close up photography of hands and feet

Thank God for Feet

This Christian mindfulness exercise comes from the tradition of walking meditation. I’m only walking around the house to avoid walking in snow. Walking very slowly, step by step, would attract some attention from the family, probably including the cats. Instead, I’ll thank God for feet.

During this exercise, recall your attention to the bottoms of your feet at various points during the day. If your feet are functioning well, praise God for that. (I spent four months in a wheelchair recovering from a shattered ankle. So I know how much being able to walk means to me.)

Mindfully focus on the sensations on the soles of your feet. Do you feel warmth? Cold? Tingling? Do you feel the sturdiness of the floor beneath you?

Some in the mindfulness community believe that focusing on the bottoms of your feet makes you feel more grounded and protects you from anxious feelings. I’m not sure that works for me. But it is helpful to recall how God made us and to thank Him for our feet.

Take Ten

One of the essential of Christian mindfulness is meditation. If you are not sitting in silence before the Lord every day already. let’s try at least ten minutes a day. If you spend your time in a house filled with people, it’s even more imperative for you to have some silent time alone with God.

Christian mindfulness meditation can take several forms, including silent contemplative prayer and meditating on Scripture. You want to be open to God, loving Him and listening to Him.

Find a place where you are unlikely to be disturbed. I’ve heard of parents meditating in children’s rooms after they have gone to sleep. People meditate in cars and in bed. I do my meditation two places: in my bedroom and in our great room, which has prayer candles to light on the fireplace mantle. My cat Bert attends my meditation at times because he loves it and inevitably finds me when I am doing it. He just sits quietly.

Set a timer. I use the Insight Timer app on my phone. That way you don’t have to keep looking at a clock.

I also start my meditation, particularly in the morning, with a short reading from the 30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher series. Others start by following their breathing. You can say the Jesus prayer or another short prayer like “Come Holy Spirit” to center down. Some I know slowly recite Scripture from memory. Just stay in the moment with God.

It’s just 10 minutes, but it can change your day and eventually your life.

Mindfully Consider Trees

In my part of the world, snow and ice cover our trees. Since all but the evergreens have dropped their leaves, we can see their beautiful architecture. From the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the Trees of Life in Revelation, trees play an important role in our spiritual story.

This Christian mindfulness exercise helps us to become more aware of how important trees are to our daily lives. If you have little ones, they can easily participate in this exercise.

First, let’s pray in gratitude for our trees … those in the yard, those seen through the windows and those you’ve loved. Thank you, Lord, for creating trees.

Next, be mindful of the things in your home. Which started out as part of a tree? Is there wood in your house frame, your floors, your furniture?

Pull out kitchen drawers to find wooden spoons. Look in the refrigerator for the fruit of trees. Try the spice cabinet, which you can see the ground up bark of the cinnamon tree. Or open the drawer where you keep the maple syrup. Then, of course, there’s paper, and nuts, and materials from resins or gums.

There’s lots to be grateful for! Thank you, Lord, for trees and all the ways they serve us.

turned on black samsung smartphone between headphones

Mindfulness With Music

In my part of the world, the coldest days of winter have arrived. This is a wonderful time to cozy up with a blanket and a hot drink to listen — really listen — to music.

Take at least 30 minutes to listen to music that allows you to feel God’s presence in the present moment. Of course, adding music to chores elevates the experience. But many of us have music in the background so much that we fail to enjoy the experience.

You can create your own playlist. Or just search “Contemplative Prayer” on Spotify to find good playlists.

“A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence” by Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel (which you can download for free here) also lists music to consider.

Hymns and Choruses

  • Be Still, My Soul
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Before the Throne of God Above
  • Blessed Assurance
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  • Give Me Jesus
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness
  • How Great Thou Art
  • In Christ Alone
  • It Is Well With My Soul

Instrumental

  • Canon in D – Pachelbel
  • Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ – Albinoni
  • The Four Seasons – Vivaldi
  • Messiah – Handel
  • Water Music – Handel
  • Mass in B Minor – Bach
  • Brandenburg Concertos – Bach
  • Double Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins – Bach
  • Requiem – Mozart
  • Symphony No. 40 – Mozart
  • Piano Concerto No. 21 – Mozart
  • Symphonies 5, 7 and 9 – Beethoven
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 – Rachmaninoff

young worker who feels blah

Breathe Away the Blahs

Are you feeling blah? Not quite depressed. Not quite anxious. But not joyful and content either.

A research study conducted at Duke found that about 30% of adults have “the COVID blues.” The main symptom: We just don’t feel like ourselves. We are sluggish and not happy.

This Christian mindfulness exercise may help.

  1. Go to a place where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes.
  3. Ask God to come anew into your life. To give you the wisdom to improve your relationship with Him.
  4. As you continue to concentrate on your breathing, imagine that the out-breath removes your discontent and the in-breath brings you ease.
  5. Be mindful of thoughts that come up. You don’t have to fight them. Just recognize that they are there.
  6. Pray about any thoughts that bother you.
  7. Ask yourself if you are feeling better. I hope you are.

Color Yourself Mindful

Perk up your Christian mindfulness by paying attention to one particular color for a day. The steps are easy and often improve your mood.

