Sometimes when I’m meditating, I find myself trying to force the direction of my thoughts. I get frustrated with too many ideas or getting lost in a cloud for longer than I feel I should. This is the opposite of mindfulness. This is thinking. Instead of just allowing things to come and go as they do, I too often try to structure things the way I want them. Next week, I will try and focus on keeping a very open mind and allowing my mind to be free. I am going to focus on the breath but also realize that thoughts will come and go.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Today, I am grateful that I get to go to work every day and do impactful, meaningful work that helps others achieve more in their lives. Many people are very pessimistic about higher education, but education can and does change lives. Education changes the lives of those who can attain higher levels of education and the lives of those who benefit from their expertise. For my work, I am grateful.
Each day seems to go to its rhythm, and today was no different. Unlike the day before, not as organized and not as structured. Here is, after 11:00 pm, and I am just sitting down now with some time to jot down my thoughts on mindfulness. Today’s thought is this, part of mindfulness is accepting what is rather than what could have been or what might be in the future. Just focus on the now. Be there. It is essential to experience what you live in the moment rather than trying to remember what you did or why you did it later on. Just be present.
“Moses said to the Lord , “May the Lord , the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord ’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”” Numbers 27:15-17
Today, I am grateful for my oldest son Alex. It’s his 20th birthday today! As I get older I find that time goes by more and more quickly, it seems impossible that it’s been 20 years since we brought him home from the hospital. He has grown into an amazing young man. Smart, happy, and full of life. I could not be more proud of the man he is becoming. For my son Alex, I am forever grateful.
Today started with a busy morning, so I shifted my meditation to this afternoon. In reality, this proved to work very well, and I was able to focus. However, I was exhausted today - the combination of lifting, a HIIT workout, and a busy workday wore me out quickly. Interestingly, today’s meditation focused on getting the mind and the body into the same place. A place where both the body and mind are alert and aware but relaxed and at ease. This is not an easy combination.
Today, I am grateful for my wife’s delicious homemade banana bread. Whenever we have leftover bananas, my wife bakes a loaf of banana bread. Sometimes she adds chocolate chips, sometimes blueberries. No matter how it’s made, it’s delicious. For tasty, mouth-watering, sweet banana bread, I am thankful.
I was able to follow through on my commitment to meditate first thing in the morning today. The house was quiet, and it was an excellent, peaceful, calming session. Today’s session focused on a technique to ‘brighten’ things up during times you may feel sleepy or if you fall asleep regularly while meditating. The funny thing is, regardless of how tired I am, I rarely have any issues staying awake during meditation.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
Today, I am grateful for my childhood. I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s in a smallish town in south-central Minnesota. I played outside every day all summer long and was typically gone from after breakfast to before dinner. Just out, running around, playing, having fun. The streets were quiet, the neighborhood was full of other kids, and we always had a game going. I remember riding my big wheel up and down the sidewalk for hours. We weren’t rich, but we never felt poor. For my childhood, I am grateful.
Being happy with who you are is no small task. It seems that we are forever working to improve ourselves, get in better shape, get more intelligent, or lose some weight. We are very rarely content with who we are. Mindfulness wants you to find happiness and contentment not with who you want to be but with who you are today. As a man constantly looking for self-improvement, I find that concept hard to accept. I came into this practice with the idea that it was somehow going to make me better or more able to deal with stress. In reality, I need to be happy with who I am to improve and find my true self. I can only do this by letting go of the expectations I have and accepting what is.
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” John 6:27
Today, I am grateful for my mom. She is, without a doubt, the most thoughtful, caring and loving person I know. She always makes sure her kids and grandkids know just how much they are loved and she works to make every Christmas and Birthday as special as possible. For my Mom, I am grateful and blessed.
I’ll be honest; I’m struggling to make mindfulness the priority that it needs to be. While I am continuing to get time each day to focus on meditation, it’s often last-minute or as I get time. This is not how I want this to be, nor was is it my intention when I started working on this practice. Given this, I need to make a change. I want this to be a priority and a part of my day that I look forward to, get up early for, and something in which I find value. I believe that morning is the best time for me to find the quiet I need to be successful, and therefore I need to find a way to ensure that I get up and be present.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5
Today, I am grateful for Minnesota State Parks. There are 75 state parks spread out throughout the state of Minnesota. Each has a unique personality with a variety of features and activities to explore. I’ve visited many (but not all) of Minnesota’s state parks, and each one has been fun, entertaining, and different. For Minnesota state parks, I am grateful.
More information on all 75 of Minnesota’s State Parks can be found HERE
Moving from meditation and mindfulness being just another task that needs to be completed to an opportunity for peace and clarity can be a shift in mindset that makes the practice much better. Learning to appreciate the time you can spend in meditation, allowing thoughts to come and go, and finding the blue sky beyond the clouds is an essential part of the journey. I am working to both find the time to complete the task and appreciate the time I have when I have it.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” John 1:12
Today, I am grateful for poetry. Honestly, I don’t read poetry as much or as often as I should. However when I do, I find that every emotion can be found. Wisdom, support, anguish, love, laughter, sadness, pain, happiness, and faith can all be found in the written word. My grandfather wrote beautiful poetry and reading it helps me remember him. My favorite poem is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. For poetry, I am grateful.
Taking the time to learn and practice mindfulness is teaching me so much about myself. I’m learning how impatient I’ve been in my life, how little attention I pay to the essential things in life, and how much attention I pay to inconsequential things. Even though I get out of bed every morning and start my day, I spend much of the day asleep, unaware of what I am doing or why I am doing it. Mindfulness helps you live each day as if you are awake for it rather than sleeping through it. You can focus on the moment at hand rather than all of the moments to come.
“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” - Henry David Thoreau
“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” Psalms 57:9-11
Today, I am grateful that May is Mental Health Month. Working in the Emergency Medical Services as long as I have, I’ve seen many patients suffering from mental health issues, are unable to live everyday lives, and are often seen as outcasts. These outcomes need not be the norm. Mental illness should not have a negative stigma. There should be help available for all who need it. This past week one of my co-workers quit her role as an EMT because of PTSD and the inability to do the job. We all need to be willing to ask for help and talk about our struggles. For Mental Health Month, I am grateful.
How many times have you missed a crucial moment unintentionally? For example, you took the time to go to your son’s baseball game but then failed to see his great defensive play at first base because your attention was on your phone or in a book or talking to another parent. If you are anything like me, this happens far too often. It’s innocent and not intentional, but the fact remains that you missed an opportunity to share in the excitement because you were not present in the moment. Mindfulness helps bring you back to the present and stay there, focused on what you are doing, not everything else. Being present makes your moments more meaningful and your presence more powerful.