by Rev. Brendan Curran, Assoc. Minister         –          Oct 17, 2017

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
-Luke 17:21

So what’s all this talk about, “mindfulness?” I feel like we hear it everywhere. It would seem that meditation has become part of the mainstream. Programs in mindfulness based stress reduction are being applied in a variety of public spaces like hospitals, libraries, rehabilitation facilities, and schools. Corporations encourage their employees to meditate and will invite yoga and meditation instructors to train the office because they feel mindfulness makes workers more productive. Coaches are having their athletes meditate because they see it improving their game and performance. For better or for worse there are now up to a thousand mindfulness “apps” for cell phones and mindfulness has become an industry. Practices of cultivating mindfulness and wellness like yoga, meditation, etc. have become no less countercultural than coming to church on Sunday morning. People in large numbers are turning to these tools to reduce stress, connect with Spirit, and find much needed moments of healing, awareness, and peace amidst busy and hectic lifestyles.

I’d like to suggest that the practice of mindfulness is at the core of an active and engaged spiritual life. Mindfulness is the root of all prayer. We are programed to fill the silences with words, and the present moment with thoughts and plans for the future. Are we capable of allowing ourselves and each other to just be? Are we able to live our lives in the present moment? When we live as though running after the future rather than showing up for life as it is in the present moment with gratitude and mindfulness we miss our life. It becomes easy to go on automatic pilot in our busy lives and just “go through the motions” of our life rather than living life fully and deeply with awareness and appreciation. It becomes necessary to create intentional space to invite ourselves and each other to remember to cultivate stillness and presence.

We hear about mindfulness in the psalms. Psalm 46 reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” Mindfulness is the practice of allowing our minds to be still so we can be present in that deeper knowing, a more spacious awareness. It is the practice of being fully present, mind and body united, to the experience of the present moment. We live life in the present moment only, yet our thoughts are often dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Do we allow ourselves to be fully conscious and aware of life in the present moment? Mindfulness is a skill. There are so many tools that help us cultivate a deeper more focused awareness in the present moment. Some of these tools are focusing on breathing, paying attention to our footsteps when we walk, and visualizing loving-kindness. The simple practice of mindfulness is one of showing up to our feelings, and to the miracle of being alive in the present moment… without judging our experience. When we allow ourselves to show up to our life and cultivate awareness like that, we are also able to offer that open, non-judging, calm presence to our family, friends, and those we share life with.

From a faith perspective, to cultivate mindfulness is, “to be still and know” the divine presence. When we frame mindfulness as prayer we come to experience in meditation the God our tradition teaches we know as a still small voice, a gentle open heart, and the breath of life. This breath of life is what contemplative Christians and meditators focus on when they meditate. In meditation, the breath of life becomes the focus of one’s attention in the effort of cultivating inner stillness so as to be more deeply present to life and to God.

The tools of mindfulness meditation have roots in other spiritual traditions like Buddhism but are being applied universally in secular contexts and many different faith traditions. For example, the practice of mindfulness meditation has been adopted by mystics and contemplative Christians like, Richard Roher, Thomas Merton, Cynthia Bourgeault, and so many others in the practices of centering prayer, lectio divina, and silent prayer. These terms may sound new to some, but for those of you who have attended worship and/or Bible studies at BCCUCC you may have already experienced some of these prayer practices. The famous Buddhist teacher and Nobel Peace prize nominee of Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a book called, “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” As a a Buddhist who teaches mindfulness, he speaks of the practice’s relevance to Christians who strive for the Kingdom of God. He writes, ““The kingdom of God is available to you in the here and the now. But the question is whether you are available to the kingdom. Our practice is to make ourselves ready for the kingdom so that it can manifest in the here and the now. You don’t need to die in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, you have to be truly alive in order to do so.” Mindfulness, then, for Christians, can be understood as a simple prayer practice of quieting down and cultivating a more open awareness, and a deeper more rooted presence in the present moment so we can be available to our shared life with God in the here and now.

We might not be able to bring about world peace tomorrow, but as people of faith we can help each other create spaces of healing where we can learn practices that help us establish peace in our own minds, bodies, and spirits. There is such a need these days for sacred spaces like this where people of all faiths and understandings can come, heal, and cultivate inner stillness and peace in the midst of our busy lives.

We are creating a meditation room at church to meet this great need. The hope is that this space will enrich our youth and adult education programs, create opportunities for deepening our spiritual life as a faith community, and invite both church members and people in the broader community to take a moment occasionally to come, pause, heal, be still, and know. We hope to have the meditation room set up in room 8 by the start of Lent, the season of contemplation and prayer on our church calendar. I will be leading a six-week study on contemplative and healing traditions within the Christian tradition. The ministry of having a furnished meditation room at the church will also allow us to offer regular meditation sessions in an intentional space during the week on a regular basis. I will be offering the meditation instruction and holding the space during those regular weekly sessions. If you are excited about this new ministry and would like to help furnish the meditation room in room 8 by financially supporting this ministry please contact the Associate pastor (that’s me) who is currently raising funds for this effort. Checkout this page for more information and list of donation option and what they will purchase.

In grace and presence,
Brendan

Brendan@bccucc.org
401-246-0111