  1. Pick a primary color.
  2. Consciously look for the color as you move intentionally through the day.
  3. Enjoy all the shades and variations of the color.
  4. Note how it appears in nature.
  5. Praise God for color and for that color in particular.

This exercise also could be part of a nature walk, forest bathing (silent walking through a wooded area with mindfulness and deep breathing) or a gratitude walk (in which you thank God for every thing you see that you feel gratitude for). It’s a nice exercise for kids as well.

My color today is blue. What’s yours?

When You Wake Up at Night

It’s 2 a.m. Do you know where your mindfulness practice is? Yes, waking up in the middle of the night is unpleasant. But it can be an opportunity to grow as a Christian who practices mindfulness.

Mindful, an excellent magazine, published an article in its Spring 2021 issue titled “Beginner’s Mind” by Michelle Maldonado. In answering a question about preparing for sleep, Michelle also gave wonderful advice about what to do when you wake up in the night.

She suggested activating your parasympathetic nervous system with an easy breathing practice:

  • Inhale to the count of four.
  • Exhale slowly to the count of eight.
  • Repeat.

This practice activates the vagus nerve that is the major nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body.

You also could add more elements to this: doing a gratitude list or saying the Jesus prayer. Either bring the presence of God into your night.

Michelle and many others also suggest that, if you can’t go back to sleep, get up and read. Many of my friends read the Psalms to calm in the middle of the night. I tend to meditate over scripture or elements in the Thirty Days With a Great Spiritual Teacher series.

In any case, you won’t be in bed feeling frustrated. Perhaps, as one of my friends used to say, God has woken you up to spend time with you. It’s good to be ready to listen.

Try Lectio Divina

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Psalm 119:105

Lectio divina is Latin for sacred reading. This ancient Christian practice brings mindfulness to reading the Bible by enveloping it with meditation and prayer. It gives us an opportunity to listen to God, to allow Him to speak to us as individuals.

Even with its Latin name and affiliation with monastic life, lectio divina is not difficult. It’s a four-step process … five if you count preparation.

We should try not to make this a checklist. It’s more like basking in the Bible than studying the Bible. You are reading Scripture to form your development as a child of God, not just to gather information.

So preparation is pretty easy. You need to have a calm mind. You need to be in a place that’s quiet where you can be alone. Then invite the Holy Spirit to be present with you. The Holy Spirit has a significant role in delivering the Word of God’s meaning to you.

Then begin the four steps:

  • Read (lectio): Slowly read the Bible verses. Do it several times if you can. Reading out loud may help as well. You also can personalize the verse by inserting your name where the Bible uses “you.”
  • Meditate (meditatio): Reflect on the words and phrases in the Scripture. Does anything jump out at you? Or, if it’s more subtle, does a word or phrase draw your attention?
  • Respond (oratio): St. Ambrose said, “Let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture, so that God and people may talk together.” So ask God why a particular phrase or word has caught your attention. Talk with God about what you are hearing or feeling. How does this apply to your life today? Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, to help you understand.
  • Rest (contemplatio): Then sit quietly and listen for God’s response. Rest in His presence with mindfulness. Be quiet. (This is contemplative prayer.) Don’t worry if nothing happens. Sometimes God just wants us to sit with Him. If you feel your mind wandering, quietly repeat the word or phrase that attracted you in the reading.

Try to keep a consistent time and place for practicing. Recommended scriptures to start include:

  • Numbers 6:24-26
  • Joshua 1:8
  • 2 Samuel 22: 31-32
  • Psalm 42:1-2
  • Psalm 62
  • Psalm 73: 25-28
  • Psalm 119: 105
  • Matthew 16: 24-26
  • John 14: 27
  • Ephesians 1:15-22

computer monitor with words be kind

Practice Kind Attention

How’s your mood? Whether we feel angry or bored, the practice of kind attention can bring us back in touch with our gentle Jesus.

In Christian mindfulness, the practice brings prayer, centering and intentional observation together as one. Here’s one way to accomplish this:

  • Quiet yourself. Breathe in and out, paying attention to the sensations, around 10 times.
  • Lift your heart to the Lord. Call out, if necessary. The Lord knows how you feel. But you may not be aware of all of it. Pay attention to your emotions as you pour them out. Neither fight them nor feed them. Again, the Lord already know how you feel. Begin to bring kind attention to it.
  • After you pour out your emotions, especially if they are tumultuous, pray the Serenity Prayer. The complete version of the Serenity Prayer is here.
  • Once you have shifted to inner calm, start to pay kind attention to the things around you. Where do you see the hand of God? In a pet, a rock, a tree, a piece of art? Can you see “that of God” in the people around you?
  • As you begin to move back into your daily activities, stay in the present moment and continue to observe it … and your feelings … with kindness.

Try It: Quiet Your Hands

Feeling nervous? Gee, I wonder why. This Christian mindfulness exercise will help you to quiet your spirit by resting your hands.

Several times a day, stop and put your hands in your lap. Keep them still. Then offer up a prayer of praise to God for all you have done with your hands … and all you are going to do with them in the future.

As you keep still, focus on the sensation of your hands. Do you feel a little twinge of pain? Or the feeling of muscles releasing? Focusing on one aspect of your body … like a mini-body scan … can help your entire body to feel more relaxed.