Elizabeth B. (Deacon)
I have learned to like the experience of contemplative prayer during the Living Mindfully in Christ course. It has helped me not to rush through my prayer time, but to be contemplative in my time with God and showed me that it is not all about my talking, but learning to listen too. The class has opened me up to be mindful in the things that I do, to be in the moment of what I am doing, and this has made a big difference in my life. Sharing with others and learning new things each week from our Leader, Sandra, has shown me a new way to be mindful in my prayer time thereby enriching my relationship with God.
I learned that by doing Lectio Divina helps me to understand much better any passage I am reading and leads me to be able to rest in the presence of God. Focusing on myself and learning to forgive me, to love me, to help me not judge others, to be mindful of what I say and do, has made a big impact on my life. I wish the Course could have been longer, and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to grow closer to God.
I signed up for the Living Mindfully in Christ class with goals of being closer to God and better at listening for the Holy Spirit’s correction and direction as a Lenten exercise. So much more has been given me…joy and serenity by simply resting in His presence. Nouwen’s words (THE DANCE OF LIFE) and the class have reminded me that God wants me to accept these spiritual gifts. Sandra, your caring and nonjudgmental facilitation encourages me to continue in gentle (new concept to me) persistent efforts to remain close to God. What a blessing! Each week has brought new revelations, tears, laughter and peace. Thank you and my fellow participants for providing a loving spiritual environment for this journey.
In essence, this class has helped me to practice prayer not as a Christian duty and empty ritual of faith, but rather as a life-affirming relationship with a loving God whose presence and healing are always available to me. I have learned to bring both my joy and sorrow, my celebrations and failures, and my fears and deepest longings to him in a contemplative, nonjudgmental way that is more honest and open. Prayer has become a means for actually experiencing his unconditional love and grace in my life.
Prior to this class, my Christian walk had largely become a burden and empty practice. I felt far away from God and dishonest. I was busy serving in the Church but had lost any sense of real purpose or peace. Learning about the practice of mindfulness and contemplative prayer has helped me to begin a new journey, a return to my first love of Jesus Christ and my heavenly Father.
The practices and concepts I have learned in this class have helped me begin to let go of many fears I had about God and his expectations of me. During some of my mindful prayers, I have felt his unconditional love in a deeply personal way. After many years of experiencing guilt and isolation, some of my prayers have been like a drink of cool water to parched and thirsty lips. I have also learned to see the beauty and serenity of solitude – of the value of pulling away from our hectic, chaotic lives to find Him and rest in his presence.
Sandra’s practical guidance helped me to recognize some of the emotional and cognitive barriers I had created, blocking me from a closer relationship with God and others. I now understand that I can mindfully choose to respond differently–that I can begin to draw closer to God and love others in my life more honestly, free of both judgement and expectations. Our reading of Henri Nouwen’s writings was also deeply encouraging and insightful, and Sandra’s facilitation of the group helped to foster trust among us so we could share our different perspectives and experiences.
I’ve really enjoyed learning the process of Lectio Divina, and using its structure in my daily prayer time. Frequently, I find my mind drifting during prayer, and this structure provides me with areas to focus on (particularly visualizing, contemplating, and resting in God’s presence) that encompass what I hope to experience during prayer. It’s greatly enriched my prayer life.
Discussing my thoughts, feelings, and core beliefs that arise during class and throughout the week has made me more mindful of when negative core beliefs and irrational thoughts are at play, allowing me to accept them for what they are instead of avoiding them or becoming wrapped up in them.
The material on primary and secondary emotions was extremely helpful, particularly in identifying when I’m experiencing anxiety, or “fear of fear,” versus just plain fear! I also loved the distinction Sandra made between when we are listening to our egos versus hearing God’s voice.
I am better able to recognize the feelings of fear and sadness behind the many things I worry about and am working on letting go of things I can’t change and offering them to God. I am paying more attention in many areas of my daily life, such as eating only when I’m hungry and being more appreciative of God’s presence in the world around me and in the people in my life.
Some of the many things I have done or learned in class that have made these changes possible are the regular practice of Lectio Divina – carefully reading through passages of Henry Nouwen’s devotions and praying and meditating with them, regularly practicing identifying my feelings, and paying attention to ways in which my thinking gets distorted and how that impacts my relationships with other people and with God.
Sandra, I really appreciate all the time and attention you have given us over the past several weeks! You are a wonderful, caring teacher and this class has truly blessed my life.
The meditation process has made me better able to listen for God rather than just present a monologue. I’ve been able to change the patterns and develop different ways of approaching prayer. I’ve been more thoughtful over the past weeks and mindfulness is becoming a habit!