by Christine Sine
I wrote and post this prayer about 4 years ago. Since then I have thought a lot about what it means to rest in God. We talk about it all the time yet it is still hard to do. We get busy, We get distracted. We forget what is really important. Yet everyone seems to know that restful pauses throughout the day are important. Even my fitbit tells me to relax for a couple of minutes every hour and it tells me to get up and walk regularly too. In fact I have learned to take these walking breaks as an opportunity to relax not only my body but my soul and my spirit too. Sometimes I do a breathing exercise. Sometimes I go out into the garden for a few minutes, or I read through a prayer and meditate for a couple of minutes while I walk. There are lots of ways to help us relax. Here are some tips on what I have found helps me to find these restful moments:
- Breathe deeply for a minute. Take a few deep breaths slowly in and out. As you breathe in, be conscious of your breath passing in through your mouth or nose, filling your lungs with life giving oxygen. Hold your breath for ten seconds then slowly breathe out, imagining the tension in your body flowing out as you do so. Recite a breathing prayer and sit or stand quietly for a minute in the presence of God. Do this several times a day and it will improve not only your emotional health but your physical health as well.
- Read a psalm or prayer. Psalm 23 is probably the most popular for this and as you know I have written a number of prayers like these, specifically designed to encourage us to “rest in the moment”
- Notice the beauty of God’s world. Look out the window or go outside for a few minutes and focus on a natural object. It might be a cloud, a flower or an insect. Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time. Examine the details. Imagine the energy of God flowing into its creation. Think about its purpose in the world. Thank God for its creation. (If you don’t have a window to look out carry a small natural object like a pebble in your pocket)
- Take a moment for purposeful awareness. Pause occasionally in the midst of your daily activity to appreciate what you are doing and what makes it possible. For example sit at the computer and look at your hands and thank God for the dexterity that makes your work possible. Think of your brain and thank God for your intellect which facilitates your exploration and understanding. Look at the words you have written and thank God for language with which to express yourself. Consider setting your phone to provide a reminder.
- Listen attentively. Sit for a moment and listen to the sounds around you. Focus in on one sound you have not paid attention to before. It might be the sound of passing traffic or of people talking in your office (avoid argumentative sounds though). It might be a bird in the backyard or footsteps on the path outside. Get lost in the sound and allow it to take you on a journey. Where does the sound take you? If you are listening to the traffic you may like to think about the journey that people are on. Imagine where they have come from and where they are going. Thank God for their lives. If you are focused on people talking don’t listen to the conversation but to the music of the sounds. Allow it to resonate through your body. Thank God for your ears that can hear.
- Practice gratitude. Pause for a moment as though frozen in time and look around at what you are doing and what makes it possible. What are 3 things you don’t usually notice that you are grateful for? It might be the pens that you write with, or the electricity that powers your computer, or the windows that give you light. Sit in the presence of these things, express your gratitude to God for their creators, and those that maintain them.
- Hold something meaningful. Running our fingers over a loved photograph, a pocket cross, even a pebble or seashell (I have several new ones I picked up on Iona) can help us relax as it stirs our memories of happy or meaningful times.
- Write in your journal. Journalling is relaxing for most of us. Take a couple of minutes 2 or 3 times a day to write a sentence or two in your journal. Or take a longer time before you go to bed to write, put the day to rest and relax yourself.
- Do something relaxing. Activities like coloring, knitting, whittling, working on a jigsaw puzzle, weeding the garden are relaxing for most of us. Choose your favorite creative activity (there are infinite possibilities) and think about how you can incorporate a few minutes of this activity into your daily or weekly routine.
- Reflect at the end of the day. Take a couple of minutes at the end of each day to reflect on what you have done and how it has impacted you and your relationship to God. Two simple questions can really help with this. What gave you joy today? And What quenched your joy? Then ask yourself What could I do to increase my joy? Or use this awareness examen adapted from one developed by Ignatius of Loyola.