Daily activities as mindfulness opportunities and/or prayer life — themes on ‘praying ceaselessly’ from 1 Thessalonians

Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ — Anne Lamott

Blessing of your work — John O’Donohue

May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work
You do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those
Who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden you.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams,
Possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.


Questions to consider:

  • Do you have a spiritual practice of prayer or contemplation?
  • If not, what time of day might you regularly include such a practice? As you first wake up? Before you go to bed?
  • What if prayer could take place in the midst of daily activities such as washing dishes, traveling to school or work, walking outside, brushing your teeth, washing hands or something else simple?
  • How would you change the way you approach such a daily activity, to pay more attention, to be present and thoughtful about what you’re doing, and let it become a form of prayer, by being attentive and grateful to what happens?

Walking as Prayer

While it’s common knowledge that walking is good for physical health, many people may never have considered that walking is also good for their spiritual health. — Thomas Hawkins

Let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer. — Black Elk

But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are. — Anne Lamott

Many of us walk for the sole purpose of getting from one place to another. Now suppose we are walking to a sacred place. We would walk quietly and take each gentle step with reverence. I propose that we walk this way every time we walk on the earth. The earth is sacred and we touch her with each step. We should be very respectful, because we are walking on our mother. If we walk like that, then every step will be grounding, every step will be nourishing. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Prayer as Mindfulness, Consciousness and Seeking Union with Something More

Prayer is talking to something or anything with which we seek union, even if we are bitter or insane or broken… Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up. The opposite may be true: We may not be able to get it together until after we show up in such miserable shape. — Anne Lamott

The Sufis tell a wonderful story about a seeker who one night hears a voice saying, “Who’s there?” and the Sufi seeker answers with great excitement, “It is I, it is I, Lord! I am right here!” And the voice disappears. Years later, the Sufi again hears the voice calling, “Who’s there?” The Sufi thinks, “Here’s that voice again!” and he gets very excited at yet another opportunity, and responds, “It is I, Lord, and I seek you with all my heart!” Once again, the voice disappears. Some years later he again hears the voice calling, “Who’s there?” This time, the Sufi replies, “Thou Lord, only Thou!” This story clearly describes the process of moving oneself into the mind, heart, and consciousness of God. It comes, yes, little by little, but it also comes instantaneously, once we move into what the ancient mystics call “prayer without words.” This prayer is the prayer of consciousness. This prayer is the very breath of life. Consciousness that the breath I breathe is the breath of God is the sum total of an attitude of prayer. — Joan Chittister

Breath as Prayer

The fourth element of our body is air. The best way to experience the air element is the practice of mindful breathing. “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” After saying these sentences we can abbreviate them by saying “In” as we breathe in and “Out” as we breathe out. We don’t try to control our breathing. Whether our in-breath is long or short, deep or shallow, we just breathe naturally and shine the light of mindfulness on it. When we do this we notice that, in fact, our breathing does become slower and deeper naturally. “Breathing in, my in-breath has become deep. Breathing out, my out-breath has become slow.” Now we can practice, “Deep/slow.” We don’t have to make an extra effort. It just become deeper and slower by itself, and we recognize that. Later on, you will notice that you have become calmer and more at ease. “Breathing in, I feel calm. Breathing out I feel at ease. I am not struggling anymore. Calm/ease.” And then, “Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release all my worries and anxieties. Smiles/release.’ We are able to smile to ourselves and release all our worries. There are more than three hundred muscles in our face, and when we know how to breathe in and smile, these muscles can relax. This is “mouth yoga.” We smile and are able to release all our feelings and emotions. The last practice is, “Breathing in, I dwell deeply in the present moment. Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment. Present moment/wonderful moment.” Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment fully alive and aware.

