Balance: Mindfulness and Lent in Practice

Can you believe it's March already?! How did that happen? But, on the plus side, the time change is about a week away. To say that I'm excited about this would be an understatement. I find more daylight hours keeps my body more balanced. Especially after the winter we've experienced here in Boise this year... the worst on record in the past 30 years. It seems all my neighbors (and myself) are suffering from a little PTSD. It's all anyone can talk about. When my weather app indicates the mere possibility of a few snow flurries over night, I puke a little in my mouth. I'm over it. I need some sunshine, pronto.

But, last night I had dinner with a group of friends from church. We put our coats on and built a fire in the fire pit outside. It was heavenly. The friends, the fire, the not freezing to death... absolutely lovely.


Ok, enough about the weather. This post is supposed to be about my quest for balance in 2017.

In January, between digging my car out of several feet of snow, more than once, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to complete a 30 day yoga challenge. I'd not really done much yoga before. In the past I've stayed away from it because I didn't think my balance was up to the task. I didn't want to feel like I was failing. Even though, practicing yoga could help me practice better balance.  So, with this thought in mind, I'm just going to practice, I picked up a new yoga mat and set to work. And you know what? I really learned to enjoy it. My time on the mat was practical and grounding in a way I had not expected. It helped me pay better attention to my posture throughout the day which helped my balance. I forced me to sit still and quiet for a little while. It stretched out my lower back and hips in ways I never thought possible. I'm a fan. But it only works if I practice at it, right?

In February, I signed up to audit a class on Mindfulness which was being offered through Coursera. It's taught by a couple psychologists out of Oxford and Leiden Universities. We've been looking at all the different philosophies and psychotherapeutic ways that mindfulness is used and then there are meditation exercises to try. While I understand the academic side of things, I'm enjoying the practical applications. It almost makes me want to go back to school. Almost.

At it's core, mindfulness exercises are meant to help you center yourself in the present moment. It's used in stress reduction therapy as well as Cognitive Behavioral therapy. Maybe I should mention that I see meditation and mindfulness as a type of prayer. But, I also see it as a therapeutic tool. Mindfulness has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce panic and anxiety, and help people sleep better. I'm trying to figure out how to teach mindfulness to my college freshman... I feel like students (of all ages) are more stressed than ever. Anyway, I'm having fun learning new things and stretching myself. 

March 1, 2017 (this past Wednesday) was Ash Wednesday. And, as the season of Lent approached, I was journaling and praying (and mindfully meditating) about what I should give up for lent. I realized a pattern I've developed and don't really like. I work from home about 50% of the time, and because of this, I started turning on the TV as I worked... I told myself I wanted the distraction... But, usually, the noise and chaos and national/international turmoil drained all the life out of me. I felt like I wasn't really accomplishing anything valuable. And, I noticed I wasn't sleeping well either. So, for Lent, all the remote controls are stashed in a drawer and I am retraining myself to focus, stay mindful, of the task before me... like writing this blog. So far, I notice a big difference. My mind is quieter. I've slept better, accomplished more. 

The thing about lent, is that it's not a 6 week self-imposed hunger strike to get God to show up and hand us what we want. It's really about creating space for God to fill as a way of ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven into our reality. I participate in lent for exactly this reason. Last year, at Lent I wrote a series of prayers that were read during worship at my church. I've compiled them into a book if you are interested, check it out on amazon.

And, very soon, like possibly in the coming week, I'm going to release a devotional. I can't wait to tell you about it!

This is Not the End,