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Prayer & Spirituality

I’ve spoken before about how much my spiritual life changed when I learned about mindfulness. For those of you who have never heard of mindfulness before, it is a much-misunderstood idea and not all practices follow the truths of the Catholic faith. When I speak of mindfulness please know that I am not speaking of Buddhist practices or New Age techniques.

What immediately comes forth when I think about defining mindfulness are the words of St. John of the Cross: “Silence is God’s first language.” That’s about the most succinct way of looking at mindfulness.

Mindfulness is simply a way for us to quiet ourselves, both internally and externally, and take the time to notice the small details. Mindfulness can be done anywhere, at any time, as long as we are able to quiet ourselves in the midst of our surroundings.

The easiest way for me to start is to engage my five senses completely, noticing the sites and sounds, the smells (hopefully, pleasant ones) and tactile information surrounding me. Try to stay as much “in the moment” as possible, without letting your thoughts wander off. Keep concentrating on the stimuli around you, and separate yourself from it, without getting lost in thought.

The way I try to practice mindfulness most often is in mindful eating. Before even beginning to eat, I engage my senses: seeing all of the colors and textures of the food, taking in all the smells and even the sounds, sometimes. It really enhances the experience of taste when the time comes.

Then, as part of the mindfulness practice, I go into all the sensory information I can get from myself: I check my posture, my distance from the table or the plate, my state of mind, and most importantly of all, my level of hunger.

As a final step in mindful eating, before the actual eating, that is, I say Grace. No meal seems valid until I recite the prayer.

One time on a date, early into our relationship, my boyfriend asked if we could say Grace. I was only too happy to do so. After saying Grace together a few times, we both noticed that our experience of eating changed completely. It was in reciting the prayer that we set our own stage for mindful eating. And because of this, our meals are so much more enjoyable, memorable and—filling!

Well, here was a perfect marriage of prayerfulness and mindfulness. We decided that if we can practice mindful eating, we could probably practice mindfulness at other times as well.

With practicing mindfulness, our relationship has deepened on a spiritual level in a way I hadn’t anticipated. It just added another layer to the ways in which we’ve bonded, and it has allowed for a deeper sense of familiarity between us. Catholics can also achieve the benefits for mind and body, and soul as well.

Women of Grace blog explains how to effectively practice mindfulness and live in the present moment. Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade in the book, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, talks about the “realization that every event in our lives, from the most ordinary to the most spectacular, are all manifestations of God’s will for us. It teaches us to experience every moment—such as this very moment as you read these words—as a holy sacrament because God is at work in it. As we acquire this holy practice, God becomes much more real to us, much more a part of our lives, and a true Companion on our journey.”

The difference is immense, as are the benefits. I suggest this to couples who are beyond the initial stages in their relationship. And for singles, I go by what my spiritual director advised: if you can eat mindfully for one meal, one minute, or one spoonful, it’s better than not doing it at all. It is the one spoonful that can lead to two, to four, to an entire meal. I have learned to live mindfully, more and more each day. It is a practice that leads to a more prayerful life. That is the goal. And it is well worth it.

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5 Comments

  1. Michael-1806 August 13, 2013

    Thank you Cate,

    You made some great points. Life can move very quickly; it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind. Also, there are endless noises and distractions. How better to prepare for them than mindfulness!

    Saying grace before a meal–whether alone, with that special someone or a large group–is a great example. (I agree, on a date with your special someone, it really acknowledges a unity, thankfulness and simpatico that makes the meal and life special.) In other cultures around the world, the meal is still regarded as something sacred: a true gift from God. I can’t have a breakfast bar without thanking Him. So saying grace reinforces the attitude of gratitude and might just be contagious. We don’t realize how our witness might impact someone in a positive way.

    I might suggest being quite comprehensive in our approach. Every time I get into the car I am mindful of God’s presence and silently begin to pray. All journeys should begin this way—however short or long.

    Of course, before reading Scripture or anything with a spiritual or helpful message, a prayer to the Holy Spirit can be so beneficial. Mine usually asks for the capacity to read, learn, understand, remember, reflect and communicate God’s beauty, truth and love. We’re imperfect, but we strive nonetheless to be good instruments. St. Francis pray for us.

    Three cheers for mindfulness and the patience, peace and joy it brings.

    May we be ever mindful of the Lord’s presence, gifts and abundant graces in our lives.
    ~ Michael

    • Therese-632256 August 15, 2013

      Thank you for your reminder to pray before driving and I like your prayer that you pray before any spiritual reading. I think I will adopt it ;)

  2. Steve-174204 August 13, 2013

    Good read

    Mindfulness is also used to treat depression and anxiety. It improves concentration and helps keep people in t present moment. It’s a very effective way of slowing down and clearing the mind of clutter. I wish people didn’t get all freaked out because other religions use it. Some of the modern spiritual guru’s use it as well. That doesn’t make it bad. Mindfulness is simply a tool like a wrench. The use of it is what matters. In the case of the wrench. Are you going to use it to tighten a bolt or hit someone over the head with it. Sam too, different uses

  3. Theresa-989320 August 19, 2013

    What a relaxing post! I needed that today.

    I’m sure everyone thought if this…but I thought it interesting that Miss Perry gave an explanation focusing on stimuli before and during a meal. I couldn’t help relating the concepts to the eternal banquet of the Mass!

    This post also gave me another idea, I remember the first time I really “felt” that I had meditated on the Rosary. I thought through the mysteries from the perspective of being there and thanking God for all the wonder at his choice of the Incarnation! I relaxed into a receptive questions of, “What do you want to show me God? What do you want me to learn? How should I love you more because of what I learn?” Now I think I may add the smells, the touch, the taste and see if my imagination enhances or detracts from my focus in praying the rosary. It’s an interesting idea anyway.

  4. Pamela-974928 September 29, 2013

    Being mindful and silent is sooooo important to one’s spirituality…..but what a challenge with today’s busy expectations! I wake up every morning with good intentions of being mindful of every moment and making time for being silent, yet I fail at times. Some days are better than others. “Practice makes perfect” , so I begin anew with each sunset.

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