Where the ‘Amen’ meets the ‘Om’

Where the ‘Amen’ meets the ‘Om’

This essay originally appeared at the Catholic portal of Patheos.com.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

When I took my first yoga class more than thirty years ago, I was in a bit of a crisis in terms of the Catholic faith of my birth. My mother had recently died and I had moved out of my family home and across the country. I was searching in so many ways and came upon yoga through a friend who knew a teacher who held classes in her home. There, on a mat in an empty living room, I learned how to stretch and settle my body in new ways, ways that allowed me to more easily enter a spiritual realm that has always beckoned to me. (more…)

Mindfulness minus the monastery

So yesterday my original plan was to head to a Buddhist monastery (Don’t worry, I’m not switching teams) for a Day of Mindfulness. I wanted to see how it’s done in other traditions and had hoped to experience a Buddhist walking meditation in addition to a dharma lesson and some really good vegetarian food. All for the price of a donation of my choosing. But, due to some nagging neck pain, I thought better of spending three hours round-trip in my car on top of almost two hours of sitting on a cushion on the floor and decided to do my Day of Mindfulness closer to home.

After getting the last of the kids off to school, I headed to the YMCA for my first spin class. Some may not think of this as mindful, but, in my world, any sort of repetitive motion that lets my mind settle into a deep place is the perfect recipe for mindfulness. Once I got past the jitters of knowing what to do and not to do in this class, I sank into that deep place, peddling fast, going up “hills,” singing to the music, closing my eyes, and disappearing from the world.

I left refreshed and ready for Phase Two of my homegrown Day of Mindfulness. I loaded up my juicer and made a great big green drink for a late breakfast. This juicer sat in storage in a basement cabinet for 12 years. No exaggeration. I almost gave it away at least five times, maybe more. But every time I’d change my mind at the last minute in hopes that some day I would return to this healthy habit. Lo and behold, I came across a super cool book about healthy eating, drinking, and living — Crazy, Sexy Diet by Karen Carr — and my juicing mojo kicked in. The recipe changes from day to day, depending on what’s in my fridge, but here’s a general idea in case you want to give it a try:

3 or 4 stalks of celery
1 cucumber
1 granny smith apple
a handful of spinach
a few leaves of romaine lettuce
1 carrot
a few strawberries or a few cubes of watermelon (or both) depending on how sweet you want to make it

That makes one really big glass of green juice. It’s surprisingly delicious and filling. Give a whirl if you have the time, equipment, and willingness to wash and peel and scrub lots of veggies. (If everything is organic, you don’t have to peel.)

After my green drink, I did some professional housekeeping that probably shouldn’t have been part of a Day of Mindfulness, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Still, I didn’t obsess or panic or get too caught up in the email or even Facebook (that’s a hard habit to break).

For a brief moment I considered that this might be the end of my Day of Mindfulness, but then I dragged our speaker out to the sunporch, loaded up my iPod with a recording of a yoga class by the teacher I had at Kripalu back in December, lit some incense, and proceeded to do an almost 90-minute series of centering, breathing, asanas, relaxation, and meditation. It was too awesome for words. I could hear the birds chirping, a lawn mower in the distance, leaves rustling. And when I was down on my mat, all I could see outside were trees and sky, allowing me to forget for a moment that the woods around us is gone.

Yoga was followed by a long shower and a healthy lunch of leftover couscous salad and a whole wheat pita with some lemon probiotic tea to wash it down. Then I moved onto the deck and sat in the sunshine while reading The Fire Starter Sessions. I’m using this fun and helpful book to reignite my creative fire, which was burned out after doing two books back to back. Good food for thought here and lots of helpful exercises and suggestions for all aspects of life.

Finally it was time for the kids to come home, the end of mindfulness, although I did try to at least remain calm, if not always mindful. The day proved to me what I already knew: I don’t have to leave home in search of a monastery in order to bring mindfulness to my daily life. In fact, it’s even better when it can happen right in the midst of the usual chaos. I still plan to get to the monastery for a “real” Day of Mindfulness with the monks and nuns, but, for now, I’m content with my own brand of meditation in motion.

If you like the idea of bringing mindfulness to the actions of your own sometimes-crazy life, stay tuned for my next book, Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Spirituality, which will be out in November. I give you ten chapters chock full of very practical ways to bring the divine into the mundane. There’s even a section of exercises in the appendix. I can’t wait to share it with you. More to come on that front as we get closer to liftoff.

Signing off for now. Have a mindful and peaceful day.

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