This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head here. Today's 7 topic is stress.
A lot of the practices I've been engaged in this past week (knitting, journaling, photography, yoga, walking...) fall under the header of mindfulness. Journaling requires introspection and an examination of the day's events and their effect on me. My lunchtime quiet time is spent outside, away from electronic distractions, aware of every bird and butterfly, and the same goes for walks (and to some extent, photography).
Longer intervals of rest I spent knitting, and finished up a pair of legwarmers (intended for Sprout, but just big enough for Brooklyn's slender legs). Kick the Beat was simple enough to engage my hands while my mind was elsewhere - the project helped me concentrate on praying, but I could also sit it down if Brooklyn brought me a book to read.
Mindfulness on its own has never been helpful to me - what am I being mindful of? The injunction to empty my mind for some yoga practices is impossible, and, I think, causes me to miss out on the greatest benefit: the opportunity to occupy my distractable body with a simple task while leaving my mind free to pray with greater focus. The same applies to knitting, and praying on paper (the act of writing my thoughts is extremely centering).
Another concept is that of counted breaths - the Eastern idea that we're all given the same number of breaths, and that the key to longevity is to slow our hurried panting. I think of Ann Voskamp's words in One Thousand Gifts, when she speaks of slowing time by entering fully into it - by opening our eyes and hearts to the gifts that surround us, the ones we miss when we rush madly through each moment on our way to the next one.
I can use knitting or journaling or yoga or a walk out-of-doors followed by a hot bowl of homemade soup to unwind - but then I'm just a heap of string, without direction or purpose. The only thing that makes those mindful practices hold lasting value is when they are directed toward a Kingdom that never fades, and a God who always listens and never breaks His promises. The stress will come back unless I replace it with a peace that passes understanding, one that comes from outside of me and my transient, shifting ways.
Check out Thursday's post for a giveaway, and come back tomorrow for a new focus (and another giveaway, that you won't want to miss!)