simplyenjoy


In the moment (grace)…

There seems to be a lot of emphasis on “living in the moment” and “in the now” in popular culture. We ingest messages of “just do it” and “go with your gut” and “YOLO – you only live once” in social media, reality TV programs and even in our social circles where we’re possibly even encouraged to make impulsive decisions.

But what if we don’t only live once?

What if all of our choices and actions have a huge impact on our life and the lives of those around us? It’s actually absurd to believe that they don’t.

Behavioral science 101: You are already being what you will become.

It’s the butterfly effect. Our choices and actions influence others and vice-versa.

Consider how strong habit is for a moment. Consider how difficult it is to change deeply conditioned negative habits. When we are comfortable with a behavior, even if it is maladaptive for our lives, it takes an incredible amount of effort to begin to change or modify the behavior.

(Courtesy of Google images.)

But change it we can, if we allow space for the change. This requires a shedding of the attachments to the behavior that keeps us performing it.

Our daily choices literally shape and wire our brain to behave.

One of the reasons we may find change so difficult is that we try to do it all in our own strength. We use our own effort, our own force and our own ideas and strategies.

We try instead of surrendering.

“I’m trying to eat healthy!”

“I want to go to the gym, but I don’t have time…”

“I try to get along with him/her, but it’s so hard…”

“I tried doing it that way, but it didn’t work.”

Try. Try. Try.

All human effort inevitably leads us back to the futility of our carnal thinking.

In the book of Romans chapter 7 we see the yo-yo reality of trying to accomplish change and right living entirely in our own strength, as it is written:

15 I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do. 16 I do what I don’t want to do. So I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, I am no longer the one who does these things. It is sin living in me that does them.

18 I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can’t. 19 I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do. 20 I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me.

21 Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law. 23 But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body.

24 What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? 25 I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Instead of facing our challenges head on and allowing God to restore us and to lead us through, we often, in fear, turn away to walk down different roads and rely on our own strength. Perhaps an alternative path can give us some space and perspective for a time, but if the problem or negative habit is never dealt with and released, it will keep rising up. If not now, then later. Avoiding the truth only leads us in delaying the inevitable.

(Courtesy of Google images.)

The “in the moment” philosophy of popular culture is beneficial in reminding us to release the need to control outcomes and elements in the external world in order to feel more internally free. However, it in a way deemphasizes the personal power and responsibility in the individual in choosing their own behaviors and responses to the stimuli. Every day we are choosing our actions and our motivations for those actions.

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Instead of simply reacting to the world around us, we are actually behaving in ways that create culture and create a tone and pattern for the future.

It’s easy to slip into living “in the moment” and the moral relativism that is intrinsically linked with this philosophy. If anything goes, then we’re under no authority and nothing is required of us.

But, we know in reality, that’s not the case. We have many responsibilities and there is always work to be done.

When I think of what it truly means to “live in the moment” I think of Jesus, hanging from the cross, forgiving right then and there what most could never. It’s that in the moment realization that you control nothing and no one that is the most radical freedom available to human beings. And it’s totally accessible in the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s a free gift of salvation with far-reaching redemptive implications for our lives. Instead of trying so hard to change, it’s easier to surrender space in your heart and allow Christ to move in and work.

The love of Christ is the only love that turns the other cheek, that loosens attachments, that allows us to love and serve and give as unto the Lord and not as unto man.

Man will always be flawed. There will always be people darkened by the futility of their own minds and hearts. Yes, and even believers wander and stray.

But the cross is always there. And the resurrection of Christ is a beacon of renewal that reminds us change and transformation are possible through Jesus. It’s always available when we reach out for it and when we surrender to it…

..and we stop trying so hard.

What a paradox.

What a beautiful mystery.



Mindfulness training and lining up your ducks.

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:

on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

Quacker

(Courtesy of google images.)

Mindfulness involves paying  attention to our experiences as they unfold in the present moment.

Mindfulness involves becoming a curious and compassionate observer of our experiences (including inner experiences such as our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, images, memories and so forth.)

When we practice mindfulness we learn to bring full awareness to our present-moment experience with an attitude of acceptance, patience, curiosity and non-judgement.

When we practice mindfulness we begin to disrupt habitual and unhealthy patterns of behavior, such as when we lash out when feeling angry or frustrated… when we isolate ourselves when feeling sad or afraid… when we eat or drink alcohol when feeling anxious, bored, depressed, lonely and so on.

