The Zeo Care blog is back for the autumn, looking at what it is to be human and how we can find deeper wellbeing and wholeness in God’s loving care of us.
So here we are in early October, finding the pandemic is still with us. Life has not returned to ‘normal’ and many of us feel wearied by the impact of 200 days of living with the realities and restrictions caused by coronavirus. And yet we know, deep in our bones as followers of Christ, that God is with us still and working in our midst, full of hope and peace and grace. A question that might be important in this present time, is how we live into and experience this goodness of God when our lives feel very uncertain and anxiety is high all around us; how we remain open to joy and wonder when we are also feeling drained often or lonely in these strange days. Life and faith is so full of paradox and mystery isn’t it, and yet there is the beauty and wisdom and goodness of God weaved through it all to experience if we can remain open to it?
The words of the psalms express these mysteries so passionately, full as they are of faith and lament, joy and despair, never shying away from raw emotions and yet alive and shimmering with the promises of God. They can offer us great comfort and hope. The words of Psalm 8 sing out loud and clear about the astounding fact that God in all his glory and majesty is ever mindful of us, always involved with us, caring for us and inviting us to walk and work with him for the good of the world:
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
Maybe take a moment to breathe in the comfort and promise held in these words – words of prayer that tremble with the wonder and mystery of how God is always and forever mindfully caring for you and me.
Exploring christian mindfulness
We are going to explore the loving mindfulness of God this term, (in monthly blogposts), considering how the revelation of God’s kindly care of us is so life-changing, and why He might want us to lead lives of compassionate awareness too – for our flourishing and for that of all He has created. Can we imagine a beautifully mindful and caring church, reflecting the very loving mindfulness of God to the world? It is a very hopeful image.
So, what is mindfulness, and how do we understand it as Christians? Mindfulness is simply our innate, universal human capacity for awareness and attention. Part of becoming more Christ-like is becoming better able to focus loving, non-judgemental attention upon what is really before us and going on within our hearts, moment by moment, and expand our awareness to include the very presence of the Holy Spirit alive to us in our perception and experience. Some in the past have described this as ‘practicing the presence of Christ’. It certainly does take practice and intention because we so easily become trapped in the stories we tell ourselves, our biases and fixations, all the ego distractions and busyness of our small selves (the striving, anxious self that feels unconnected to God, the ground of our being). As disciples and students of Jesus, what sustainded mindfulness practice invites us into over time is surrender to a Christ-centered life, wiser, calmer discernment and a heart open to the love and leading of God in all the circumstances life throws our way. It is difficult to think of a time recently when we needed this assurance of God’s mindful care of us more urgently, or needed more than now to experience His peace and compassion in our lives and have enough to pour out generously to others?
Where can I find out more?
There are many places to find out more about a faith-centred mindfulness practice – of course just reading about the life of Jesus in the gospels is the best way to learn about a life of loving awareness of God, self and others. There are also many wonderful ancient and contemporary books to read about the subject, here are two excellent places to start for a contemporary understanding: Putting on the Wakeful One (by Shaun Lambert), Being Mindful, Being Christian (by Brickman, Collicutt and Bretherton)
But perhaps the most simple thing we could all do is find moments, small pools of quiet with God, when we can intentionally bring our attention and awareness to the present moment, and sense without judgement, what is really here, right now? Can we step back from the busyness of our thoughts now and again to the quietness of God’s presence around us and within us? Can we expand our awareness from our pre-occupations and distractions, even if only for a minute, and breathe in the eternal, living presence of God with us? Not needing to force anything or achieve anything. Sometimes a simple single word or phrase of prayer, or an image can help us focus. Don’t worry if distracting thoughts crowd in, it is normal, we can acknowledge them but not get entangled in them. This is the practice of turning mindfully, in the present moment, to what is truly here and to the holy and loving presence of God that holds us in this moment, experiencing the eternal NOW. It is a beautiful beginning.