Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How to Practice Catholic Mindfulness

Something that I have struggled with for many years is feeling “too busy” to work on my spiritual growth. I have difficulty managing my time and focusing my energy on prayer and reflection rather than my to do list. As a child my family encouraged educational achievements, for me to set goals and to work hard towards accomplishing them. I soon began to attach my worth to that busyness, and therefore I did not perceive stillness or rest as virtues. Rather, I associated them with being lazy.  You can imagine what my prayer life looked like. I entered it with a set agenda, I was concise, and I didn’t take time to rest or listen to what God may have to say to me. It wasn’t until I began to study and teach mindfulness as a mental health therapist that I had a shift in my mindset.

Simply put, mindfulness is focusing your attention completely on the present moment. Doing so will put you in a relaxed muscle body. It is intentionally letting go of the past and not worrying about the future for a short period of time. Mindfulness allows you to calm an anxious mind, to rest, and to enjoy what is occurring in the present moment. It is associated with meditation, but it can be a state of mind in every day tasks as well. It can be you taking the time to notice the breeze playing with your hair, listening to and enjoying the birds chirping, or breathing in the smell of your shampoo during your shower. I instructed clients to become an observer to thoughts, or allow them to float through their mind like a cloud rather than attaching to them. When trying to relax and be in the present moment, if they found themselves distracted I would tell them to turn their attention back to what they were currently doing: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or even prayer. If you suffer from any sort of stress - and let’s face it we all do - then mindfulness is a great practice to implement.

I was confused then when I met people who claimed you could not practice mindfulness and Catholicism at the same time. Isn’t that what meditative prayer is? Mindfulness allows you to calm your mind enough to appreciate and see what God is putting before you in any present moment. Being in a state of rest allows you to rest in Him and more importantly, listen to what God may be trying to tell you. When one comes with their own thoughts or list of requests, they aren't taking time to listen to God or to simply spend time with Him. I know that in my own life I tend to become hyper-focused on small details, on past hurts, or worries about the future. It is difficult to step back and be present, to appreciate the blessings God has given me. I am only able to do that when focusing on the present. 

Ways you can implement Catholic mindfulness include:

Making the everyday tasks of your job your vocation. Being intentional about listening to others you may encounter, the task in front of you, and the little moments of beauty found there transforms what may seem mundane into an offering to God. He has given you talents, he has put you in a position at this very moment to use them. Rather than thinking about your to do list or what you want for lunch, focus on the current task with all of your mind. In times you may feel overwhelmed call on the Holy Spirit to still your heart and mind. How else can the Spirit speak through you? He will always provide you the words needed at that time.

 Lectio divina is a great time to be present with the word! Again, focus on what is right in front of you - the words of God -  instead of what was happening before you began or will come after. This will deepen your prayer. In times when you feel your mind wandering, turn your attention back to the word. 

Praying the rosary. Listen to the words you are praying, feel the beads under your fingers, smell the incense if you are in church. I find when I am mindful during the rosary, I am able to be more intentional and focused on what I am saying.

Resting during Eucharistic adoration. Eucharistic adoration at its core is spending time with God. Just as you would appreciate someone being fully present to you, God calls us to be fully present with Him. While many go to adoration with specific tasks, I like to take that time to simply rest with Him. 

As an LISW, I have seen mindfulness change the lives of many. While there are some roots of meditation in Eastern spirituality, the overall concept can be adapted and applied to our own Catholic practices. Take the time to be present with God today.

1 comment:

  1. I’m m a Protestant, but my cousin introduced me to Lecto Divina last year. Lifechanging!

    Eucharistic adoration as so many of the elements of the post are so enlightening. Thanks for posting. I’ve learened much about how I can approach my prayer time tomorrow morning.