August is Mindfulness Month

The topic for this month is Mindfulness. According to Tim Stead, an Anglican priest in Oxford, mindfulness has been called; silent prayer, contemplative prayer, the desert tradition, or mystical theology in the Christian tradition. It has been around since the time of Jesus to the present. In about the 1970’s, the study of mindfulness and its effects on health became the focus of much research. Tim Stead (2018), defines it as, “Being more fully aware of your own experience in the present moment in a non-judgmental way.” There are some who feel that mindfulness or meditation is their time to listen to God and to discern God’s will for them.

Research on mindfulness has exploded because we are constantly and anxiously judging our worlds. Much of our lives are spent in reactive, auto-pilot modes and based on fears about right/wrong/good/bad. Often, we mull over or ruminate over thoughts and situations that lead to more anxiety, fear, and depression. Mindfulness or meditation builds new neuro-pathways that allow greater blood flow and activations of regions of our brains, that allow one to change these thought processes. Mindfulness keeps us in the present. Ruminations may continue, but they are allowed to glide by, as one brings themselves back to the present. In this mode, one does not place judgments on one’s thoughts- nor should, could, or ought’s.

Like any health change, the more we practice the better we get. The benefits of mindfulness may not be overwhelming but are subtler. One is not as reactive or finds they are more flexible to the waves of stress. According to the Church Health Reader, here are some ways of getting started with mindfulness:

Mindful Morning- Even before you get out of bed, take some deep breaths, use a favorite centering prayer or pause to be aware of how the various parts of your body feel. Some centering prayers: Gracious God-heal my heart, or Lord Jesus-have mercy, or Holy Spirit-fill me said with the rhythm of the in-breath and out- breath.

The Best Intentions- We all have things we have to do every day that consumes most of our time. Take a few seconds to choose something that we want to be today- kind, calm, patient. What value is on your heart that you want to embrace at this moment?

All the Feels- We go through much of our day on auto-pilot like brushing our teeth to how we fuel our bodies to having conversations. For one minute -focus on what it feels like to brush your teeth, to pet your dog/cat, to inhale clean laundry.

Cool Spots- Choose a spot where you can be alone for 5 minutes- even on the bus. Anywhere you can close your eyes, breathe intentionally, and observe your senses. This helps to reduce stress.

Stead, T. (2018, Summer). Mindfulness and meditation. The Church Health Reader, 8(3), 17-35.