Mindfulness techniques seem to be the new trend nowadays. Of course the concept is not new, being rooted in both Eastern and Western spirituality.
Since I’m still on a quest to integrate the Benedictine way of living in my daily life this year, in order to gain awareness, peacefulness and a healthier daily structure, I will share with you some monastic secrets of being mindful.
What is mindfulness anyway?
Let’s start with saying what it is NOT: mindfulness is NOT: sitting on your meditation pillow all day and doing nothing. Neither is it only thinking about God / a Higher Power and floating away on your boat of self-centered happiness.
Here’s a definition from an online dictionary:
1 bearing in mind : aware
2 inclined to be aware
— mind·ful·ly adverb
— mind·ful·ness noun
e.g.: a truly considerate person, always mindful of the needs of others
Related to MINDFUL
Synonyms: alive, aware, conscious
Antonyms: insensible, oblivious, unaware, unconscious, unmindful”
Being mindful in a Benedictine way, is more about connecting than about isolation. It is about paying attention to what is right in front of your nose. It’s giving people and things their due attention and care, both the mundane and the spiritual. In that sense Benedictine Spirituality is profoundly “down to earth”, which sets it apart from many other forms of spirituality
In the excellent resource on Benedictine living: Wil Derkse’s book “The Rule of Benedict for Beginners” I found a beautiful example of two mindful Benedictine nuns in the Hildegard Monastery:
“We see [the nuns] during different moments of their daily rhythm: singing God’s praise in the monastery church (in polished Gregorian), working: the precise work of the goldsmith, the thorough cleansing of the lamp shades, meticulously teaching a private class of [philosophy] by the abdis (…) to a young novice, arranging flowers for the altar, working in the wine cellars, attentively reading private literature in their rooms, a phone conversation in the monastery hall, during which the nun retreats to an alcove to give the caller his due attention, installing new electric wiring, during relaxed leisure activities…”
What is most striking in these examples, is that the nuns give everything and everyone their undivided and due attention, whether it be cleaning a toilet or conducting a conversation, scrubbing the floor or arranging the toilets, praying and meditating or leisure activities. Everything is attended to in the right way.
“To attend and get things right” -
A specific area of attention that comes into view if you look at the nuns is the beautyfying of their environment:
“Beauty and order are contagious” and the reverse is equally true.
“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever” – John Keats
Monasteries are an oasis of care and cultivation, the proverbial neat handwriting of the nuns or monks, carefully arranged flowers, every tool put in its own right place.
Little things do matter; they contribute to an atmosphere of peacefulness, order and beauty.
Outward order creates inward order and inward order paradoxically creates space for focus and creativity.
How can I be attentive/mindful in my own life?
- by being fully aware in the present moment, taking care of the very task at hand, ignoring distractions as well as possible, yet being responsive to what the situation requires at a given time.
- by treating every task as equal, and as an opportunity to give God (/your Higher Power) praise, be it scrubbing or praying. Everything done with an attitude of gratitude.
- by making sure to practice outer order with love and an eye for esthetics, especially in the small things.
Today I will be mindful by: acknowledging urges to procrastinate or otherwise follow my impulses, doing my household chores with as much love and care as my writing, making sure my living room looks orderly, pretty and inviting.
Are you on board with me?
Please share with me how you practice Benedictine mindfulness today. Do you have tips and tricks?
You can do so in the comment section below or on Facebook.