In my many years of working with people on their spiritual journeys, one objection raises its head over and over again:
I get it. I really get it. After all, before I had a job and a toddler and a business and the responsibilities of a spiritual community and my neighborhood community… Oh. Right. Well, before then, I was normally working 20-30 hours a week while doing either a Masters degree (or the year I was doing 2 Masters at the same time for different schools), or other post-graduate research and teaching, or I was working full-time and volunteering about 20 hours on the side.
So I get it. Not only do I get it, but I actually LOVE being busy. So I’m not going to sit here and rant and rave about the dangers of busyness (although if you’re really into that, you could read about that here or here or here). Because I get that your life, most likely, has commitments and things going on that you actually have chosen to be a part of. Right now, I’m at one of the busiest points in my life, and while I can feel overwhelmed sometimes, in general I’m thriving and super charged!
But to be completely frank with you, the reason I’m able to sustain my super-charged, completely busy lifestyle is the conscious choice I make each day to ground myself in my spiritual journey. By focusing on the Presence in the Present, I find myself able to keep all those balls juggling.
And the time commitment can be minimal – in just 5 minutes, you can radically change your awareness, your balance, your sense of purpose and productivity. Honestly, these are five minutes that you can do after you hit your snooze button on your alarm in the morning, or when you’re brushing your teeth. Five minutes that you can do while you’re brewing your coffee. While you’re sitting in traffic. And I’ve made it even easier for you by providing a downloadable mp3 that walks you through the process.
So, without any further ado, here are 3 steps – in 5 minutes – to keep the Presence in the Present and give yourself the needed spiritual juice to keep those balls flying in the air.
It seems so simple, right? We do it automatically. It’s an instinct. But studies show that there are enormous benefits to conscientious breathing. Even one minute of conscious breath can change your mood, improve circulation, and in general improve your day. Use an egg timer, or download this free audio mp3 to help you keep time. All you need to complete this exercise is the ability to count to 3, and your willingness to give up one minute of your time.
As you breathe in, count to three. Hold your breath for three seconds, then exhale over the count of 3. Then hold for another 3 seconds. Repeat this process five times.
Amazing, right? So simple. Ready for another one?
In this exercise, we simply take one minute to be grateful for something – anything, really – that catches our attention in the moment. If you are brushing your teeth, you could be grateful that you don’t have any cavities. If you are stuck in traffic, you could be grateful that you have some alone time to think and reflect. If you are waiting for coffee to brew, you could be grateful for coffee. Easy, simple. Just start with “Today, I am thankful for…” and insert your thing into that moment. Then, if you still have time, repeat the process. For example, this morning I was thankful for coffee, my daughter’s laugh, friendship with a someone I’ve known for over twenty years, and that the weather is a bit cooler and cloudy – my favorite!
That’s two minutes, now. You’re almost there.
This one takes a bit more awareness, and if it’s something you haven’t done before, I recommend that you try a guided meditation the first time. But it’s not really complicated. It just takes intention. In this exercise, you focus for 30 seconds on each of your five senses. All you are doing is cultivating an awareness of your experience. There’s no judgment or emotion attached to this process, it’s simply data-collection. If you find that you’re having an emotional response, that is completely ok, but recognize that this is a different process and a different practice for your spiritual journey. For this one, we are simply observing.
Sight – what are you looking at? What colors, light patterns, and shapes do you see? Does anything stand out to you? Is it clear or blurry?
Sound – what noises – or silence – do you hear in the background? Is there music playing, or do you hear birds singing? If it is silent, what does it sound like?
Smell – are there smells in your vicinity? Can you smell yourself? Is it something recognizable or familiar? What does it remind you of?
Taste – have you had anything to eat or drink recently that lingers? Is it bitter, sweet, sour, salty? Does it remind you of something? Is it familiar?
Touch – what sensations are you feeling in your body? Do you have pain anywhere in your body? What textures or textiles are in your vicinity. What are the parts of your body touching at the moment? Are your feet grounded – on what kind of surface? Are you sitting – on what kind of seat?
30 seconds isn’t much for this exercise, but it’s a great place to start. As you develop these muscles, you’ll find you’re able to spend a few minutes on each one with ease.
Actually, it’s only 4 minutes and 30 seconds of actual meditation, so you have an extra 30 seconds to relax and smile, knowing that you’ve just done yourself a huge favor – body, soul, and spirit
If you’d like to download your free mp3 guide to this process, or subscribe to receive updates, please feel free to signup by clicking the image below:
Today is Easter. It feels a bit arbitrarily dated this year, and I almost feel as if I didn’t catch up. I’ve been so caught up in Jewish rhythms this year that my own liturgical rhythms have been a bit more muted. I’m still wrapped up in Purim and deliverance and courage and honor – and so my reflection on Resurrection feels so different this year. We went to church, and it was so uplifting and fun. My “mom” up here in Canada is a pastor of a dynamic little congregation, and like many other evenings with this family, we have had intense and wonderfully thoughtful and deep conversations about faith and culture and ideas over amazing food and wine. We’ve been trying to figure out an age-appropriate way to talk about Easter with Amanda – but the whole ugly, violent death scenario is hard to reconcile. And you can’t get away from it with this holiday – I still have memories of being 3 or so and crying because they killed a nice man. But it’s a reality, because there can be no empty without a tomb.
