Tag Archive | Best Lent Ever

10 in 10 seconds

Both Father Ron Rolheiser and Matthew Kelly have reflected on the practice of gratitude in their work. On the Monday of Holy Week, Matthew Kelly discussed gratefulness as a spiritual exercise, mindfulness practice and way of life. We were asked to list ten people, things, or situations for which we are grateful. If I were to spend the recommended five minutes writing, I would have generated a list of 100 instead of 10. I wrote my list in about 10 seconds: My life, my health, my daughter, shelter, food, knowledge, faith, work, my parents, and my friends.

I practice gratitude on a daily basis. As someone who has taken part in various therapeutic approaches to mental health, gratitude is a key practice to overcoming anxiety and depression. Being grateful builds your strength, health, and faith. I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for my good health; que bonito no tener ninguna operacion this year. I am grateful to move my life forward and to care for my health.  I took  my health for granted for many  years; without life and health, I could not enjoy the many blessings like my daughter, my family, my friends, new  professional opportunities, basic necessities like food, shelter, running water, clean air, human rights including freedom.

On the same day as the gratitude reflection, my staff at work took part in staff development training on burnout and self-care. It’s a theme we explore consistently. As folks in a helping profession like education, we preach self-care but do not always follow through. Our trainer went over major areas that indicate burnout. One is cynicism. That may be more damaging than the physical or emotional symptoms of burnout.  Cynicism taints your worldview and your daily attitude and behavior. I’ve reflected in the past on my failure to understand those who seem to be negative in every moment I encounter them, (My choice). Pero no es que no entiendo; it’s that I have rejected that way of being. I spent many years operating from a pessimistic view of the world. I lost many opportunities. Those losses taught me to enjoy my blessings. I will not ever live my life that way again.

It’s difficult to curb my self-righteousness. I empathize but I judge those who have chosen to live with negativity. As someone who has learned to manage anxiety, I fall prey to judging those who cannot or choose not to heal. It’s a vicious cycle. If you engage in negative self-talk and you are not working towards healing through professional help or spiritual direction or family, you continue to create situations that make you feel depressed or anxious. I know because I lived it. By shunning those who suffer from these issues, I protect myself.

I’m grateful that I overcame depression. I’m grateful I can manage my anxiety. I’m grateful to be able to change my mornings.  M and I are collaborating on a daily behavior chart which will assess how I’m doing with my tone of voice.  I’m grateful for faith, discipline, and for the lessons I’ve learned to help me become the best version of myself.

gratitude-piglet

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Silent Battle

A recent Dynamic Catholic reflection focused on a Gospel reading from Mark 9. The disciples are sent out to do ministry. Their final task is to exorcise a demon inside of a boy. They fail. They go back to Jesus and ask him why they were not able to succeed, despite the power Jesus has shared with them. Jesus tells them, “There are some demons that can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.” Matthew Kelly went on to point out that fasting is not about giving up chocolate but about looking at behaviors that keep us from being the best version of ourselves. In other words, we need to fast from and against demons. I’ve done work in the last few years in casting out demons, not only my own, but also protecting others from being harmed.

In popular culture, confrontation is the way to face challenges. This has been a growth area for me; I’ve been forced to develop these skills and have made progress. Confrontation is only one way to deal with difficult people or internal challenges.  Prayer and fasting cultivate discipline and faith; I consider these strengths though I could continue to grow.

The last few weeks have been better because I was more disciplined and reflective. I made the time to pray more and do spiritual reading. I completed my Dynamic Catholic exercises daily. It has made a difference. In revisiting this passage from Mark 9, I can continue to deepen my reflection.

This also reminded me of a character from the TV series, The Exorcist. (Yes, I know I’m obsessed. This has been going on for most of my life. Deal!) There is a group of contemplative nuns including the Mother Superior who keep silent hours. These women also strive to exorcise demons but go about differently than the priests.  Their silence strengthens them for their difficult tasks.

exorcist-8-bernadette

Mother Bernadette, sometimes the real MVP against demons

Silence is not simply being mute.  As someone who was drawn to contemplative life in the past, I understand that silence is a time to commune with God in prayer, to commune with nature or yourself, and offering those hours for others. While we may perceive this practice as being non-communicative, it is work to pray for the world and for strength.When I was single, a nun came to our parish to sell arts and crafts for her convent and to share her experiences as a contemplative. They lived in rural Mexico. Their mission was to pray for the world. 24 hours a day, these women took shifts praying for those who had asked for intercession and praying for everyone.  I was moved by their beautiful vocation.

Yes, you should tap into your #innermongoose and fight enemies. However, silence, prayer, and fasting can be battle strategies too. I’m a person of words. I may come across as introverted but I’m certainly writing and thinking about what I could say. When I refrain from speaking, that silence is powerful.  I have committed to helping others as my life’s work. That work requires me to be both confrontational and reflective.

Saintly aspirations

Last week, I revisited a theme that recurs in Matthew Kelly’s books, presentations, and now Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever. Matthew Kelly has always said, “Our lives change when our habits change”. The day’s particular reflection focused on the saints and their habit of daily prayer. Matthew drew a parallel between the saints and successful people having certain habits. Some habits build us up and make us better versions of ourselves while others do not.

As part of the reflection, I was asked to write down three good habits I practice. As a family, we pray every day. M and I do a daily litany of saints and pray for special intentions. Another is that I tell M and her father “I love you” at least once, if not multiple times, daily.  I’m good at hydration.  I carry my water bottle to work and as I go about my day.  It has become a routine that helps me feel refreshed.

We then were asked to list three habits. My worst habits are my time on my phone, my inconsistency in daily exercise, and my poor sleeping habits(ok so I mentioned leaving dishes in the sink but when one of the Dynamic Catholic speakers mentioned sleep, I realized I needed to change my answer.) These are habits that need to be reshaped.  Getting enough sleep and consistent exercise will help me feel physically better.  Disconnecting from my work phone and my personal phone will lead to improved focus and increased mindfulness. Since I didn’t disconnect from social media this Lent, my ability to commit to spiritual reading and actively participate with Dynamic Catholic has been negatively affected.

Matthew Kelly pointed out that 10 minutes to be with God and pray can make a difference whether you do it for 60 days or 100 days.  When I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours, that helped set the tone for my day. We used to pray the rosary in its entirety and do night prayer daily. These are habits we can bring back; they are not lost. Now is the time to be proactive.  On Friday, like most people, I feel rejuvenated. It’s a good day to commit to something with renewed energy. It’s time to make a habit to use time productively and pray in gratitude consistently.

saints-fra-angelico

Saints by Fra Angelico. Who wants to be in that number?