Epiphany to Easter Sculpting Project 2: Stop Here: Week 1
It’s late afternoon when I sit down on our couch to ‘stop time’. Out my windows the sky is solid soft gray and the ground is bright white with snow. Finch are pecking at the feeder seeds on the porch. After a few seconds I begin to think about writing this blog. I lose myself for a minute and then recall my project. I am here to ‘stop time’ for 5 minutes. I return my attention to here and now. I notice my body relaxing. I feel the floor under my feet. My mind wanders away again to supper plans. When I come to my senses I return to my 5 minute project of learning that the present moment exists.
Orthodox Archbishop Anthony Bloom believed that we encounter God in the present moment. So the best way to connect with God is to “establish ourselves in the present moment.” The problem he saw in himself and others was that we barely know the present exits. So Bloom’s first step in helping us connect to God was to “do exercises in stopping time and standing in the present”. Our project is based on the exercise Bloom developed to discover the present . (Beginning to Pray, Anthony Bloom, Paulist Press)
This is not easy. Bloom warns us: “one or two minutes is the most you will be able to endure to begin with”. If you are not experienced with the present moment begin with the 2 minutes.
Sculpting Project 2: Stop Here: Week 1
Select the time of day you will do this project and post it to us.
Each day for 2-5 minutes keep your mind on where you are at.
Post us your observations.
No worrying, No planning, No prayer lists.
The only allowed topic for this 2-5 minutes is your present experience of yourself, your surroundings and God. The snow falling is allowed, the fact that I might need to shovel it later today is not allowed.
Q: Will my mind wander?
A: Yes. That is the nature of the mind. Be a gentle mind-trainer. When you notice that your mind has wandered off, gently bring it back to the present moment. Beating yourself up is not helpful.
Q: What about prayer concerns that come to mind?
A: By all means pray for others, but not now. You have 23 hours and 55 minutes each day to pray for others. This 5 minutes is dedicated to direct connection with the present and God who inhabits it. If a prayer concern comes to mind quickly send it off to Jesus to hold until you are finished.
Q: What If I think of something I need to remember?
A: Keep a note pad close by for quick notes if this helps free you to attend to the present.
Q: Why post ‘when’ I will do this?
A: Declaring this lowers the need for memory and motivation. Let’s keep this as easy as possible.
The Psychology of Mind-wandering
Besides helping us connect with God, as if that wasn’t enough, attending to the present also helps boost our happiness level. An extensive psychological study on mind-wandering found that we are happiest when we are thinking about what we are doing and where we are at.
But we spend a great deal of our day (30-80%) thinking about some other time and place. When our mind-wandering takes us to unpleasant thoughts we would expect to feel unhappy and the study verified that we are much less happy when we are pondering the unpleasant.
But what about when we our mind has wandered to the wonderful? Surprisingly, the study found that even when our mind-wandering is about something very enjoyable we are still a bit happier when we are attending to the here and now. See Ted Talk for study details.
A few benefits you might experience from this project:
Increased control of your mind and emotions
Greater sense of connection with God
A sense of the slowing of racing by time.
Increased happiness level
One more tool to help: 6 Senses Game
Notice what you observe with each of your 5 senses. What do you see, what do you hear, smell, taste, feel. Then use you 6th sense to scan for signs of the unseen world, remembering the here and now presence of our God.
Same place. Another afternoon. The clouds are breaking up and blue is visible. I hear our rooster singing and hawks calling out. I remember the presence of God surrounding me. It’s work getting here, but here and now is my favorite place to be.