Losing Focus: Being Mindful

Losing Focus: Being Mindful

Ever feel like you’re rushing through life and losing focus?  Recently, there was a time when everything around me seemed blurry.  I was singularly focused on a task and everything else was just noise.  Some might say that I was hyper focused, but in reality, my single-mindedness blotted out the beauty of life that surrounded me.  There’s nothing wrong with being driven, but without keeping the big picture in mind, you could drive right off a cliff.

Just One Day

I was preparing for a workshop.  As I rushed around finishing up, I found myself in a cloud of oblivion.  I walked around checking off my mental to-do list and barely noticing those around me.  Literally, I ran into someone because I was so absorbed that I wasn’t even watching where I was going.  As I rushed to complete one last task, I barely registered a group of people that I had passed.  Halfway down the hall, a thought flitted into my consciousness that they might have said something to me, but I just kept going, swatting that thought from my mind.  Later, each one of the people in the group stopped by to make sure that I was okay.  They mentioned that as I passed I had a blank expression on my face and completely ignored their greetings.  In fact, they were concerned that perhaps I was sick or deeply troubled.  I had become a walking zombie with no focus, no emotion and no awareness of my surroundings.  This was startling and saddening to me…I was losing focus.

Missing the Details

While I might rationalize that I was simply focusing on wrapping up the last minute to-dos, the reality was that I was missing all of the glorious details in life.  What had the sunrise been like on my morning drive?  How did my breakfast taste?  Did my earrings even match? Who greeted me with a smile that I blatantly ignored?  I was lost in the weeds and completely losing focus of the world around me.

Just Two Things

I offer just two things that I try to remember each day to bring my world into focus.  They are simple, yet effective.

First, savor the first drink of the day.  For me, it’s coffee, but this could apply to anything.  Cradle the cup in your hands and notice how it feels; warm?  cold?  Let your nose linger before taking a sip and soak up the aroma.  Notice how that first sip feels as hydration comes into your body for the first time that day.

Second, take inventory while you are driving.  Of course, you need to pay attention to where you are going and drive safely.  Notice your body posture; slumped?  tense?  Notice your hands on the steering wheel; gripping tightly or loosely?  Make any necessary adjustments so that you are comfortable, relaxed and alert.

Enjoy the Journey

Each day holds its own special surprises.  Don’t let life pass you by in a blur; practice not losing focus.

 


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Promise of Spring

Promise of Spring

Promise of Spring

Who doesn’t love spring?  The chill in the air is subsiding, buds are beginning to form and even some flowers are showing signs of blooming soon.  It seems each day brings a surprise as the landscape around me become more vibrant and colorful. This new season brings us into a time of hope, rebirth and blossom.

Hope

The promise of spring is always full of hope.  The harshness of winter begins to melt away and the warmer air of spring lightens my souls.  As I sit on my patio, even the birds seem to be vocalizing their cheerful songs of expectation.  It is important for me not to confuse hope and expectations. There are many things that I desire to happen, but not many of them are under my control.  I do not feel anxious about these uncertainties… I try not to place them in the category of expectations, but certainly I have hopes and dreams for the upcoming year.  If I expect things to go a certain way, as though I am entitled, then I will most certainly find disappointment.  If I place my hope for the future in the hands of God, I feel comforted that if the outcome is not in line with my strongest desire, at least I will not walk alone.  My hopes can continue to live on and be renewed, just as life all around me is renewed again each spring.

Rebirth

Each day I notice something new coming to life; a baby calf following its mama in the field; the first bee to venture out of its hive; formerly brown sticks that are now bursting with green buds.  All around life is renewing itself.  I wonder what part of me is being reborn, especially as I go through the Easter Season.  Contemplating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus allows me to see the humanity and divinity in all of the living things around me.