“In, out
Deep, slow
Calm, ease
Smile, release”

Present moment, wonderful moment.”If you use this poem during sitting or walking meditation, it can be very nourishing and helping. Practice each line for as long as you wish. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Walking as Prayer

While it’s common knowledge that walking is good for physical health, many people may never have considered that walking is also good for their spiritual health. — Thomas Hawkins

Let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer. — Black Elk

But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are. — Anne Lamott

Many of us walk for the sole purpose of getting from one place to another. Now suppose we are walking to a sacred place. We would walk quietly and take each gentle step with reverence. I propose that we walk this way every time we walk on the earth. The earth is sacred and we touch her with each step. We should be very respectful, because we are walking on our mother. If we walk like that, then every step will be grounding, every step will be nourishing. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Prayer as Mindfulness, Consciousness and Seeking Union with Something More

Prayer is talking to something or anything with which we seek union, even if we are bitter or insane or broken… Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up. The opposite may be true: We may not be able to get it together until after we show up in such miserable shape. — Anne Lamott

The Sufis tell a wonderful story about a seeker who one night hears a voice saying, “Who’s there?” and the Sufi seeker answers with great excitement, “It is I, it is I, Lord! I am right here!” And the voice disappears. Years later, the Sufi again hears the voice calling, “Who’s there?” The Sufi thinks, “Here’s that voice again!” and he gets very excited at yet another opportunity, and responds, “It is I, Lord, and I seek you with all my heart!” Once again, the voice disappears. Some years later he again hears the voice calling, “Who’s there?” This time, the Sufi replies, “Thou Lord, only Thou!” This story clearly describes the process of moving oneself into the mind, heart, and consciousness of God. It comes, yes, little by little, but it also comes instantaneously, once we move into what the ancient mystics call “prayer without words.” This prayer is the prayer of consciousness. This prayer is the very breath of life. Consciousness that the breath I breathe is the breath of God is the sum total of an attitude of prayer. — Joan ChittisterBreath as Prayer

The fourth element of our body is air. The best way to experience the air element is the practice of mindful breathing. “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” After saying these sentences we can abbreviate them by saying “In” as we breathe in and “Out” as we breathe out. We don’t try to control our breathing. Whether our in-breath is long or short, deep or shallow, we just breathe naturally and shine the light of mindfulness on it. When we do this we notice that, in fact, our breathing does become slower and deeper naturally. “Breathing in, my in-breath has become deep. Breathing out, my out-breath has become slow.” Now we can practice, “Deep/slow.” We don’t have to make an extra effort. It just become deeper and slower by itself, and we recognize that. Later on, you will notice that you have become calmer and more at ease. “Breathing in, I feel calm. Breathing out I feel at ease. I am not struggling anymore. Calm/ease.” And then, “Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release all my worries and anxieties. Smiles/release.’ We are able to smile to ourselves and release all our worries. There are more than three hundred muscles in our face, and when we know how to breathe in and smile, these muscles can relax. This is “mouth yoga.” We smile and are able to release all our feelings and emotions. The last practice is, “Breathing in, I dwell deeply in the present moment. Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment. Present moment/wonderful moment.” Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment fully alive and aware.“In, out
Deep, slow
Calm, ease
Smile, release
Present moment, wonderful moment.”If you use this poem during sitting or walking meditation, it can be very nourishing and helping. Practice each line for as long as you wish. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Learning more about 1 Thessalonians:

• Primer for how to read 1 Thessalonians: https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Training/Post/Preview/231121
• Overview of 1 Thessalonians by the Bible Project: https://youtu.be/No7Nq6IX23c

Daily prayer and mindfulness practices:
• How to establish a daily prayer practice:http://practicingfaith.com/how-to-establish-a-daily-prayer-practice/
• Daily meditations to support prayer as daily practice include:UCC’s Daily Devotional
Daily Meditation from Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and ContemplationHeartland Center for Spirituality’s Daily Devotional (home of Thomas Merton)
Mindfulness app from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum VIllageCultivating prayer as daily practice: https://undoubtedgrace.com/5-things-you-must-do-to-create-a-productive-prayer-routine/

Work & Daily Activity as Prayer

Somehow or another, we have to get beyond the notion that life is divided into moments of going to church, saying our prayers, living in God or living our lives.— Sr Joan Chittister

… God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a great cosmic cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us–loves us so much that we the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is “renewed in the morning” or to put it in more personal and also theological terms, “our inner nature is being renewed everyday”. Seen in this light … involving God in the minuitae of daily life might be revisioned as the very love of God. ― Kathleen Norris


Sunday Prayers (excerpt) … So, for now I just ask that:

