Lee Anderson / September 19, 2012
Mindfulness seems to be a buzz word these days. The practice of mindfulness is growing in popularity as a way to overcome difficult emotions, manage stress, and to deepen one’s spiritual connection. While the concept of mindfulness is most closely associated to Buddhism, the notion that one can focus on and find God in the present moment is a long-standing Christian idea as well. The ancient Christian practice of Centering Prayer, rekindled by Father Thomas Keating and others, is a reminder of this.
Mindfulness teaches us that our thoughts are merely thoughts, and pass as quickly and often as clouds in the sky. Further, our feelings are just our feelings, and are often connected with our thoughts. Neither our thoughts nor our feelings need to be taken as truths. This teaching is used with people who have debilitating psychological disturbances to help them recover and lead a well life, and it is just as helpful in dealing with everyday stressors such as hurt feelings and traffic jams.
A great teacher and comforter in my life is Henri Nouwen, whose words have inspired me again and again. I subscribe to Daily Meditations from the Henri Nouwen Society; here is an excerpt from one of those devotionals:
“Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings…. As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children.”
That last line is what I hope you take from this post. You are…whatever you are feeling…God’s beloved child. When thoughts and feelings roll you about in a stormy sea, cling to the anchor of God’s love. You can find it in the present moment.
Here is an exercise to try next time you feel a swing in your mood. Pause, close your eyes if you can, and inhale deeply. As you hold this breathe for a brief moment, feel God’s presence within you as the air you breathe. Exhale, and continue to breathe in and out deeply, noticing the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body. Attention to the breath is a way to ground yourself in the present moment as well as remember God’s presence within and around you.