The last three posts have explored the topic of mindfulness — as a cultural phenomenon, as a part of true masculinity, and as a practice to grow in Christ. In this last post, I want to give you some practical tools to become more mindful. Here are five, in no particular order.
The Examen: This type of mindful prayer was first suggested by St. Ignatius in the 1500’s. It’s a way of praying that asks you to look back over the last 24 hours and examine what your were feeling, using the categories of consolation and desolation. Consolation includes any of these: an increase in faith, hope, or love, feeling peace and tranquility, experiencing noble desires, sensing God’s presence. Desolation refers to any of these: moments of fear, shame, or anxiety, feeling distant from God, experiencing apathy or boredom, being agitated or conflicted. As you practice this daily, you become increasingly aware of how God is working in you and your response to Him. The Examen takes only 5-10 minutes at the end of the day or when you first get up. If you would like more information about it, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journaling: I started journaling my freshman year in college to survive the onslaught of rushing thoughts and feelings. It was my way of trying to make sense of this confusing time. Little did I know then how it would help me over the years. When you have to find words for what you are feeling, you are by definition practicing mindfulness. Many have found journaling so helpful, not only because of this but also because it is cathartic. Others have found it helpful to journal in the form of a prayer to God. Remember too that you don’t have to journal every day, and there is no rule about what to include. The idea is to be as honest as you know how.
Naming Desire: You can practice this at the beginning of any prayer or journal time. The idea is simple. Just name your deep desire, as best as you know how. Then write it down or express it to God. In doing so each day, over time you become acutely aware of your deeper feelings in the form of desires. And as you become more mindful of those desires, you discover more of God in you. If you have trouble naming desire, Margaret Silf, author and retreat leader, suggests starting with an Outside/In approach. Just go with a desire you can name, like “I want a new job” or “I want to see the mountains.” Then explore why you desire that. Or try an Inside/Out approach. Think about a recent movie or book that has stirred something deep in you. What was the feeling, the desire?
Spiritual Direction: One of the most important parts of spiritual direction is helping someone become more mindful. As a spiritual director, my work is to ask questions that will help a man become more aware of what he is feeling and how he is experiencing God. As a man grows in this, he can respond more quickly to God’s initiative in his life. It has been a joy and a privilege for me to walk alongside many men in this way. If you are interested in trying spiritual direction for yourself, click here for more information.
Retreats with silence: Every man I know struggles with silence. We are bombarded with so much from so many angles. The demands of life seem to make the idea of silence impractical or even impossible. But the experience of so many saints who have gone before us is that silence is the only way to navigate through this world with a sense of identity, purpose, and God’s presence. And we will never become mindful until we stop and are silent. To that end, we now offer two different types of retreats:
- The Heroic Retreat is an introduction to silence, using teaching and conversation, along with brief periods of silence. Click here for more information about the upcoming one on April 17-19.
- The Day of Silence is a 7-hour immersion into silence with some structure to help you. Click here for information about the next one on Mar. 27.
There are certainly other tools out there to help you become more mindful, but these will get you started. Don’t try to do all of them. Choose one or two that seem most doable and go there. Trust God to teach you along the way. Remember, you are not in this alone. He is always mindful of you.