This week has been one of integrating the mindfulness with prayer a lot more than in previous weeks. The chapter is titled “Trapped in the Past or Living in the Present?” Clearly designed to help people work through negative thoughts based on past events.
I was interested in the research done on memory of events and the way that what we remember or how we remember is affected by our mood or levels of tiredness. For instance, when tired or feeling low you are less likely to be able to remember a specific incident when you felt happy. You are more likely to say, “I am happy when at the seaside” rather than “on my birthday I spent the day at the beach building sandcastles and paddling in the sea.”
The course then encourages you to remember times you felt bored, happy, failure, lonely, sad etc. It goes on with explaining how people can get trapped in the past, ruminating on past events and generalising from them into the present. By this I mean, if you have failed at something in the past, and you often think about it, if you are tired or depressed you are likely to think that you fail at everything and label yourself a failure. I recognise this trait in myself – not so much nowadays, but in the past I have done this.
Mindfulness trains you to live more in the present, to recognise thoughts as thoughts and not necessarily descriptions of reality.
The mediation for this week was to do 8 minutes of breath and body meditation then the ten minutes Befriending Meditation. In the befriending Meditation you are supposed to say to yourself:
May I be free from suffering
May I be as happy and heathy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being
You then repeat that as you think of someone you love, then someone you know a little, then someone you find difficult. You can extend it to everyone on the planet. I adapted this slightly as recognised it as being akin to prayer. So I meditated on God’s love and his peace. Shalom is the Hebrew word to describe God’s peace and it encompasses wholeness of body, mind and spirit.
I thought about being free from suffering and the difference between suffering and pain. Sometimes we have to suffer when standing up for justice issues, or speaking on behalf of those who have little or no voice. Christians are not called to a life that is free from suffering. Often it is in our suffering that we encounter God’s peace and Grace.
I used the track on the CD for the guided meditation once and then on subsequent days, after I had spent about 8 minutes in silent meditation I called to mind something from the bible to focus the prayer on. I prayed it for myself and then for various other people. Each day I felt a deep sense of peace.
Monday: Isaiah 43:1-4 plus Psalm 139 with the focus on God’s presence. Being with me and others.
Tuesday: Jesus saying “My peace I give you”
Wednesday: Isaiah 43:4 knowing I am precious and honoured and that God loves me and those I prayed for.
Thursday: Jesus saying “come to me all who are burdened and I will give you rest” and Paul’s “nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus”
Friday, today, I didn’t do the befriending meditation. Instead I used the Northumbria Community Celtic morning prayer.
This week has been one of peaceful prayer times and an awareness of knowing I have befriended myself. I am at ease with myself and I am no longer trapped in the past. I am able to do that which my spiritual director for many years told me to do that I found extremely difficult: be kind to myself.
That doesn’t stop me, when I am particularly stressed, from making the “I am a failure” type statements or “its all my fault”. The good thing is that when I do slip into these wrong ways of thinking I recognise it and correct myself. I can see that the mindfulness techniques are very good for people who are trapped in the past as described. I am glad that I do not need them. I wish though that I had come across them years ago.
As I look back at the book to check that I’ve included everything I notice the habit breaker activity. This week was a choice of two. I could be kind to someone, do something for someone else. Well, this week I have conduced two funerals which have helped people. I often do things for others. The other one is to do something that used to give you pleasure that you haven’t done for a while. Playing my clarinet comes to mind. So when I finish typing this and getting it set up to publish, I will play it.