Monday, March 28, 2016

Mindful Monday- "It's All About The Breathing, Ma'am."

     These words were spoken by a soldier from West Point, who was interviewed by Brené Brown on the subject of emotion. If we want to pay attention, or be mindful, about what we are feeling, breath is the door we must crack open. In fact this same soldier made the comment below.




    Box breathing is an easy skill to learn and it will quiet the agitated mind. The technique is simple. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, hold for four counts. A handy square visual can bring the method to mind.



     This morning I was teaching a young boy at the piano. He was frustrated with keeping a steady beat. I observed that he was holding his breath. I asked him to breathe slowly for just a minute and promised that he would get through this wall faster if he would keep breathing. I noted more relaxation. He found his breath at the same time he found his beat. This month of March I have studied breathing, both in myself and also the words of others who value this essential tactile expression of mindfulness above all others. "It's all about the breathing, ma'am."


  "The second you choose to mind your breath you have decided that this present moment, this very moment, is worthy of your full attention."
    The Breathing Book by Donna Farhi

 More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

He Is Risen

"He is risen, He is risen, tell it out with loud acclaim"


I think today of the sleepless night Mary must have had, grief and sorrow forcing her out early to the tomb. He came out of love, for her, to bind up the broken heart.

"Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God."


As the sun comes up this morning I am aware of the miracle of resurrection. I may not understand it but I am fully confident that it is so for all men. Of greatest comfort is that it is so for those I love who have died before me, and that it will be so, for me.


"Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"


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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Waiting On The Lord

C.S. Lewis expressed the sadness of the time after the death of the Aslan, who is symbolic of the Savior, so eloquently in The Witch, The Lion and The Wardrobe".. 


"I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been - if you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you - you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again..."



Those who loved him endured an awful waiting. Waiting is a mortal experience. Uncertainty washes over us and our unruly minds go wild with the "what ifs". What if this is the end of the teachings of Jesus. What if the Jewish authorities come after all the new Christians? What if the Romans come after them? How will we live without the comfort of Jesus? What if?
What if........it is true?

What if tomorrow he rises from death?

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Alive

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."



I really thought the word for Five Minute Friday would be "good". Yet, it was "alive". I was prepared to write about Good Friday and how Holy Week was constantly in my thoughts. Now I see that Jesus really has been alive for me this week as I've followed the events of his last mortal days.





There are many ways that I am more alive to the spirit than I was in years past. Some habits have died, and some are waiting to die as I muster the strength to leave behind those sins that make me less than wholehearted




I wince at seeing his suffering. Yet, I rejoice that he willingly submitted  for my sake. 




"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene."

To all the Marys who gave him so much comfort. Take heart. There will be Sunday. And he will be alive.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Our Wholehearted Self


Easter Week- The Longest, Hardest Day

   "During the first of the days of unleavened bread, which was on Thursday, some of the Twelve inquired of Jesus where they should make preparations for the paschal meal."

While reading the story of Passover, going into the Garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Jesus into the hands of the Jewish authorities, I marvel at the emotional connection Jesus has in the midst of anxiety ridden events. As I am learning more of wholeheartedness and integrating emotions into our very identity, I look at Jesus as the model of all I desire in wholehearted living. I'll be using some definitions of emotion to make my points. 

 Anxiety- Uncertainty, overwhelming fear, competing demands on our time, or social discomfort.

There was an awful certainty about what would transpire and I believe a God who can know us completely would be required to feel the emotions of mortality. I believe he felt fear and anxiety but was fully anchored in his sense of belonging and connection to His Father. His resilience was divine.


Resentment- An emotion we experience when we fail to set boundaries, when boundaries are ignored, or when expectations let us down because they were based on things we can't control, like what others think. what they feel, or how they're going to react.

Surely he felt some resentment towards others who responded awkwardly to him, not fully understanding all that he was offering in this life and in the next. Yet, he responded with patience and love.




To me he fully exemplifies a wholehearted self. His thinking, feeling, and doing were fully integrated.










Heartbreak- More than just a particularly hard form of disappointment or failure. It hurts in an entirely different way because heartbreak is always connected to love and belonging.

I hurt for him because he hurt for me, fully submitting to carry my pain, suffering, lack, evil, and my just plain misfortune. In a desire for me to belong to him and connected to his Father, he knelt in Gethsemane and paid the awful price for justice to be served.


What an astounding day this was for him and for us all. And Friday will come.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter Week- A Day To Withdraw

"But now it is Wednesday and tomorrow is the day for the slaying of the thousands of Paschal lambs. Today is a day devoted to his intimate friends."


Jesus passed this day of rest and retirement with his disciples. How could they not know that the end of a perfect ministry was coming? He had proclaimed it 12 times in the there previous years.

