Heritage Counseling Center is having a special focus this year to assist all Church leaders, moreover pastors in becoming more resilient with staying power. We really do consider ourselves partners in ministry in a supportive role. This article is part two in presenting some ideas to bolster resiliency and sustainability amongst Church leaders. For the introduction and part one, click here. If you haven’t read part one, please take some time to read it. There is an important focus on working at becoming a whole person. In this article, I hope to present you a unique perspective on mindfulness:
Mindfulness is essential. Do not be distracted by the term. The culture tends to focus on Buddha and other Eastern thoughts. I would say Scripture’s focus and teaching about mindfulness has been around for several Millenia. The Bible emphasizes mindfulness! The book of Psalms might be considered poetic mindfulness. When David took time to be mindful rather than reactive to his own pain and inner desires, he experienced restorative moments. He heard the voice of God amidst the noise of his own shame and failures, rejections and betrayals.
You can define mindfulness as a state of being more aware without being reactive. You recognize strong feelings inside you—even hold on to them meaningfully without giving into the urge to limit them, be led by them or be overtaken by them. Anxiousness for example doesn’t kill you but it can make you feel like you are dying. It is natural to have thoughts of wanting to run from your fears even if it is paralyzing or not productive. Begin with recognizing your strong emotions and the thoughts and instincts that partner with them. Be still and notice them. Allow yourself to even be curious about them. Notice without reacting what this inner intensity produces in your thoughts without taking these thoughts too literally. As you quiet your reactions to them, you can pray for wisdom about what to do or think about them.
My father had his own auto repair shop. I believe he was pretty good at this, and he did everything from engine and transmission troubles to body work and painting. My job was to sweep, clean his tools, sweep, sand and tape (oh and did I mention sweep)? When a customer brought their car to him and said there was a problem, he got in the car and listened…and listened and felt and heard and smelled and I am pretty sure even tasted. Ever tasted bad engine coolant (NOT RECOMMENDED)? He did AND again he listened. Only then was he able to fully diagnose problems and only then did he determine what parts to buy or where to begin wrenching and hammering. This all was an exercise in mindfulness. Can you imagine this same exercise in your wounded moments? In your overwhelmed moments? Remember however, it is not always about fixing or changing. Oftentimes it will be about accepting the current reality—waiting.
I keep a sign on the bookshelf across the room in my office from where I sit of Psalms 46:10 to remind me to be still…and know…that I (not me but God of course) am God (Buddha would say me). This too is an exercise in mindfulness. According to the anxious and certainly pain-filled Apostle Paul, peace is possible above your overwhelming anxiety. Begin with mindfulness. Accept painful feelings as real and not a sign of failure or weakness. Acceptance might be a recognition of failure and weakness, but this is the state of humanity; the state of a fleshy heart. A heart made of flesh is highly valued over a hardened, highly defended heart which can be easily offended and resistant to healing processes.
Some quick reminders while you develop your mindfulness and notice your feelings, reactions and thoughts, etc.:
- Resist the urge to control against these feelings. Feelings are not negative or positive but rather indicators to your current state. Embrace them as a gift from God—even fear or sadness or hurt.
- Gratitude is a powerful facilitator of mindfulness while maintaining your awareness of God’s presence. Finish the statement, ‘I am thankful in this moment because…’ or ‘Thank you Lord Jesus for…’.
- The breath is mentioned all through scripture in intimate God moments. Quietly pay attention to your breathing as well. Is it fast? Slow? Deep? Shallow? Difficult or easy?
- Connect with an understanding person about whatever you notice when you can. Be sure this is someone who will be supportive but also courageous enough to speak truth to you if necessary.
- Establish a routine. Daniel prayed three times a day, Jesus noticed when he needed to get away and connect with his Father, Paul said to pray always. Only you know what kind of routine you can do and stay consistent with.
I have one more part to this article. Part three will give a perspective on what healthy proximity looks like in ministry and family relationships. This whole three-part article is to help you become more resilient and develop a ministry you can sustain.