I think about the diversity of people that I connect with here in this space. And I don’t want to have a preachy, turn or burny message on this special day in my tradition, but I want each of you to know the depth of love that my faith has given me for each of you – that there is something truly supernatural and miraculous to me about the *grace* that God has given me to love such a wealth of different people with such different backgrounds, faiths, opinions, perspectives, ethnicities, political views, and doctrine with the abandon and compassion that I feel when I think about you. There’s a passage in my sacred texts that I feel encompasses this – and if that same power that raised Christ from the dead is living in you, will He not give life also to you? That power of the resurrection – the power that brings things thought dead back to life – that’s the power in me. That’s the fire that fuels my love for each of you, believing in your dreams, believing in your goodness, believing in the best of each of you – knowing that whatever dies in undue time can, indeed, be brought back to life.
I want to live not just a resurrected life, but a resurrecting life, empowered and empowering each of you – no matter your beliefs or differences – to breathe life back into your dreams and dreams back into your life. To take broken and hurting places and pour as much life and love into them as I can, to bring restoration. To me, the empty tomb is a reminder to GO, to DO, to be present to each of you in a way that brings you life.
I may not always live up to this, but I pray that every year, I get a little bit better, and get a little bit closer to hitting my mark.
In general, this holiday, I am trying to hold sacred space for the resurrecting, life-giving power that I’ve been entrusted with, so that in living life with each one of you, I can impart some sacredness, some mystery, some light, life, and love.
I wish you a Blessed day, and may you find resurrection power flowing through your spirit in the coming season.
Well, it seems like grief is going to be my subject of choice for a little while.
I missed February and March, and now, here in April, I’m circling back to the subject.
I was listening to a podcast today, by Ben Katt (you can find it here: The RePLACING CHURCH Podcast), on having permission to grieve. Some of what he says is similar to what I’ve been saying for years: that we as a people – Western, individualized, bootstrapping (and particularly Christian) people – have rejected grief as an emotion of weakness and of failure. We’ve turned it into something that “other” people do. It’s seen as something almost shameful, something that we aren’t supposed to do, because being American, being Christian, is all about hope and light and love and being joyful in all circumstances. So, when people die, there’s this unspoken expectation that we’re supposed to get it together. There’s also this bizarre individualism and relationship to nuclear family – if you aren’t a sibling or parent or spouse, your grief isn’t as valid, which is heartbreaking. I can remember a few years back, a dear friend of mine lost her significant other. They weren’t married – yet – but all of us who knew them, knew her, knew their relationship, knew how close they were, how intimate their connection was, how devastating the loss was for her. We all knew that this was every bit as life-shattering as losing a spouse, but because the ceremony hadn’t been performed yet, her grief – as significant as a spouse’s – was discounted. She was at times excluded from those “family-only” moments, even though the family was compassionate.
That moment also taught me something else about grief. That so often when friends die, we have to have freedom to grieve the might-have-beens. I wasn’t particularly close to my friend’s partner. He was an amazing guy, and I liked him. My grief was ALL about who he was to her, and the way that he had changed her life for the better. My grief in losing him was about the lost opportunity, the lost future, the loss of the dream to see her walk down the aisle to him and know that he would take good care of her forever. I’m still grieving that for her.
I find that the grief of the last few years, losing my husband’s mother, my dear Uncle, my beloved friend – it’s no less real for me, even though they weren’t *directly* related to me. No, Karin was not my mom. But I loved her like one. Uncle Bud, not my father, but he treated me as his daughter. Carrie, not my sister, but as integral a part of my life as one. And because of the way our society handles grief, I’m left holding these griefs in a sort of limbo, where there are sharp, poignant moments surrounded by guilt because I’m not *really* supposed to be feeling the grief this sharply. That’s for those “directly” affected. Sadly, it doesn’t account for the grief of the might-have-beens.
We’ve taken the verse in our text that says, “we don’t grieve as those who have no hope” and turned it into “yeah, sure, we don’t grieve because we have hope.” When the actuality, as Ben talks about in his podcast on Grief, is that as believers, our hope causes us to grieve even harder. We don’t just grieve the loss of a beloved friend, spouse, parent, sibling. We grieve all the might-have-beens. We grieve that the Kingdom didn’t manifest and spare us death. We have to wrap our heads and hearts around the concept that the world is still hurting and death and illness are still robbing us of opportunity. We have to grieve that the abundant life that we have been promised is still an expectation, a longing. This kind of authentic, vulnerable grief is NOT weakness. It is strength. It is powerful. It is significant. And it should be embraced by the community. Rather than expecting people to pull themselves back out of the sadness by their bootstraps, we need to surround them and grieve with them, holding sacred space for them in the midst of their grief. We need to create those safe places where people can be held by one another in their difficulty, in their loss. They need to understand that they are not alone, that we grieve with them. In many ways, the Jewish culture has such a lovely and better approach, with their traditions of sitting shiva and praying together in minyan. There is a togetherness, and a holiness to standing with those in the midst of the grief and giving them permission to be there.