  1. At the first Passover, three years before. "Destroy this temple and after three days I will raise it up. (John 2)
  2. To Nicodemus he said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. (John 3)
  3. To the disciples of John he said, "The days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them ." (Matt. 9) 
  4. To the sign seeking scribes and Pharisees he said, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. 12)
  5. To the Twelve he said, "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." (Matt 10)
  6. In the Sermon on the bread of life he said, "And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world." (John 6)
  7. After Peter's stirring testimony it is written, "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how he must go uno Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matt. 16)
  8. On the Mount of Transfiguration he discussed his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9)
  9. Coming down from the mount he said, "The Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the hands of men; And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again." (Matt, 17)
  10. En route to Jerusalem he said, "They shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him; and the third day he shall rise again." (Matt. 20)
  11. In the teachings of the Good Shepard he said, "I am the good shepherd; and the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.." (John 10)
  12. In the parable of the wicked husbandmen he said. "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize his inheritance." (Matt. 21)

On this day, alone with them and others, like Mary and Martha, he taught them all that they were then able to receive about his coming ordeal and the all that would result therefrom. 


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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Easter Week- His Last Public Discourse At The Temple


"On the following day, that is on Tuesday, He returned to the temple with the Twelve, teaching all who would listen."


The chief priests and some of the scribes came upon him as a body. They asked him by what authority did he do his works. They knew the authority he claimed; their question was of sinister purpose. Jesus chose to answer their question with a question. Was the baptism of John from heaven or of men. Since the opinions of men swayed what the authorities would do they were forced into silence. "We cannot tell."



Jesus continued to teach, parable upon parable, all pointing to the self-betrayal of the chief authorities. The Parable of The Two Sons showed how true repentance was more effectual than lip service. The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen pointed to the deceit of them that killed the son of the householder and stole his inheritance. Truly. how could they not get his message? Then he told the Parable of the Royal Marriage Feast. The guests refused to come and spurned their royal invitation only to be destroyed for heir lack of loyalty. If this story was to be an allegorical presentation of true events, then it passes into the future as the destruction of Jerusalem post dated Jesus by several decades.


This Parable was the last spoken by our Lord to the public. Jesus would now turn his attention on his apostles who he would instruct and support in the coming days.

"Many are called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world,..."

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter Week- Cleansing The Temple

" Now, within four days of the cross. He cleared the courts again by casting out all "them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves."



    This act had strong emotion attached to the action. This was his father's house and it was also His house. Worldly commerce was not allowed because in this house the power of godliness was manifest. By that I mean, the sacrifices made, the prayers uttered, the promises entered into within these walls were done in similitude of the atonement, showing that only in Jesus could sins be made "white as snow' and all brought back into correct alignment with Heavenly Father.
     After the indignation came the calmness of healing those in the courts who were blind, lame and otherwise afflicted. His power was always used for binding, healing, and connecting. 
    As the common people gathered around him, the enraged officials were silenced by the press of the crowd. Little children. who perceived his power, spontaneously burst onto praise, calling him truthfully, the Son of David. 
   That evening he left Jerusalem and retired to Bethany. His hour was near, but not yet.


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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Easter Week- Palm Sunday

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, behold thy King cometh unto thee; and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foul of an ass."
Zechariah 9:9



As prophesied Jesus entered the city to the tumult of praising. His pathway was strewn with clothing and palm branches. Some pharisees urges him to rebuke the outcry of his disciples but he answered them by saying that if he made them hold their peace even the stones would begin to cry out praise. Many would realize much later how the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled that day. 
   Jesus knew his days were numbered and he urged his disciples to believe in the light while the light was still among them that they would be called children of light.


Believing, receiving, be open
To the truth which makes you 
Loving, and caring, and feeling,
That ye may be his child.

The savior said, "I am the light",
Come, follow me, just reach for my hand.
Your heavy burdens I will share,
My arms enfold you.

Believing, Receiving, Be Open
To the truth which makes you 
Loving, and caring, and feeling,
That ye may be his child.

His light illuminates the path
Warms every heart, each flickering shadow.
Go forth in faith, remove all doubt,
His arms enfold you.

Believing, receiving, be open
To the truth which makes you 
Loving, and caring, and feeling,
That ye may be the children of light.

Words to a song I wrote decades ago as a family motto. To be wholehearted has been a desire of mine for a long time. It seems, sometimes, to be just outside of reach but I do want to be a child of light so that the salvation Jesus brings is mine.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Surprise


If we continually try to control uncertainty there will be no space for surprise

I don't particularity like surprises. Negative possibilities loom ever more real than positive occurrences. Sad, but true. So, how does one create space for surprise? 

Look for it!



 The picture above is an i-phone shot of my neighborhood. I drive east to the water several times a week to be surprised. The light at sunrise is never the same. 

My four year old granddaughter doesn't always like it when I come to visit on Thursdays. I take time away from her special time with Mommy. Sometimes Mommy leaves and I stay, against her will. But yesterday she, unprompted, announced that I could come everyday. Surprise!

My meditation practice is working. I feel calmer. Surprise!

I received a package from Flow Magazine and when I opened it I found German Children's books with a sweet note to a grandmother in the states. The magazine sales representative had no clue how this mix-up happened. They wonder if my package was damaged and ended up in a German postal service department where other damaged packages were repacked. Now Flow Magazine, based in the Netherlands, is resending my order, but how will the grandmother ever get her books?
Surprise?