Automatic pilot or Mindlessness: In a car, we sometimes drive for miles “on automatic pilot” without really being aware of what we are doing. When we do things mindlessly like this we miss out on life.

By becoming more aware of our inner experience (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice. When we get sucked into our thoughts and feelings, we often react in ways that are unhelpful or harmful. With regular mindfulness practice we learn to increase awareness and acceptance of our inner experience so that we can deliberately choose how to respond rather than reacting automatically based on how we feel at the moment.

Excerpt copied from CPRP Mindfulness Training (Greco, 2010)

To the untrained mind, or perhaps the young mind, or the “immature mind” or the traumatized mind, reading the words “we can deliberately choose how to respond rather than reacting automatically based on how we feel at the moment” can sound like a joke. A magic trick. A fantastical notion.

“What do you mean I can choose what I feel when I have all these problems?” They may hurriedly say. “There is this person over here making me feel like this. Then you don’t know my work situation… wait till you hear about that. Oh, and did I mention my neighbors? Then there’s the bills, and this new project I have going on. And I just can’t shake these cigarettes… Oh, and my husband did this the other day…” And on, and on, and on, and on. Because there are plenty of problems.

If you’ve been around someone like this, someone who asks for advice, calls out for help, but continues on in unsolved patterns and excuses, you are most likely encountering someone who requires mindfulness training. Someone who needs to take on personal responsibility and power of their current life problems and situations.

Mindfulness, like the description above reads, is the practice of paying attention on purpose. When we pay attention to our choices, we can begin to see why we choose them and how we choose them. The various influences that press your behavioral patterns begin to unfold when you look at your life from the scope of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is also the solid foundation of good mental health.  The way in which we think and handle the inevitable let-downs and dramas of life are key to our mental and emotional well-being. “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT)  is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements from cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression. Mindfulness is a potentially life-changing way to alter our feelings in positive ways, and an ever-expanding body of evidence shows that it really works.” – Excerpt from Mindfulness atwww.mentalhealth.org.uk

In a metaphorical way of speaking, mindfulness is sort of like lining up the mental ducklings – those wandering thoughts, personal attachments, mental labeling and judgements of others and the mind’s preconceived notions on life, existence and reality.

Ducks(Courtesy of google images.)

Have you ever seen ducklings trying to line up? They’re not like adult geese, communicating together to create a perfect flying V of teamwork and cohesion. Ducklings are like immature feather-heads, awkwardly learning how to paddle the water with their new webbed feet. This is how mindfulness practice can seem for a new person introduced to the methods of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy or to someone recovering from a trauma, loss, mental health diagnosis or addiction.

A person in recovery may be thinking aligning all their thoughts, feelings and perceptions in the present moment seems like “a lot of work” or an “overwhelming” concept, but the process truly begins with “surrender.” It begins with a readiness to practice. When a client, patient or person is ready to “surrender all” to the practice and process of mindfulness training then they begin to let go of the judgements even they themselves place on the treatment. They accept the process as a path to peace and a healthy mental and emotional state. The key to mindfulness practice is not over-looking life’s challenges and negative events, but leaning into them and learning from the experiences. In mindfulness practice we accept, listen and learn self-control through behavioral consciousness. This is why so many 12-step programs place emphasis on a “higher power.” When a person in recovery truly “surrenders all” to the process, and continues to “surrender all” throughout the process, then full recovery is attainable. It is through the misconceptions that there is “an end” to the process that relapse and regression occur. Mindfulness is a daily practice. A constant journey.

You can ask a health care professional or professional social worker or counselor about mindfulness practice or MCBT. Many people have learned about mindfulness habits through use of 12-step programs, through religious practices and teachings and through physical and spiritual disciplines like martial arts, yoga and other exercise programs.

Steps one in the 12-Step program is:

“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

So the first step is “to admit.” To surrender to the fact that the addiction has mastery over YOU and your EGO.

Ego:

1. the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
2. Psychoanalysis . the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.
3. egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day.
4. self-esteem or self-image; feelings: Your criticism wounded his ego.
5. ( often initial capital letter  ) Philosophy .

a.
the enduring and conscious element that knows experience. 
b. 
Scholasticism. the complete person comprising both body and soul.

Check out more of the 12-Step program if you or someone you know or love is recovering from addiction.

And… NEVER. GIVE. UP.

“Happy is the man who can keep a quiet heart, in the chaos and tumult of this modern world.” – Patience Strong




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