Today, I’m giving myself permission to grieve. I don’t have anything specific in my immediate sphere, but there’s been enough loss in my circles of friends that I will take time today to mourn with those who mourn, to take the love and light, the joy in all circumstances, the hope, and to grieve with my friends for all of their might-have-beens. I will give myself permission to be sad and miss my dear ones that I’ve lost over the last few years, wishing that they could be a part of my daughter’s life, sad that they’re missing out on my life, and I’m missing out on the possibilities of theirs.
Today, I encourage you… Grieve. Whether for your own loss, your own might-have-beens, or with someone else, there is power in the process.Read More
This is cross-posted to www.eastsideexperiment.com – our local community expression that we’re experimenting with. We’ll be discussing it in person on Sunday morning if you’re local and interested!
It’s the season of Advent. A season of expectation and waiting. In the ancient text about Jesus written by Luke, we have two songs of expectation. One from a young woman, and another from an old man, both glorifying God for His goodness, His restoration, His power.
But imagine if you will, the voices of these two people. Mary – a young Jewish woman, found pregnant before marriage. Formerly known for her faithfulness and devotion to the Lord, now she is seen as ruined, tainted. Joseph, her betrothed, most likely was encouraged to set her aside, and he even considers doing so, but refrains because of a message from an angel. What kind of expectations could such a woman have? Scorn, ridicule, pain, or suffering? Yet it says that Mary treasures the announcement and is filled with excitement and expectation for the Goodness of God. How often do we see the Goodness of God in the midst of news that is troubling or disconcerting? How often do we treasure the word of Life that is given to us, even as we know it will bring us struggle and heartache? Mary shines as an example of a young woman who trusts, who lives knowing the Heart of the Father, trusting that His Goodness will triumph over any circumstance.
Contrast that with Zechariah – an old Jewish priest, tasked with serving the Lord, held in honor and esteem, and given even more when his wife becomes pregnant miraculously after decades of waiting without any seeming life. Now, Elizabeth is preparing to give birth. Yet, Zechariah’s response was clouded with doubt. Even with all the trappings of a religious faith to convince him that the angel spoke rightly, he still doubts God’s goodness. He knows that if true, it will create honor and fulfillment for his family – the opposite of what the announcement foreshadows for Mary. Yet, he cannot bring himself to believe that God is FOR him, that God’s GOODNESS will triumph. And so, in consequence, while Mary rejoices and sings with expectation, Zechariah is given nine months of silence to ponder and come to terms with God’s word coming to fulfillment.
As time moves forward, however, expectation grows, and both Mary and Zechariah move deeper into an understanding of God’s Goodness and promise. They see it from unique perspectives, however. Mary’s perspective reflects the oppressed, the suffering, the poor in spirit – the very people her son Jesus will bless in His Beatitudes later in life. She sees the promise in store for these people and foreshadows the coming blessing of God for all people. Zechariah sees the light of tender mercy dawning as well, realizing that God’s perfect Love casts out fear and doubt, allowing him to serve God and be a minister of His Goodness.
Let’s look at two portions of the text:
From Mary – From generation to generation, God’s lovingkindness endures for those who revere Him. God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds. The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray. The rulers from their high positions of power, God has brought down low. And those who were humble and lowly, God has elevated with dignity. The hungry—God has filled with fine food. The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands. To Israel, God’s servant, God has given help, As promised to our ancestors, remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
From Zechariah – He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant—the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live…Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Both Zechariah and Mary know the promises of God and His Goodness for their people, and claim them for the future.
As we enter a season of Advent, we are invited to remember and participate in God’s Goodness, His mercy, His Kindness, His Faithfulness to all generations. Even as God was faithful to Mary and Zechariah in their circumstances, bringing restoration and redemption, God is eager to be faithful to us in this season of our lives. He is eager to be faithful as we are expectant for not only the return of the King, but the restoration and renewal of all things. God desires for us to partner with Him and trust in His Goodness. He longs for us to treasure our promises and allow our expectation to move our spirits to rejoice and proclaim the good things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do.
Some questions for reflection:
* What promises have you received from the Lord that remain unfulfilled? Have you held them with expectation or with doubt?
* In what ways have you seen God’s Goodness manifest, even when times are hard – and seeming to get harder?
* How can you partner with God this holiday season to see His Goodness made manifest to other people?
* What would you like to hear from God in this season? Take a moment and journal out some questions that you would like to have answered.