Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
// Anna Boehk //
I’ve been trying to incorporate mindfulness into my life, now that I have the time. In a way, I’ve always had the time, but there is something that is both so magical and so aggravating about the time we have now – this time that is marked by counting meals and by the bright white light that always seems to be around no matter what meal you’re actually eating. There is something so hopeful about the days getting longer, and simultaneously so difficult – because suddenly, it’s just that much more time we need to account for.
And so, at the gentle but persistent nudging of someone who has been working me through this endless time we seem to have, I have been trying to focus on mindfulness. It sounds so easy, right? Mindfulness is just being aware of yourself and your surroundings. Mindfulness has been used for centuries as a spiritual practice, and recently has been touted as a coping skill for anxiety, fear, panic, and other troubles that rob us of our peace.
Being aware of yourself – what emotion is this that I am feeling? Is it really anger or is it guilt? Is it embarrassment? Is it betrayal? –
Being aware of your surroundings – I am sitting down at 10:44 on Thursday, near my fan. What is causing me to feel unsettled? Is it the broken air conditioner or is something else triggering me? –
Seems so simple, seems like anyone could do it. So why am I so distracted all the time? Mindfulness to me, so far, has been asking all the right questions and getting no answers in return. Am I the one that answers my own questions or do they come to me, spiritually drifting from the sky if I just figure out how to do this right? I can’t meditate. An hour of adoration is like pulling teeth. Don’t I just have to sit there and be quiet?
You know what else seems so simple? Using chopsticks. And I can’t use them, seriously. I’ve tried. I also can’t use a graphing calculator – I mean, I could at one time but it’s been so long since I’ve used one that I don’t think I could do more than simple addition and subtraction on it. But to plot a graph? I can’t even read a graph.
And isn’t that the heart of most spiritual practices? It’s not that I can’t ever use chopsticks, it’s that I never sat down – nor likely will I – to learn and practice. It’s not that I never learned how to use the graphing calculator, it’s that I forgot because I haven’t touched one in 10 years. There are also some things that I’m okay at and I will simply never be great at them, because I’m satisfied with the okay.
It’s not that I can’t journal. Or pray. Or practice mindfulness. It’s not that I’ll never be able to sit in an hour of Adoration without checking my watch. It’s that I just forgot how, or I never learned properly. I’m never going to swim the English Channel but I can keep myself alive if I fall out of a boat – I know because I have fallen out of a boat before and I sit before you now writing about it.
Is there a spiritual practice you’ve been drawn to that you haven’t pursued because you think you’ll be bad at it? Maybe you are bad at it. Hey, I’ve been there. Consider developing a lesson plan for yourself (I’m a teacher so…) and follow that lesson plan for as many days as it takes to develop your skill. If it takes a few days for you to memorize the Angelus, that’s great. If it takes 56 days for you to finish a 9-day novena, so be it. At least you’re developing the skill instead of wishing you had it.
Some suggestions, from one unskilled Christian to another – be gentle with yourself. You have a lot of time to become good, and even more time to become great. And the beauty of our faith is that the intentions matter too, not just the actual actions. The learning is as important as the doing. God knows your heart.
Pray for the learning. God knows that I want to know how to use chopsticks but I don’t want to learn how to use chopsticks. That’s both true on a literal level and as a metaphor for my spiritual life. Some spiritual practices overwhelm me and I pray, Lord…I have the desire for the skill. Give me the desire to learn the skill, too. I have the desire to sit quietly in Adoration for an hour but I don’t have the desire to train my heart to be quiet. I have the desire to have already read the Summa Theologica but not the desire to sit down and actually read it. I have the desire for the results but I do not desire the work!
Lord, give us the desire to learn! Give us the patience to practice! Give us the humility to fail and the persistence to keep going.
And God willing, by the end of this life, I will have learned how to use chopsticks.