February 2017

Here and Now

During my break after Christmas, I read a couple of books on the topic of mindfulness - the practice of paying more attention to the present moment, to one’s own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around us. It is a meditative practice used extensively in therapy, but which also has very important applications in our day-to-day life. These two books look at the practice from a religious point of view - in fact from a specifically Christian point of view - and they look at the way at the way in which it can enhance our prayer life.

Now I know that some people assume that meditation in whatever form is an eastern practice associated with eastern religions, and that it has nothing to do with Christianity. To them I would gently point out that Christianity is an eastern religion: indeed, another book I read over the same period announced the startling fact that, during the Middle Ages, there were more Christians in Asia than there were in Europe. Not only that, but meditation - a broad term encompassing a variety of practices - has from long back formed an important part of Christian spiritual life.

Why do I mention this now? Well, it struck me reading these books how much time we spend living in the past and in the future and not treasuring the present. In the past, when we live with guilt, regret, nostalgia or even - and here I tread delicately - maintaining family feuds. In the future, when we spend our time planning for the future, worrying about the future or just impatiently waiting - as many of us who drive regularly into Hereford via Belmont know only too well. 

Jesus said, ‘I have come that you may have life, and have it in abundance.’ We cannot have life in abundance if we live our lives in the past or the future, but only if we focus on the present. And to do that, we need to find ways of focussing our attention.

During Advent, we had a course on various types of prayer. I certainly found it helpful and a number of those who attended said the same. During Lent, I would like to develop that by looking and and engaging in a number of ways which will help us to live abundantly in the present. These can be as basic as focussing on our breathing - and let us not lose track of the part that breathing plays in the Bible story: creation began when the spirit of God moved over the face of the water and the church began when Jesus breathed over his disciples on the first Pentecost. And they can be as broad as discovering how we see - do we just focus on one object or person or do we take in the broader picture?

I hope all this will be helpful and, possibly, engaging. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1st with Communion at Clodock Church at 7.30pm. Thereafter, we will meet on Wednesday evenings at 7.30pm at my house. Plan ahead now so that you can live in the present then.

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