My mother gave me a journal for Christmas. I have to admit I was about to roll my eyes when I opened it because after many failed attempts over the years, I have discovered I do not possess the dedication to maintaining a journal. However, I noticed that this journal was a “mindfulness” journal. Each page provides a prompt, either with a quotation by some wisdom teacher or by suggesting some activity, and then invites you to write about what comes to mind. I was intrigued, so I began with page one.
Upon turning to the third entry, the journal instructs the user to post about a dozen notes around your home and/or office which remind you to “Stop. Breathe. Be.” After about a week, the user was then asked to write about the experience. At first, my OCD nature was uncomfortable at the thought of all these little post-its around my house, but I decided to give it a try. One on the fridge, one at the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, near my bed stand and so one-all over my apartment. Immediately, I felt strangely compelled each time I noticed one of these little post-its. My mind often fills with lists of action items to be completed at my own parish, in my home, and at work, especially in the hustle of preparing for Christmas! But, each time I stopped what I was doing (even for a moment), took a deep slow breath, and focused on bringing my mind back to the present, I felt a sense of peace and even joy. It was remarkable that this small shift in the ordinary could have such a dramatic effect!
Sometimes we don’t realize how not in the present we regularly are, focusing instead on meals yet to be planned, work we have yet to complete, and even conversations we have yet to have with others. We forget that the more we allow our consciousness to drift to the future or the past, the further we are from actually being in the present, from being in reality.
Present-mindedness is precisely what Christmas offers us. The Creator of the cosmos breaks into human reality in the completely ordinary moment of an infant birth. It’s not about the dangerous journey that brought and man and a woman to a manger, it’s not about all the power and healing that will flow through this child when he is grown, it’s not even about the awesome mercy which will be poured out with an empty tomb and glorious resurrection. In that manager… at that moment, it is about the birth of hope. In that small shift in the ordinary, we discovered that when we are fully present anything is possible.
So, just as my little journal activity offered, I invite you to practice present-mindedness this season in whatever way works for you and rejoice in the knowledge that God is fully present with you, and in each moment, anything is possible.