paperback copy is from 1984.  The first line:  "This book is about finding God in motherhood, and finding motherhood in God."  I found it profound while dealing with my two-year-old daughter.  Today, I know more than ever that I found God in motherhood, and I am eager to see if it holds up.  After all, I've shuffled this book across the country from house to house.  Yet this is the first time I am revisiting it in 31 years.

"Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World" by Rich Nathan with Insoo Kim:  Both Rich and Insoo are pastors at my church.  This book describes what that church is all about.  Better read it.

That's my first step in a mindful Lent. May yours be peaceful and inspiring. 






Monday, February 9, 2015

Living in the Presence While Living in the Present

Christian mindfulness is the intersection of living in the presence of God and living in the present.  If that sounds simple, it's not.  It's a lifetime of spiritual practice.

While I've been striving for a while to practice Christian mindfulness, I'm sure I'm still walking the first steps of a journey that will take the rest of my life.  And I may not be that far alone when I hit the end.  But travel on, I must.  It is, in many ways, like the pearl of great price.  Once you've seen it, you are willing to sell everything to obtain it. 

It begins every moment in the now.  That may be the only what humans can find the living God.  The past is memory, and memory is often flawed.  The future is an imagining.  We can't find God there because it's not real.  So we look in the present moment.

Is God present with us there?  Yes.  Whether we know it or not.  And most of the time we don't.  So how can we sense God?  That's the question that takes a lifetime to answer.  Spiritual masters say we cultivate the presence of God (or more truthfully ... come to see the presence of God) by focusing on mind on him through continual prayer and aligning our will with His.  Also doing that will. 

I have a tendency to read a lot about this because it's easier to read it than to do it.  But I am moving forward slowly, very slowly.  

The spiritual masters also report that this type of grace isn't cheap.  If we want to experience daily, deep intimacy with God, sensing his practice and doing his work, we must wake every morning and carry our crosses.  The appropriate response to suffering is the fast track on long and difficult road to Christian mindfulness. And those who find it are few.  Let's try anyway.  


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mindful Piles

We are beginning to downsize. (Other than in the cat department.  We just got my mother-in-law's two kittens.  A story for another day.) Ken comes from a home that was on the cluttery side.  My house growing up was neat and clean, except for the packed closets.  

Together we are trying to be more mindful about our stuff, using some of the very basic rules: Throw something in the category out when you bring something in. Pick it up, don't pass it by. And so on. 

Now with our focus on mindfulness, I am working hard to become aware when I am creating a pile.  If it catch it when it is two things instead of seven, it's easier to put it away.

We face a long hard road into downsizing, but this can be the start. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

How Can I Make This Easier?


Simplifying my life for 2015 is under way with mindful attention to each activity. Honestly, I still don't like JUST eating when I could be eating and reading, but I take it on faith that it will pay off.

One helpful aspect of this is that I am actually paying enough attention to what I am doing so I can ask:  How Can I Make This Easier?  For example, updating a calendar.  Previously, I updated my iPhone calendar, my family wall calendar, my organizer two-pages-a-day and the calendar that my dad made me out of wood.  I realized that I spent a lot of time to know where I was supposed to be at what time.

So I stopped buying the family wall calendar and focused on the organizer two-pages-a-day and the iPhone for work only.  I also update Dad's calendar, but that's because Dad made it and he's gone to the Eternal Time Zone.  It's worth the two minutes.

Many folks laugh at my giant ever-so-80s organizer.  Yes, you write in it.  But I write everything it in: grocery lists, notes from phone calls, to do lists, where Grandma and Grandpa are buried, etc.  And I get to physically cross things out.  When we changed email systems at work, I actually knew when all MY meetings were. When I need a reference, I have all the notes about a certain day stored for three years. That's covered my rear more times than I care to count.

I tried to find some other person who prefers paper organizers.  When I Googled it, I got an article comparing Filofax to Blackberries and Outlook.  So I may well be in the minority here.

Nonetheless I've simplified a bit, cutting quite a lot of time out of planning my day.  Paying attention pointed out the right thing for me. So mindfulness does make simplifying easier. I'll let you know about the mindful eating.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Manage Your Mind





In a Zen way, I'm tempted to say: not time management, not productivity management, not energy management, not purpose management.  Instead manage the state of your mind. 

Marc Lesser 

I agree that, with God's help, we should concentrate on managing ourselves and our ever-roving, ever-fearful minds.  I also read a similar thought that we should not call our efforts to keep calm and centered "stress management," but rather "peace management." 

So many quotes I've put on my Pinterest boards on Tranquility, Simple Living and From God's Lips echo this idea: 

"Never be in a hurry. Do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset." - Francis de Sales

"If we practice mindfulness, we always have a place to be when we are afraid." - Thich Nhat Hanh 

"Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions." 

"Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace." - Dalai Lama 

"Peace is not the absence of troubles, but the presence of Christ." - Sheila Walsh