Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Time Has Come: The Blessing of Christian Mindfulness

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." -- Matthew 6:34  The Message

Continual stress is unfortunately a daily reality when you are any kind of  caregiver ... especially, the surveys show, the caregiver of a person with a severe mental illness. We want to follow Jesus' instructions, to not worry, but how?

Christian mindfulness is one of the best ways to "give your entire attention to what God is doing right now." In fact, the discipline of Christian mindfulness sees every activity in your life as an opportunity to meet God where you are. To do this, we must be "all there" in the moment. 

Most of what you read about mindfulness comes from a Buddhist slant. Indeed, some of the best techniques that I have learned have come from Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Zen Buddhist who has brought the practice to people under enormous stress and in terrible pain. It's important to understand that, while the techniques can be similar, Christian mindfulness has a different philosophical base and a different goal.

Simply said: The Buddhist techniques can be transferable to Christian mindfulness by adding the presence of God. Buddhists look at the moment. Christians look at the presence of God in the moment.

To get there, we must give up our fantasies in favor of living in reality. Like many people, I can tell you exactly how my life was supposed to work out.  In vivid detail. But daydreaming (or more accurately, brooding) about that blocks the ability to see God, who has decided that my life will work out somewhat differently than my plan. Instead, we live in the reality of the present while being loving to God and the people we find in our lives.

Therese of Lisieux, whose book "Autobiography of a Soul" has been an inspiration for me, got it. As I learned more about her, I've discovered that her father struggled with severe depression, so she knew what it's like to have mental health issues in the family. Yet her sole concern was to carry out the will of God as it was revealed to her second by second. It was her famous "Little Way," doing everything, no matter how small, with great love. She wrote: "I just keep concentrating on the present moment. I forget the past and preserve myself from worries about the future."

It is a pathway to a more peaceful, holier life. People, actions and events are the medium through which God comes. The given moment is the only place where you can meet God. Cultivating a strong spiritual life involves paying attention to the now. And doing the next right thing. One step at a time. One moment at a time.

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