Featured Article: How to Resist Distraction

We are surrounded by distractions that are more than appealing to our minds that crave a quick win and pleasure. Choosing to focus runs against, the grain and the more we give in, the harder it is to say no.

So what recourse do we have when a text message pings or a commercial calls for our attention? This compilation of studies offers some practical steps you can put to good use when you writer or pray:

 

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Your lazy brain is happy to just react to that relentless bombardment of stimuli coming its way. But when you just react, you don’t usually make the best choices. And while you’re definitely doing something, you’re rarely achieving your goals.

That’s because when you’re reacting, you’re not in control of your life. In fact, reacting is the opposite of control. You see something fun and you chase it. You see something scary and you run away. Either way, your environment is determining your behavior.

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When you need to get work done, put your phone on the other side of the room. Make distractions harder to reach.

When you have fewer things to react to or you make it harder to react to them, you’ll be less reactive.

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Neuroscientists say stress takes your prefrontal cortex — the rational part of your brain — “offline.” Quite simply, stress makes you stupid. And that’s why just reacting often makes you do stupid things.

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Read more…

 

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Book of the Month: Everything Belongs

everything-belongs-rohrWeek Two: Replacing Illusion with Reality

In his book Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr writes about the great surrender that must take place before we can find God and our true selves in prayer.

He is quick to note that God is already present. In fact, we cannot escape God’s presence but we can obscure it or overlook it. Our illusions about ourselves or about God can get in the way.

Therefore the great goal of every spiritual practice is to help us move past our illusions, distractions, and oversimplified answers so that we can be truly present for God.

 

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“We have no real access to who we really are except in God. Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are. Only when we live and see through God can ‘everything belong.’ All other systems exclude, expel, punish, and protect to find identity for their members in ideological perfection or some kind of ‘purity.’”

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“We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in every breath we take.”

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“All spiritual disciplines have one purpose: to get rid of illusions so we can be present.”

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“When we look at the questions, we look for the opening to transformation. Fixing something doesn’t usually transform us. We try to change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. We must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning. That is the path, the perilous dark path of true prayer.”

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“When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation. We avoid God, who works in the darkness—where we are not in control! Maybe that is the secret: relinquishing control.”

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Read more in Everything Belongs

 

For Reflection

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Friday Favorites for Prayer and Writing

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

This Is How to Resist Distraction

On the Appalachian Trail Combat Veterans Learn to Let Go

3 Truths about Dark Nights of the Soul

Christians Begin to Embrace the Enneagram

From Ed’s Site: The Lie about How to Live the Life You Love

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

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Featured Article: The Value of Making Time for Rest

Author Michelle DeRusha writes that Shelly Miller’s new book Sabbath Rest encouraged her with a gentle reminder to make more space for rest and for God in her week. DeRusha writes about the benefits prioritizing the Sabbath in this week’s featured post:

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“I was all in on Sabbath rest a couple of years ago. I believed in it and was committed to it. But somehow, as weeks passed into months and months passed into years, I chipped away at the edges of my Sabbath practice until finally, there was nothing left. Without even being aware of it, my Sundays became another day of chores, errands, social media and catching up on email.”

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“How much of our faith journey is firsthand experience and not just what we know about him? Information helps us know about God, but Sabbath allows us to encounter him.”
-Shelly Miller

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“What I’ve come to understand – and what Shelly’s book reiterated for me — is that in order to know God in the way he desires, we need to make space and time for him. And in order to make space and time for him, we have to quiet ourselves. We have to cease our constant busyness, our constant doing and accomplishing.”

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Read more here.

 

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Scripture Meditation: Worship and Reconciliation Go Together

“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24

How do we enter into prayer and worship? Self-examination is always helpful, especially if we have a reason to confess a wrong to a friend, colleague, or neighbor.

The monks who instructed novices in prayer typically noted that some distractions were a from God. A distraction may illuminate an area of our lives that requires repentance before we are free to pray.

Self-examination preemptively faces our distractions or failures and gives us a chance to take action before we enter into prayer. And if you don’t have time to pray because you’re busy seeking reconciliation, I trust that this obedience is precious to Jesus.

