Hi all! We hope you found the blogpost last week full of useful information and links to help you feel a little more supported and equipped during this period of lock down? If you scroll down to the  bottom of this second post there are some new sources of online inspiration, expertise and community, so please check them out below. 

Practices for wellbeing Series

First though, we thought it might be interesting to offer a series of posts over the next few weeks covering some simple practices which can help support our wellbeing as we navigate the uncertainties of 2020. Please keep reading whether you identify as a Christian or not, because I think there is something here for us all.

Uncertainty is a notoriously difficult reality for our minds to accept, we long for control, safety and reliable outcomes. Of course we do! However, this global pandemic certainly makes quick work of stripping back many of the things that provide us with the illusion of certainty and control – productivity and busyness, economic security, predictable routines and simplified beliefs such as ‘everything happens for a reason’. Are you are feeling increasing anxiety due to these uncertain times, or perhaps someone you love is? There is certainly no shame in that. You may find yourself asking profound questions of your faith or the values you have put at the centre of your life? I know I have. This is all perfectly normal in very abnormal circumstances, so be let’s be kind to ourselves? 🙂

The great news is that there are some simple practices related to mindfulness and prayer which might provide a deeper sense of peace and resilience amid these uncertainties. One such practice that is directly relevant to anyone is the very simple one of pausing, mindfully, in the present moment. Let’s take a look!

The Practice of Pausing:

Week 1. Pausing for deeper, grounding truths in a time of uncertainty

To understand the importance of intentional pausing, I think it is important to understand one of our most potent and fundamental capacities as human beings – our power of attention. Every moment of our day we are making conscious and unconscious decisions about where to place our attention. Certain things, we have learnt over time, do not need our conscious attention much at all – how to ride a bike or whether to trust gravity as we step out of bed for example. We do these types of things on automatic pilot, (unless we suffer a drastic depletion of our physical and/or emotional capacity). How much of your day do you think is lived on automatic pilot? A certain amount of it is vital for normal functioning but too much can be like falling asleep to the richness and reality of our own lives. We all do it, it is a perfectly normal way that the brain works!

At the same time, and particularly in a time of sudden crisis in the modern age, we are assailed on all sides by a never-ending cascade of news, updates and communications. Our attention can be pulled constantly from one worrying piece of information or event to the next, and the background buzz of anxiety and unease can become draining. Do you find that your mind is often lurching and darting from automatic pilot mode to startled reaction mode? It is exhausting! No wonder the ancient Greek word for worry, merimnao, found in the bible and other ancient texts, means to have one’s mind divided and pulled apart in different directions. No surprise then that we can be left feeling ragged and scattered. 

So let’s explore how a regular practice of mindful pausing helps us become increasingly aware of deeper streams of Love and Divine presence in our day to day lives? And how that can hold us steady and keep us awake to the joy and beauty that lives along side the harder stuff of life. I thought the most practical thing to offer first was a step-by-step outline of a short and do-able practice of pausing, but of course, feel free to make it your own and improvise: 

Mindful Pause Practice

Take a moment away from the busyness of doing. Take a seat, slow your breathing a little if it seems fast and shallow, become aware of the stream of your thoughts and feelings. Notice how the breath feels as it slowly enters the body on the inhale and is released even slower on the gentle exhale, notice the sensations in your body? Perhaps place your hands gently over your heart, place your feet on the floor. Become fully present to the moment that is right here, right now.

What is here for you in the present moment? Try naming the feelings without judging them or pushing them away. Be curious and kind. 

If you are a person of faith, you can sink into the presence of the loving Christ who holds you in this moment, in every moment. You can trust He is faithfully present even if you can’t feel it. You can find rest for your soul here. What is God whispering to you?  If you feel nothing in particular, simply remember you are utterly beloved and God is your ground of being, closer than your breath. Distracting thoughts will come and go, don’t worry at all, just gently  nudge your attention back to Christ. No striving, or needing things to be a certain way. You are enough and you are loved. Stay with that truth for a few moment moments before opening your eyes and gently bringing your attention back into the room. 

