New & Improved Mindfulness: Living in the Present, in the Presence
It pays to be a discerning Catholic – especially where the mindfulness craze is concerned. The discerning Catholic knows that there’s no comparison between living in the present, and living in the Presence. That’s the difference between the popular Buddhism-based mindfulness movement and the authentic Catholic version found in the devotions known as The Practice of the Presence of God and the Sacrament of the Present Moment. The Buddhist version might be momentarily relaxing, but the Catholic version is full of life-changing power.
When you combine these two devotions, it brings about a state that I affectionately call “the zone.” It’s like a perfectly calibrated car engine humming along the highway. All of the engine parts are working exactly the way they were designed. That’s what living in the present moment, in the Presence of God, is all about. It’s a mysteriously natural state where everything just seems to be “in sync.” You’re present, at peace, tuned in to God as well as everything that’s in and around you. As a result, you’re super productive, accomplishing far more than you could while living in the usual “stress zone.”
It’s no wonder the great spiritual masters said that learning how to live this way is the secret to sanctity. In fact, this was the spirituality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph who did not have access to spiritual directors or theologians.
“All their attention was focused on the present, minute by minute; like the hand of a clock that marks the minutes of each hour covering the distance along which it has to travel,” explains the great spiritual director, Father J. P. deCaussade in his book, The Sacrament of the Present Moment. “Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned toward the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.”
When we follow this path, we learn that Christ comes to us in a new and living way every day, and in every moment of every day. For this reason, our attention must remain focused on all of the events that occur, minute-by-minute, from the trivial to the sublime, because this is how God speaks to us.
For years, this has been the goal of my spiritual life – to stay focused on Him, in the now, abandoning all to His will. It wasn’t until recently, while writing the book, A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness, that I realized this is the same thing as the popular version of mindfulness, only without the stealth Buddhism. Instead of learning how to get into the present moment via Breathing Space Meditation, Body Scan Meditation and other Buddhist meditation techniques, you hand the reins over to God and let Him do it through the workings of grace. The end result is not only a reduction in stress and anxiety, but a kind of peace of soul that you’ll never get just by focusing on your breathing the way your ankles feel at any given moment.
Mind you, the Catholic way doesn’t mean you neglect to plan for the future and just sit around in a passive state waiting for miracles to drop into your lap. Quite the contrary. You live your life as usual, but you do so without all that anxious hand-wringing that accompanies worry about the future or dwelling on the past. You make your plans or learn your lessons, then move on, happily surrendering all those pesky “what ifs” to God.
Of course, this takes grace and a willingness to cooperate with that grace (and some days I’m just not there!), but when you do cooperate – you’re in a state of perfect peace. You’re in the zone. Instead of worrying about all that you have to do, you focus on one thing at a time and meet each challenge as it comes, relying on God to get it done. And He does – in spades! When I’m “in the zone” I get twice as much done as when I’m running around trying to do everything myself.
Thanks to God’s persistence, I finally finished a book about this called Mindful Like a Catholic. Based on this book, I put together a 90-minute workshop which I’ll be conducting on-line on Saturday, January 18 from 1-3 PM EST. I’ll be doing another one live at Fatima House in Bedminster on Saturday, February 8 from 1-3 PM EST. These workshops includes an introduction to Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God and Father deCaussade’s Sacrament of the Present Moment as well as hands-on activities such as meditation practice, taking a “thought inventory,” and learning how to “put on the mind of Christ.”
Dare to do 2020 differently! Leave the fads behind. Let’s rediscover the treasures of our Faith in a way that makes them as relevant today as they have been throughout the centuries.
Click here to join the virtual workshop.
Click here to join us at Fatima House.