Lift your head and dry your eyes.
Time for rising.
–Steve Bell, Bethany in the Morning
During Lent, I tried unsuccessfully to refrain from zoning out. Many evenings I succumbed to temptation and played Scrabble on my tablet or snacked while watching Netflix. As the weeks passed, I became more and more aware of how my addictions control me.
When I took it to God, I felt invited to renew my practice of Centering Prayer in the morning and do it again in the evening to keep the demons at bay. I hoped this would loosen my addictions’ hold on me and reconnect me to my desire for God.
Sometimes all I could do was make myself sit for twenty minutes in prayer with the promise that I could have a game of Scrabble afterwards. This actually felt like a move forward, and I do think it helped.
Working so hard to pray and fight my addiction doesn’t feel very contemplative. There’s a violent tone to it. Yet Christ didn’t come to me with clubs and swords, but with his breath. Just breathe. That’s all I had to do.
On Easter weekend, I listened to a podcast by Christine Valters Paintner on work. She quoted Thích Nhất Hạnh and in a guided meditation invited me to pay attention to what happens in my body when I rush and what happens when I’m present.
As I said last week, that’s when Christ appeared to me. Now was the time for rising.
I began reading Thích Nhất Hạnh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness and Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now and committed myself to a few simple practices:
- Practice Centering Prayer 20 min twice a day.
- Pray the Examen at the end of the day.
- Whenever your mind is dispersed, pay attention to your breath. Count it. Let it return you to the present.
- As much as possible, wherever you are, be fully there. Let it be the most important thing to do.
I get nervous when I write a “To Do” list like this. I don’t want to set myself up for failure. But in another podcast, Paintner talked about her rule for Sabbath keeping and admitted that, although she cannot always keep it, it’s good to return to. She likened it to what happens in Centering Prayer: when our mind wanders off, we are invited to gently return to God.
This felt doable.
An Ignatian practice is to recognize times of consolation (when we are turned toward God) and times of desolation (when we are turned away). Then make a plan while in consolation for what to do when desolation comes.
Mornings are my times of consolation and evenings are my dark times. By committing to these practices in the morning, even if I can’t always do them, there’s more possibility that I will.
I may not be able to sit for long or pray the Examen, but I can follow my breath for a few minutes and be aware of God praying in me, loving me, now, and now, and now.
The one thing we do every moment of our lives [i.e. breathe] is therefore to speak the name of God. This makes it our first and last word as we enter and leave this world.–Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” –John 20:19-22 (NIV)
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Christine Valters Paintner , PhD, OblSB, REACE is the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a Benedictine oblate, and the author of 8 books on monastic spirituality and creativity, as well as a poet, photographer, spiritual director, pilgrim guide, and teacher. I met Christine at a workshop SoulStream hosted for spiritual directors a few years ago. I still have the collage I made that day. This Easter, I signed up for Christine’s “daily nourishment” and received an invitation to take a free 8-day “Monk in the World” e-course, which contains the podcasts I referred to in my post today. I found her course so helpful, I have recommended it to directees and friends. The podcast I listened to on work is on the fifth day of that course.