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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Contemplative Profiles: The Female Mystics of the Middle Ages

In the past I have made the mistake of ignoring the spiritual teachings of the Middle Ages, missing out on the rich contemplative practices that were documented at great personal cost. Dr. Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff notes in an article in Christianity Today that women were often denied educations in the Middle Ages, so their religious communities took on a more contemplative, creative, and spiritual shape, while many religious men leaned toward theological reflection.

This resulted in a unique spirituality from women who experienced the love of God in rich and vibrant encounters. Perhaps the simplicity of their spirituality became their greatest strength. While some female mystics from this time were supported by the church hierarchy, many wrote down their accounts and visions despite heated opposition, risking persecution and even death at the hands of controlling church leaders.

Dr. Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff writes about female mystics for Christianity Today:

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We think of the Middle Ages as the age of faith, and so it was, but it was also an age of crisis. In such a context, mysticism was not a retreat from the negative aspects of reality, but a creative marshaling of energy in order to transform reality and one’s perception of it.

Mystics were the teachers of the age, inspired leaders who synthesized Christian tradition and proposed new models for the Christian community. We know some of the men—Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas—but we are not as familiar with the women, although they were actually more numerous. Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Angela of Foligno, Julian of Norwich, and other women mystics drew on their experience of the divine to provide spiritual guidance for others. Such women became highly respected leaders of the faithful. Their role as prophets and healers was the one exception to women’s presumed inferiority in medieval society.

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She goes on to write:

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Dame Julian of Norwich said in her Showings: “ … God forbid that you should say or assume that I am a teacher … for I am a woman, ignorant, weak and frail. But I know very well that what I am saying I have received by the revelation of him who is the sovereign teacher … because I am a woman, ought I therefore to believe that I should not tell you of the goodness of God, when I saw at that same time that it is his will that it be known?”

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As we honor their legacy, learn from their wisdom, and embody their practices, may we have the courage to share with others the ways God has spoken to us.

 

Reflection

Take 5 minutes to ask God what you need to receive today.

Remain open to sharing that with someone else if appropriate.