What will be reborn in me this spring?  For me this spring it seems my sense of wonder has been reborn. I feel an excitement this spring, It is almost as though I am seeing things for the very first time.  I sat in amazement the other day as I watched the birds come out after a spring shower.  They covered the grasses and even the road in great numbers.  I wondered, where have they all been this winter?  It was so joyous to watch them and hear them frolicking.

Blossom

Spring brings forth a tremendous amount of new growth in everything around us.  It is a time too, for me to take inventory and see where I can stretch myself and blossom. For many people there is a fear of change. I think that if we perceive change like a newly formed bud that stretches itself up to the sun so that it can blossom, that change seems less scary.  Who wouldn’t want to unfold and open into something so beautiful?

I hope that your journey is filled with the promise of spring: hope, rebirth and blossom.


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Lent: Unlocking the Gifts

Lent: Unlocking the Gifts

As we enter the season of Lent, what are you feeling?  Are you filled with dread, anticipation or apathy?  I met a man who told me that Lent was his favorite holiday.  “What?” I asked with a skeptical eyebrow raised.  He went on to explain that this was the one time a year that he felt free to add spiritual practices to his routine without guilt.  It was a radical concept for me to frame this 40-day period of time as space where I was given permission to add extra prayer or meditation to my life.  I had never thought of Lent in this light.  To me it had been the dreaded season of giving up things like chocolate or wine.

Exploring the Path

The three traditional practices during Lent are prayer, fasting  and almsgiving.  The only path to these practices is not through giving things up. The intention is to deepen your relationship with your Higher Power and to more fully realize whom He created you to be. Can you imagine this Lent as an opportunity to go on an adventure?  Could you explore your life in new ways and allow God to be your companion? Like any great adventure, the desire is for it to bring lasting and meaningful changes into our lives, not simply short-term fun.

Unlocking the Gifts

I now approach Lent as a time that is offered as a gift.  Imagine what you might to do for one hour a week to unlock or unwrap this gift.  Would you join a meditation group?  Be of service at a shelter that assists the less fortunate in your community?  Block out time in your calendar to study scripture? Where are you being called to expand, grow or be of service? What gift can you give yourself (and God) this Lent?

Offering of Reflections

In preparation for Lent, I was given the opportunity to contribute to the reflections that will be offered by Spiritual Ministries Institute in Dallas/Fort Worth.  I invite you to consider adding their daily Lenten reflections to your routine during this season.

My guest blogs will be offered on the first three Fridays following Ash Wednesday which is on February 14, 2018.  I will add the links as they become available.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 16 – Sour Grapes

Friday, February 23 – God’s Temple

Friday, March 2 – Storms of Life

Meatless Fridays

If you are looking for ideas for meatless meals during Lent or just wanting to try some new healthy choices, please check out my Meatless Meals recipe board on Pinterest.


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Noticing Happiness

Noticing Happiness

Seems like a simple thing to notice what brings us happiness, but is it?  I was recently sitting with a dying friend who often gives me food for thought.  On this day, he was filled simultaneously with joy and sorrow by happy memories.  He tried to explain to me what he was feeling as he recalled a memory from his past.  “It’s all the little things that didn’t seem to matter at the time, but I realize now that they were so important.  I think most of us go through life never recognizing the happy moments,” he lamented.  This has really gotten me to thinking… and trying to notice those moments that fill me will happiness.

What is Happiness?

Is happiness a good mood, a state of well-being, a feeling of contentment, or a deep satisfaction?  I think probably all of those definitions would work to describe happiness.  What I have tried this week is to be physically conscience of when I smile?  I invite you to go through a day noticing all of times that you smile.  Then try to identify why you are smiling.

Little Moments of Happiness

Here are a few things that I noticed.

The sound of my friend’s car pulling up in front of my house.

The warmth of my coffee in my cool hands.

The laughter of a child.

The sun rising over the mountains.

The familiar smell of someone I love as they lean in for a hug.

Fresh baked goods wafting through the air.

A wave of hello from a neighbor.

The picture of my mom lighting up on my cell phone when she called.

What things could you put on your list of things that made you smile today?

