I was featured in a story on mindfulness that’s running in the Catholic Courier of Rochester this week, so I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about this favorite spiritual topic of mine. I said a lot more than was quoted in the piece (not unusual given newspaper word counts), which also featured a Trappist monk from the Abbey of the Genesee, one of my favorite retreat places. If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that my journey into mindfulness (and sometimes back out of mindfulness when I’m getting sloppy or lazy) started with my “mindful oatmeal” practice from years ago and blossomed into two books related to the practice of mindfulness in daily prayer and daily life. With each step forward on this path, I become more convinced that this is the way to inner peace and a deeper relationship with God. And when I stray from that path everything becomes slightly out of balance and more frenetic.
Mindfulness sometimes gets a bad rap in Catholic circles. Not in my Catholic circles but in others swirling around out there, sometimes loudly. Some Catholics want to say mindfulness is not compatible with our faith because of its obvious connections to Buddhism. And to them I say: Look at the long and beautiful history of Catholic monasticism, and there you will find the very definition of mindfulness. Every hour, every day, every season, every action set to the rhythm of prayer. It doesn’t get more mindful than that.
As I have said in books and blog posts and interviews, when I think of mindfulness from the Catholic perspective, I think, “God is in the details.” When we look closely at the mundane moments of daily life and do things with attention and intention, we discover the divine right where we are. God is in the line at the grocery store. God is in the dishes in the sink. God is in the laundry piled to overflowing. God is in the crocus pushing up through the cold, hard ground.
Of course, none of that makes mindfulness easy. In our fast-paced world, multitasking is seen as a badge of honor, so going against the grain and doing only one thing at a time takes effort. We need reminders and prompts to get us into the habit of mindfulness. For me those prompts come in the form of sounds and visuals. I have an hourly chime that rings on my office computer. Every time it chimes, I say the one-line Jesus Prayer until the bells stops reverberating: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” So short but so powerful. I have a prayer card from the Abbey of the Genesee hanging over my coffee maker as a morning reminder to pray. I have crosses, saint statues, Rosary beads, lotus flowers, seashells, Mary statues and icons and paintings in almost every room, and yes, even a Buddha statue. All of these things serve as exterior reminders of the peace I need to cultivate within. I have a specific sacred space in my office, one small spot with a cushion and a prayer bench for those times I want to sit or kneel in dedicated prayer or silence. And although all of this sounds wonderful, it doesn’t mean I always make time for prayer or always remember to be mindful, but even when I’m not so successful all of those visual signs and symbols keep pulling me back to my center and reminding me to focus on God, and that is the beginning of mindfulness for me.
Here are more mindfulness resources from this blog. Click on the titles to go to these posts:
A bowl of oatmeal as spiritual practice
Mindfulness minus the monastery
Changing your meals from mindless to mindful
Mindfulness bell: the sound of silence
Everyday Divine (various posts related to mindfulness and everyday spirituality)
And don’t forget to head over to the Catholic Courier for the story on mindfulness by Amy Kotlarz. Click HERE for that.