If you would not describe yourself as a person of faith, perhaps there is a sense turning towards Love in this moment of pause, trusting that there is a foundation of Love that lies deeper and can hold you. Listen to the sounds around you, the slow breath going in and out of your body. What is here for you? What does it feel like to be present, right here and right now? You are enough and you are loved. Perhaps linger with that truth for a few moments before opening your eyes and gently bringing your attention back into the room. 

You may notice the flow is somthing like: (pause – notice – accept without judgement – rest/be – receive)

What we are talking of here is intentionally pausing to be more open and present to our own experience and a deeper stream of Divine love that, which however you understand it can offer compassion and strength through all the vicissitudes and difficulties of life. Like an anchor to hold you steady or a sense of solid ground beneath your feet.

{As a small caveat, if you have been experiencing intense difficulties, when you pause to ask the question, “what is here?”, you may find some painful feelings rising up. In that case, you may want to be aware of your window of tolerance and refocus on a specific, concrete support like a verse of scripture, a poem or a prayer? Or simply stop, that is fine. Part of our growth and transformation is about facing the hard things within ourselves but this best done at a pace that feels manageable, and often with the support and care of a trusted other friend or therapist.}

What happens when we do this regularly?

When we do this simple turning inwards from head to heart, we realise we can begin to create some space between the life that is coming full tilt towards us, and the responses we make. As Viktor Frankl (an Austrian psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz), wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

So, we can learn to pause regularly and refocus our attention on the deeper streams of Love that undergird our lives, finding a deeper truth of what is actually present underneath the rush of adrenaline, flurry of action and tangle of thoughts. This doesn’t remove the difficulties from our lives but it does offer a different perspective and gives opportunity for greater clarity and discernment.

As Christians we believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within us, the Divine spark that no darkness can put out. When we pause and rest in that deeper stream of connection and surrender to the presence of God, the peace offered to us is transformational because it is not dependent on our circumstances. And it is a free gift of grace, it meets us in our mess, just as we are. It is the invitation of our lives. It is saying yes, to this beautiful offer from Christ (Matt 11 v28-30): Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Another thing that begins to bloom, is a growing ability to sit alongside our emotions, thoughts and experiences with kindness and curiosity, rather than judgment or denial. We can observe these aspects of ourselves rather than be fused to or controlled by them, and over time this can be life-changing. Could this be, at lease in part,  what is meant by the verses from Romans in the New Testament that say, ” Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind?”

Further resources for mindful pausing:

You could try the ‘daily offices’ of prayer on The Practice Podcast HERE .  Or please join us in the Christian meditation Facebook group, Finding Stillness, HERE – you can sign up from the Zeo website.

Bridgetown Church are also offering some fantastic opportunities to pause for some Christian meditations specially designed for the time of pandemic on their podcast HERE.

If you aren’t a Christian but are interested in this idea of pausing, there is a great podcast by Rob Bell about pausing HERE . You could check out the many apps which offer non-religious meditations such as Headspace which offers a free option HERE.

 

Finally, for other useful links on the internet this week:

 

Nature Appreciation

For beautiful glimpses of the world from people’s windows from Berlin to Venuatu have a look at the  facebook group View From My Window . It has over a million members already!

If you would like to hear birdsong from all over the world this spring, check out the Facebook group, The Wild Listening Project

 

Bedtime (or anytime) stories for kids

There are some wonderful resources for bedtime (or anytime!) stories for kids for free online at the moment. Our very own Zeo Kids are offering a fabulous selection on Youtube see HERE.

The children’s author, David Walliams, is doing all sorts of watch-and-listen storytimes, check them out HERE.

A whole heap of amazing storytellers HERE, but check the time difference as many are broadcasting from the USA. Readers include Michelle Obama!

 

Lockdown life-savers

Have a look at the following list of amazing resources has been put together on The Green Parent website but there are some links here which might be of interest for all ages – take a browse HERE.

See you next week! Don’t forget if you would like any extra support or prayer at the moment, don’t hesitate to email us at care@zeochurch.com