Happiness Challenge

What bothered my friend the most was that he didn’t think that he had even really noticed or acknowledge the moments that brought him so much happiness in his life as they were happening… hence why they now make him sad.  I am forever grateful that he shared this great revelation with me.  It gives me the choice to be present to all those little moments, to feel the joy, and to respond to who or what is bringing me joy.

Enjoy the journey through the everyday moments of life!

 



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Sacred Moments

Sacred Moments

Maybe you are like me and you travel the same way to work each day … an ordinary trip.  But if I pause and allow myself to be mindful during my trip, it can become an extraordinary journey  I invite you to consider that each day is an opportunity to explore spirituality in the ordinary times in life and make them sacred moments.

A Trip to Work

 

Admittedly, some days my car is on autopilot. Have you ever realized you are at your destination without having much recollection of the journey that got you there?  Recently, I set the intention to be mindful on my trip to work. When I began it was dark, and I had only the limited light from my headlamps to guide me.  Soon the outlines of the mountains began to appear, smooth and dark against the early morning sky.  Then as the sky began to brighten, I noticed the mountains were not exactly smooth.  This time of year, the trees are bare and the mountain tops are feathered with the light that seeps through the barren tree branches.  I encountered a fog bank as a rounded a bend.  My line of sight was completely obscured and I found myself enveloped in complete whiteness. I had to slow my pace and adjust to the current circumstances.  By the time I arrived at work, the dawn had cast  a beautiful red and purple hue across the morning sky.  It was magnificent, filled me with the promise of an awesome day, and reminded me that sacred moments happen every day.

A Journey in Life

It occurs to me that many of the spiritual journeys in life mirror that of a simple drive to work.  The goal might be clear, or perhaps through prayer and meditation your path might begin to unfold.  Either way, there are certain to be times of darkness, obstacles and clarity along the way.  The opportunities are all around us to make each day a new and exciting adventure and uncover these sacred moments.

Darkness

Journey thru darkness

There are times when it’s dark, and we don’t want to begin our journey.  The darkness could be external or internal.  This physical, mental or spiritual darkness could be caused by illness, loneliness or ambition that blinds us. This could present itself in the form of uncertainty, reluctance or the inability to see clearly the people and things around us. Whatever the case, you might feel lost even on familiar ground. The use of prayer and meditation can help to illuminate the first step.  Sometimes the first step is just as simple as that…taking the first step.  Setting out into the unknown towards something that you want to achieve in your life.  Not letting the darkness hinder your desire to go forward towards sacred moments is an important beginning to any journey.  I encourage you not to let fear or doubt stop you in your tracks.  Times of spiritual darkness can easily drain your energy and make you turn inward.  Remember that even an unsteady or tentative start is progress.

Obstacles

Journey thru Obstacles

Unfortunately, even a great plan or journey might be hindered by obstacles.  On my drive, sometimes I encounter fog, rain, snow, traffic jams or accidents.  Likewise, on journeys in life, you might encounter things that interfere with your progress or the speed at which you can progress.  It is often advisable to slow down and take stock.  Notice if the circumstances warrant a slower pace.  I invite you to notice your reaction to the obstacle.  Do you get frustrated?  Are you relieved to take a little break?  Do you try to ignore the problem and hope it will go away? Do you isolate yourself from others or seek spiritual council from a trusted source.  All of your reactions are important to notice.  Patience may be a desirable virtue, but sometimes it is difficult to trust that all things are happening on God’s time.  Practicing the Breath Prayer might help you to develop patience, take a closer look at your reactions and begin noticing sacred moments.