  • When I sing along in my kitchen to each song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in The Key of Life Album, that it be counted as praise. (Happy 70thBirthday, SW!)
  • And that when I read the news and my heart tightens in my chest, may it be counted as a Kyrie. 
  • And that when my eyes brighten in a smile behind my mask as I thank the cashier may it be counted as passing the peace.
  • And that when I water my plants and wash my dishes and take a shower may it be counted as remembering my baptism.
  • And that when the tears come and my shoulders shake and my breathing falters, may it be counted as prayer.
  • And that when I stumble upon a Tabitha Brownvideo and hear her grace and love of you may it be counted as a hearing a homily.
  • And that as I sit at that table in my apartment, and eat one more homemade meal, slowly, joyfully, with nothing else demanding my time or attention, may it be counted as communion.Amen.
    — Nadia Bolz-Weber

It is impossible to see how good work might be accomplished by people who think that our life in this world either signifies nothing or has only a negative significance. If, on the other hand, we believe that we are living souls, God’s dust and God’s breath, acting our parts among other creatures all made of the same dust and breath as ourselves; and if we understand that we are free, within the obvious limits of moral human life, to do evil or good to ourselves and to the other creatures – then all our acts have a supreme significance. If it is true that we are living souls and morally free, then all of us are artists. All of us are makers, within mortal terms and limits, of our lives, of one another’s lives, of things we need and use… If we think of ourselves as living souls, immortal creatures, living in the midst of a Creation that is mostly mysterious, and if we see that everything we make or do cannot help but have an everlasting significance for ourselves, for others, and for the world, then we see why some religious teachers have understood work as a form of prayer… Work connects us both to Creation and to eternity. ― Wendell Berry

… researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully—participants focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes—increased their feelings of inspiration by 25 percent and lowered their nervousness levels by 27 percent. “It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude. —Shahrzad Warkentin

What is bread? Depends on whom you ask. A source of complex carbohydrates, says the nutritionist. Bread is seed and soil, sun and rain, sweat and toil, says the farmer. Bread is flour and water, yeast and salt, skill and fire, says the baker. Bread is the sweet memory of my grandmother’s kitchen, says the old man. Bread is expensive, says the worker. Bread is power, says the politician. Bread is reconciliation and community, says the priest. Bread is cheap, says the rich fool. Bread is God’s gift, say those who pray with Jesus. Give us each day our daily bread. Farmers prepare the field and sow the seed, take care of the plants and bring in the harvest. Millers grind the wheat, the rye, the barley, and sift them to make the finest flours. Bakers blend the ingredients and turn them into beautiful, fragrant loaves of bread. Truck drivers deliver the seed, the fertilizer, the crop, the flour, the bread. Workers stock the shelves at night at the store. And we see so little of it until we notice the cashier whose wrist hurts from pulling tons of groceries across the scanner, and finally the kid who asks, ‘Paper or plastic?’ and puts the loaf in our bag. Some people call this a supply chain, but to me it will always be the poetry of human labor and the grace of God. Bread is a communal product, and no bread is eaten alone. There really is no such thing as my bread, there is only our bread, and every loaf contains our whole life together. When we pray with Jesus, we pray for bread and our life together, we pray for the land and all who live on it, for justice and compassion, and for the love that breaks bread even with the enemy. — Thomas Kleinert

Meditation on crossing thresholds, entering doors: I Am statements from Gospel of John.

If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate,
you are sure to wake up somebody. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
— William Ernest Henley

There are 84,000 doors to Enlightenment. — Pali Canon

With gates there are rules. With gates there are principles of which to be aware. With gates come obligations that every person should followA way through is what was needed. Helping each other to a way through – to the way through, is our witness as people of faith. And the gate rules are compassion, care and grace.— Christopher Burkett

It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.
— Bob Dylan
Questions to consider:

  • Name the thresholds you have crossed in life: the moments of change, the milestones that mark transformations.
  • Who and what have you brought with you as you open doors, and walk through them? What have you discovered on the other side of those passages?
  • Who has opened doors for you? For whom have you created opportunities?
  • What has holy Love made available or accessible to you?