"But he loves me still, he loves me through, even while, even when, 
He loves me anyway, in spit of , and more than 
When I
 slip and I fall, when I'm weak, even when I should hold on, 
He loves me still, he loves me still, and something tells me he always will."

Surprise! Always!


  I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.







Monday, March 14, 2016

Mindful Monday- Developing Breath Perception

"We stop our breath as a way of attempting to bring life under control."
The Breathing Book by Donna Farhi

Another week watching and observing my breath has passed. Becoming more mindful is definitely tied to the breath. It becomes the safe haven when I can't think straight. It is ground zero when I need to recalibrate my feelings. I am in awe of the human respiratory system. I am working on breathing completely and freely.




Breathing has certain characteristics:

  1. Oscillation- the whole body oscillates and moves slightly during free breathing. This movement rises effortlessly and not from suppressing movement somewhere else.
  2. Diaphragmatic- The breath arises predominately through the action of the central diaphragm.
  3. Internal Origination- The breath rises from within rather than being pulled inside mechanically by using the outer muscles of the body. Instead of breathing we are breathed.
  4.  Multidirectional- The breath expands in all directions, radiating out, just as a full dandelion flower radiates from it's core.
  5. Calm and Regular- The breath has a feeling of being and creating calm in the body and mind. It's rhythm is regular most of the time.
  6. Two/Three/ Pause Rhythm- During quiet respiration it's normal for your inhalation to be about 2 seconds and your exhalation to be about 3 seconds followed by a pause. More simply, you breathe out a little longer than you breathe in.
  7.  Flexible- Just as waves arise in endless variation in the sea, the breath arises with endless variation and adaptability. the breath changes as our thoughts, feelings, and movement change.
  8. Effortless- The art of breathing is filled with a sense of ease and relaxation.

   Many mornings when I first wake, I feel my breath very shallow and quick. Expanding my breath, I open more deeply. During meditation, which I have successfully embraced for a full month, I kindly note how full my breath rises. Kindly is a adverb I use to follow breath. It is easy to be judgmental and assume that this very elemental action is not adequate. It has kept me alive for 62 years so I should be kind. While I exercise I watch and listen more to the in and out. I am an observer this month. Observing kindly to become more aware of my amazing body, a gift from God.

                           More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Share

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;"
1 Peter 2:9

The good news of Jesus Christ is to be shared. Not pushed down another's throat but shared as a gift, most precious. I find it difficult to jump into a conversation about my Savior, even though he is vital to my happiness. Am I ashamed of him? 


Not ashamed, but I am hesitant to be thought peculiar. To stand out as someone who has values beyond honesty and niceness, can be daunting. To be chosen by God has little to do with privilege but more with responsibility. I know the mission of Jesus Christ and I covenanted to be part of his vision. I promised to share the truth that he lives. He lives, who once was dead. He lives my hungry soul to feed. He lives, to bless in time of need.


  I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mindful Monday- Better Breathing

"But for many of us, when it comes to improving our health, changing our breathing somehow doesn’t spring to mind as readily as changing our diet or exercise habits."
This month of March, as part of my year of mindfulness, I am exploring and studying my own breath and breathing in general. As a breath holder, I manufacture some anxiety just from improper breathing. I'll catch myself breathing from the chest in quick shallow breaths and now I see how that affects my feelings. Long full breaths can lower your heart rate and in reverse short, shallow breathing can accelerate your heart and very quickly a feeling of unwellness rises to the conscious mind.

Having one nostril which is smaller,  I am wondering if doing some Alternate Nostril Breathing might encourage more balance. Here are the steps to that type of breathing exercise.

An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:

Step one: Use right thumb to close off right nostril.
Step two: Inhale slowly through left nostril
Step three: Pause for a second
Step four: Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril
Step five: Exhale through your right nostril
Step six: Now, inhale through right nostril
Step seven: Pause
Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril
Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril
Step ten: This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase.Never force.Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished.




This book is a March read and I hope to find some help. Hopefully it won't take my breath away or make you feel I am breathing down your neck with too much information.

      "Focusing on your own breathing can have a significant impact on your well-being and stress levels, and can even create physiological changes             like lowering your blood pressure."

                         More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, March 4, 2016

News

Take a deep breath

The news might just stop your ability to breathe. There is the presidential hoopla, gasp, the monetary crisis, gasp, the change of climate prognosis, gasp, the health scares all around, and I gasp for breath. The news is taking my breath away. 




As I sit in mediation each morning, I think of other news. 

I breathe in hope

I gather all that I know of Jesus Christ and breathe in his good news.

I breathe out faith

I let go of my own fears and expectations and surrender to my faith in him.

I hold charity

I hold the exhale and let the word charity, the pure love of Christ, stay suspended for a brief second, thinking on that more excellent way, praying that I might have that gift today.


It works, most days, and holds the bad news at bay.



  I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.