Clarity

Clarity

At some point, things come into focus.  The light begins to break and you no longer find yourself in the dark or pestered by life’s obstacles. You can see the trees in the forest, not just the forest. People talk about “ah ha” moments or spiritual awakenings.  It has been my experience that clarity isn’t always a dramatic event.  Perhaps the small details along your journey become sharper and more manageable.  You might see the path more clearly and gain a burst of enthusiasm for the journey.  You might look back on a problem and realize that the solution is right in front of you. I believe that journaling can be very helpful in noticing these moments.  By looking back over your journals you can recount those uncertain times and see how you have gained wisdom or insight into the situation. If you feel your path is fuzzy, you could start journaling, practice mindful meditation or begin working on a personal Rule of Life.  You might consider talking to a spiritual companion to gain some direction and help you notice the patterns in your life.

Sacred Moments

I believe that every day can be an exciting adventure.  It’s a matter of being mindful and noticing the extraordinary even in the mundane, routine things in life.  Maybe it’s your drive to work, washing the dishes, folding the laundry, reading to a child, having coffee with a friend or washing the car.  Every single thing you do in life can be a new adventure filled with joy if you make yourself present and open to the possibility of the ordinary being extraordinary.  Let’s make all the little things in life sacred moments!

 



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Rule of Life

Rule of Life

This time of year is full of resolutions and goal setting, which honestly isn’t my thing.  About 5 years ago, the Rule of Life was introduced to me.  I was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a try.  The concept is similar to goal setting, but it’s more about establishing a rhythm for life to help you grow spiritually, mentally and physically to become more fully alive and joyous. It is not an ideal that you are striving towards, but rather a standard for your life that you desire to uphold.

Rules are Not for Me

I am not attracted to the word “rule”.  Who really wants to create more rules to live by? The word  “rule” is related to the ancient Greek word for “trellis”.  A trellis is a structure to help a vine grow upward, thus becoming more fruitful and productive. Similarly, creating a personal Rule of Life is about creating a structure to help you abide in God in all areas of your life and become more fruitful. It is an intentional plan to identify what you hold sacred and keep God at the center of everything.

Rule of Life Example

I was asked to first assess my life by contemplating the following questions.  What was I already doing spiritually, mentally and physically that brought me joy?  Which areas needed improvement?  What were my unique talents and gifts that I could use to be of service? Could I identify challenges and struggles in my life?  How mas I inviting God into my struggles and joys? What activities would I like to incorporate into my life?  Who were the most important people in my life and how did I show them love?

Then I broke these things down into things I do, or would like to do, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly.

My first attempt looked something like this:

Daily(5 out of 7 days): Pray with my spouse.  Meditate privately for 20 minutes in the evening. Walk briskly around the neighborhood.

Weekly: Attend Mass.  Attend a support meeting.  Eucharistic Adoration for 1 hour. Be of service at IOP group meetings. Sit down as a family for a meal together without any distractions. Nurture a friendship.

Monthly: Go out with friends.  Try or learn something new.  Participate in women’s group at church.  Have a date night with my spouse.

Yearly: Go on a personal retreat by myself.  Visit my mother. Take a family vacation.

I simply wrote this down in my journal, but there are many to structure this. I invite you to look at other creative examples of Rules of Life compiled by Leadership Transformations Inc.

The Results

My Rule of Life not only kept me accountable, but also gave me permission to consistently schedule these things into my life.  In a world filled with distractions, this intentional plan gave my life the framework it needed to establish a rhythm. My Rule became a concrete reminder of the things that were sacred to me. It kept the focus on what was really important and necessary on the path to a more joyous life.  I hope it will do the same for you.  I invite you to give it a try.

Download Your Free Guideline Now

It was simple, but also a very helpful support structure for organizing the things that were important in my life that I wanted to prioritize.  I have put together a more detailed description and guideline for creating your own personal Rule of Life.


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Oceans Rise

Oceans Rise

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I hope that the gratitude practices this month have helped to fill your life with more thankfulness.  If you haven’t had a chance to put any of these into practice, then I invite you to carve out a few minutes over the long holiday weekend to explore your spirituality.  The Lectio Divina can be done in about 10 minutes.

I was missing the ocean, and on my drive home I was graced with this beautiful song… Oceans Rise.  I thought I would share this video – enjoy!

 

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