Songs:

ON GATES

Breath remains the vehicle to unite body and mind and to open the gate to wisdom. – Thich Nhat Hanh

A Zen master would call the True Self “the face we had before we were born.” Paul would call it who you are “in Christ, hidden in God” (Colossians 3:3). It is who you are before having done anything right or anything wrong, who you are before having thought about who you are. Thinking creates the false self, the ego self, the insecure self. The God-given contemplative mind, on the other hand, recognizes the God Self, the Christ Self, the True Self of abundance and deep inner security. We start with mere seeing; we end up with recognizing. — Richard Rohr

If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in. ― Anne Lamott 

Many of us were taught that if you do not fit inside the circle of the church’s behavioral codes, God is not pleased with you, so we whittled ourselves down to a shape that could fit those teachings, or we denied those parts of ourselves entirely. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber
 
We did not choose to be the guardians of the gate, but there is no one else. — Lyndon B. Johnson

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. …  It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely … I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. — Thomas Merton

Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom. — Bertrand Russell

And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best … In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?’ — CS Lewis

Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most easily of all, the gate of fear. — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The hardest thing to find in life is balance – especially the more success you have, the more you look to the other side of the gate. What do I need to stay grounded, in touch, in love, connected, emotionally balanced? Look within yourself. — Celine Dion

No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief. — John Calvin

We have to understand that we should, at all times, have the right and the power to make decisions about our bodies. And that is an idea that must be taught at a young age. You can’t wait until a person is 18 years old and say, ‘Now you have the right’. You have to start that from the gate. — Jada Pinkett Smith

Only a person who has passed through the gate of humility can ascend to the heights of the spirit. — Rudolf Steiner

When I’m in the starting gate, it’s just me and the hill. — Mikaela Shiffrin

The key to heaven’s gate cannot be duplicated. — Douglas Horton

On the king’s gate the moss grew gray; The king came not. They call’d him dead; And made his eldest son, one day, Slave in his father’s stead. — Helen Hunt Jackson

I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate. — Arthur Wing Pinero

Giving, loving, helping, forgiving; all these begin to transform us as we wash the feet of those whom society regards as beneath it, and give to those who take from us … It is likely that we ourselves will need to walk through the gate back into the place of sacrifice in far too literal terms for our comfort.   — Andrew Prior

Blessing of the Gate
Jan Richardson

Press your hand
to this blessing,
here along
the side
where you can feel
its seam.

Follow the seam
and you will find
the hinges
on which
this blessing turns.

Feel how
your fingers
catch on them—
top,
bottom,
the slightest pressure
sending the gate
gliding open
in a glad welcome.

Wait, did I say
press your hand
to this blessing?

What I meant was
press your hand
to your heart.

Rest it over that
place in your chest
that has grown
closed and tight,
where the rust,
with its talent
for making decay
look artful,
has bitten into
what you once
held dear.

Breathe deep.
Press on the knot
and feel how it
begins to give way,
turning upon
the hinge
of your heart.

Notice how it
opens wide
and wider still
as you exhale,

spilling you out
into a realm
where you never dreamed
to go
but cannot now imagine
living this life
without.


Heaven’s GateRobert Morgan  
In her nineties and afraid of weather
and of falling if she wandered far outside her door,
my mother took to strolling in the house.
Around and round she’d go,
stalking into corners, backtrack,
then turn and speed down hallway,
stop almost at doorways,
skirt a table, march up to the kitchen sink
and wheel to left, then swing into the bathroom,
almost stumble on a carpet there.
She must have walked a hundred miles
or more among her furniture and family pics,
mementos of her late husband.
Exercising heart and limb,
outwalking stroke, attack,
she strode, not restless like a lion in zoo,
but with a purpose and a gait,
and kept her eyes on heaven’s gate.  

THRESHOLDS

He had the vague sense of standing on a threshold, the crossing of which would change everything. ― Kate Morton

In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between them, there are doors. ― William Blake

Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. — Andrew Carnegie

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. — Khalil Gibran

Luck is everything… My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film. — Alfred Hitchcock

We are ever on the threshold of new journeys and new discoveries. Can you imagine the excitement of the Wright brothers on the morning of that first flight? The anticipation of Jonas Salk as he analyzed the data that demonstrated a way to prevent polio? — Joseph B. Wirthlin

I have a thing for doors. I always think of them as a threshold to something new. — Jada Pinkett Smith

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