 

For Reflection

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Book of the Month: Everything Belongs

Week One: Surrender to God’s Mercy

everything-belongs-rohrIf everything belongs in our contemplative practice, then we must give up the charade of denial or wearing a mask to hide our flaws and pain. Our only hope will be completely surrendering to God’s mercy.

Once we face our pain, struggles, and failures, we remove ourselves from religious systems that gain their power from setting moral standards that cannot be violated by their members or call for simplistic answers. This is why those who have faced their own dark sides and found God’s mercy are so able to share mercy with others.

This month we’ll look at Richard Rohr’s book Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, with quotes this week about the process of exposing and moving beyond the obstacles that keep us from intimacy with God:

 

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“In God’s reign ‘everything belongs,’ even the broken and poor parts. Until we have admitted this in our own soul, we will usually perpetuate expelling systems in the outer world of politics and class. Dualistic thinking begins in the soul and moves to the mind and eventually moves to the streets. True prayer, however, nips the lie in the bud. It is usually experienced as tears, surrender, or forgiveness.”

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“In terms of soul work, we dare not get rid of the pain before we have learned what it has to teach us.”

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“We do not find our own center; it finds us… We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

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“It seems that we Christians have been worshipping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey.”

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“It is much easier to belong to a group than it is to know that you belong to God. Those who firm up their own edges and identity too quickly without finding their center in God and in themselves will normally be the enemies of ecumenism, forgiveness, vulnerability, and basic human dialogue.”

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Read more in Everything Belongs

 

For Reflection

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Saturday Prayer

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant me the fullness of your grace, that I, running to obtain your promises, may become a partaker of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.†

Source: The Divine Hours

Friday Favorites for Prayer and Writing

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

The Contemplative Outreach Newsletter

How You React to Facebook Likes Is Linked to Self-Esteem

5 Incredible Apps to Maximize Your Attention Span

On the Theology of Sleep

3 Office Realities That Make It Nearly Impossible to Focus

Don’t forget! Pray, Write, Grow and The Contemplative Writer are both $.99 right now.

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support, through a one-time gift or small monthly gifts can keep this website running: Support Us Today

Featured Article: What Is the True Cost of Technology?

Former blogger Andrew Sullivan writes in New York Magazine about the consequences of our society’s addiction to social media, the internet, and technology. He doesn’t mince words, and for the most part, I think he’s right on target.

This article is a long read, but I’ve picked out a few quotes to consider before you go on to read the rest:

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Yes, online and automated life is more efficient, it makes more economic sense, it ends monotony and “wasted” time in the achievement of practical goals. But it denies us the deep satisfaction and pride of workmanship that comes with accomplishing daily tasks well, a denial perhaps felt most acutely by those for whom such tasks are also a livelihood — and an identity.

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Has our enslavement to dopamine — to the instant hits of validation that come with a well-crafted tweet or Snapchat streak — made us happier? I suspect it has simply made us less unhappy, or rather less aware of our unhappiness, and that our phones are merely new and powerful antidepressants of a non-pharmaceutical variety.

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If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary. But the mysticism of Catholic meditation — of the Rosary, of Benediction, or simple contemplative prayer — is a tradition in search of rediscovery. The monasteries — opened up to more lay visitors — could try to answer to the same needs that the booming yoga movement has increasingly met.

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Read the rest here.

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Scripture Meditation: The Fear of the Lord and Contemplative Prayer

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; those who act accordingly have a good understanding; his praise endures forever.” 
Psalm 111:10

While Jesus tells us to not be afraid, and Paul says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, the Psalms have a way of putting us in our place. Those who are wise rightly fear the Lord, even if God does not come to us with thunder and fire.

The gentleness and meekness of Jesus is much like the same approach of Moses, who veiled his face after seeing God’s glory. God does not seek our worship or reverence through intimidation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fear the holiness and power of God.

A healthy “fear” of the Lord keeps us humble and helps us see God’s love and mercy with greater clarity and gratitude.

 

For Reflection

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