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From the Pulpit: Mindful maintenance

From the Pulpit: Mindful maintenance

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I can usually keep my attention on positive, constructive activities. Maybe it’s partly a personality trait, although there’s likely some luck and privilege involved, too. I hope there’s skill to it as well, because if there’s an element of skill to being happy or at least content – that gives us some control.

But it’s been harder lately, taking more conscious effort. There’s so much bad news – political scandals, weather catastrophes, oppression of immigrants and refugees, mass shootings, just for starters. It’s ugly out there, and if I allow it, it can drive me crazy.

“If I allow it…” To be spiritually mature, we have to keep our balance in the midst of turbulence. We need perspective. There’s more ugliness than we can ever hope to address or confront, but becoming calloused isn’t an option. We have obligations to cooperate and help each other. We can’t just say, “It’s not my problem.” We have a responsibility to advocate, teach, heal, contribute, resist.

At the same time, there’s more suffering than any of us can hope to alleviate. We have to make choices. We need to do our part and rely on others to do theirs. We have to cultivate selective attention. There’s a skill from mindfulness meditation called “letting go.” It’s as simple it sounds. Left to their own inclinations, our minds will gravitate toward the most threatening and alluring features of our environment, stressing us out, leading us to want more of this and avoid that at all costs.

We need to be deliberate about where we put our attention, moving it away from information too rich in fear or judgment. It’s not healthy to indulge certain patterns of thought, and we can make choices about where to put our attention, and for how long.

You’re alive. It’s obvious, but profound. Consider that for a moment. Take a deep breath and feel air fill your lungs. Feel your heart beating in your chest. In this moment, you are a participant in life. You can share love and friendship, making your humble contribution to the greater good in whatever way you choose. Even with all the ugliness, the world is still a beautiful place, and part of our journey is to rejoice and be glad in it.

Ryder is co-pastor of New Covenant Community, Normal. Contact him at susan@nccnormal.org.

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