I just posted two books to the book resource list on how to deal with stress. One is by a psychiatrist, the other a medical doctor, and both have in common the practice of mindfulness meditation, using meditation to learn how to bring ourselves fully into the present moment. What does stress have to do with spirituality? Much! What is stress? It is often an expression of our anxiety – worry about the future, frequently based on stuff that happened in our past. Just like fear is not really based in the present – but in what may happen in the future.
It is hard to live a spiritually balanced life when you are constantly living in the future or the past.
It is hard to be fully present to another person when you are thinking of what may come, or dwelling on what just happened. You end up missing the moment for connection. You know how it goes – the classic example is you’re in a conversation with another person, they say something that gets you thinking, and you start planning your response while they are still talking, and as a result you totally miss what they said! Missed connection!
It is hard to be authentic when you are thinking about how others may perceive you (future-oriented) or feeling shame or regret (past-oriented).
It is also hard to be open to God when we are dwelling on what happened yesterday, or what may happen tomorrow. We actually close ourselves off to God, and lock ourselves into cages of our own making that limit who we can be. True, God can open prison doors, as Deitrich Bonoeffer said in his Letters and Papers from Prison,but sometimes we are the ones who build them, and it is always our choice to stay in them or to leave when the door is open and the walls are broken down.
God is a God of the present, not just the past or the future. In fact the only moment God acts in is the present. The gift of life can only be experienced in the present. The opportunity to connect is only here in the present. We can only listen in the present. We can only grow in the present.
Two things (at least!) happen when we make the choice to be fully open to the present moment: first, we set aside the past and the future, giving us a fresh chance to make new choices in the present. As we exercise that choice, it brings us the possibility of living a more healthy, balanced, and less stress-filled life. Second, we open ourselves up to God in ways not possible when we are stressed out. By practicing being present in the moment, we create space for God to enter into us and to work in us and through us. When we open ourselves up to God in the present moment, we make a choice for health, for balance, and for life.
Just a few random thoughts as I read those books on mindfulness and stress reduction. Let me move into future thinking for a moment, and say I am looking forward to another post in the near future giving you concrete ideas about how to make that choice to live in the moment, and to practice that throughout the day.
Peace!Sue Coller ~ Rooted in God ~ Open to Grace ~ Filled with Joy ~ Embracing the Heart of the Healer