For the Living of These Days—A Word from Lauren Jones Mayfield

Today, I get to spend the afternoon with some congregants wondering alongside them at their Bible study about the power and gift of meditation. I can’t wait. The practice of mindfulness is a powerful thing and shapes us toward the posture of generosity—our current Freedom theme.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the originator of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) famously defines mindfulness as, “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment without judgement.” The “without judgement” is always the real kicker. We want to ascribe judgement or value to all manner of things. A taste of food, a quick errand to run, a big decision to consider…we default so readily in our culture to notions of good or bad, right or wrong, sacred or profane.

Yet, to pay attention to the here-and-now, the present moment, with intention and without judgement means that we do not label things, or our emotions, or our thoughts. Rather than being good or bad or making us feel right or wrong, what would it be like to have a thought and not ascribe any further consequence to it. Rather, like a wave in the ocean, the thought or feeling arises and then ebbs on its way and we then get to enjoy the present moment more fully, without distraction.

When we are able to watch this rhythmic lulling of ocean conditions as our thoughts lap in our mind, the metaphor goes that rather then strong waves (our thoughts and feelings) knocking us down or threatening our livelihood, we learn to surf and hold steady in new ways, even as the waves continue to flow.

Therefore, when we withdraw judgement from the thoughts, we see the pain or the longings, the joy or the gifts that lie beneath the surface needing recognition. This is what sets us up for gratitude in the beauty of a single, life-giving moment. For what do you give thanks? What inspires your generosity, particularly as it flows from the deep well of God’s grace and goodness? Together, this week, and even as you read the newsletter here, may we seek to be a people that pays attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement.