“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. Then secondly, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31
Using our strength to sculpt our heart, soul, and mind to love God and our neighbor.
So, here I am; sitting at my window desk in the yellow room watching tree branches sway in the wind. I’ve been here about three minutes. I can feel my muscles relaxing. I’m here, my room is here, the trees are here, surprisingly no animals are here, but most importantly God is here. I’ve stopped my activities to become aware of all that is here. Because I like to get things done, going and doing seems to be my natural inclination. Stopping to establish myself in this moment, with God, is not my natural choice. But when I do choose to stop and become aware of my surroundings remembering that God is surrounding me as well, my day becomes richer.
Our project for the next two weeks is based on an exercise developed by Archbishop Anthony Bloom. Bloom said that as we learn to pray we must learn to ‘establish ourselves in the present’, our here and now. We do this because our present here and now is where we can actually met God. (Beginning to Pray, Anthony Bloom, Paulist Press)
Here and Now for Two to Ten
In this project we will take between 2 to 10 minutes a day to become aware of our surroundings and God’s presence, here and now.
I’ve found this project to be effective using two different approaches: the ten minute and the two minute.
Ten minute: I began doing this exercise last summer by taking ten minutes right before bed and going outside to look at the stars and listen to the night noises. It was an excellent way to end the day. I noticed it often felt like one of the richest parts of the day.
Two minute: In this version I’m zooming around, weeding the garden, washing dishes, hauling rocks, when I become aware that I am tired. Ah ha. That is my reminder. When I am tired I take a two minute (or so) break. I sit down on the porch swing and look around. I watch the bees moving in the Russian Sage blossoms. I notice cloud formations. Oddly I often become aware of my feet. I sense them becoming grounded again. And I remind myself that God is here with me.
The reason I stop for two minutes rather than ten is that even when I am tired I dislike stopping. I want to keep doing. So I tell myself. “This is just a “Here and Now for two little minutes. It will be OK to stop for that long.” Often I will go for longer than the two minutes because once I get started I find it so refreshing that I want to be here with God a bit longer. Other times I just take my two minutes and get back at it. I often do this short two minute exercise 2-3 times a day.
The rules: No beating yourself up. No worrying. No planning. No prayer lists.
The only allowed topic for this two to ten minutes is your present experience of yourself, your surroundings and God. The trees swaying in the wind is an allowed topic to ponder. The fact that you should prune that dead branch is not allowed. Noticing your shoulder muscles relaxing is allowed. Grumbling at yourself for being so tense is not allowed.
You have 23 hours and 50+ minutes a day to worry, grumble, plan, pray for others, etc. This time is for being Here and Now with God.
What to do when topics other than Here and Now come to mind?
Notice them and send them to Jesus. When they come back to your mind send them right back to Jesus and put your attention on here and now. Even noble topics, like praying for others, are not appropriate for this sculpting time. By all means pray for others. But do so at another time. When prayer concerns come in the midst of your two to ten minutes send them to Jesus to hold until you finish. Sending your thoughts to Jesus and returning to the here and now is an important part of this project.
How do we remember a 2-10 minute project?
Connect it to some regular part of your day: after a meal, right before you go to bed, before you begin washing dishes . . ..
If you choose a 10 minute sit you may want to add a cup of tea, or lemonade to your time.
Picking a place that has interesting things to notice can be helpful: A garden, a busy street
Benefits you might experience after two weeks of Here and Now, 2-10
Richer relationship with God
Improved control of mind and emotions
A sense of slowing the racing of time
(Martha had invited Jesus and his friends to dinner. As soon as Jesus arrived, Mary, Martha’s sister, sat down right in front of Jesus, riveted on his every word. Martha was distracted by the dinner preparations and irritated that Mary wasn’t helping.)
Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
(So what did Martha do then? In my dreams she sat down right by Mary and the miracle of the dinner party feeding happened.) Moral: don’t get distracted from sitting with Jesus; it may be the best part of your day.
The Second Sculpting Project Summary
Part 1: Each day sit or walk for 2 to 10 minutes paying attention to the here and now.
Notice yourself, notice your surroundings, notice that God is right here with you. When your mind leaves the Here and Now with worries, plans, etc. send the thoughts to Jesus and return to the here and now. You can talk with God about what you notice, or just sit quietly with Him.
Each day write down where you are when you do your 2 to 10 Here and Now.
Part 2: Three Things becomes One Thing
Each day write one thing that you love. A gift from God.
Part 3: Each week communicate with group members about your project joys and woos. Facebook group, blog comments, notes in my box at church, conversations.
Writing thins down can feel like an unnecessary step. But it is your tool to make your sculpting concrete. So keep a written record somewhere.
What to do when you forget to do your project for a day or more?
It happens to everyone.
Don’t kick yourself.
Just get back on your horse, give her the kick and get going again.