Catholic Mindfulness

I’m a daydreamer.

I’ve always loved that about myself. I love that I can create worlds and stories in my mind, that I can imagine and relive some of the best moments of my life. I love that I can see endless possibilities in one person or piece of art.

Recently, though, I’ve realized that my daydreaming has just turned into ruminations on anxious thoughts. Actually, I think my anxiety has corrupted my thoughts for most of my life. I think this perhaps affects a lot more of us than we realize. Do you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone, only to realize that you’ve completely lost your place in the conversation and you have no idea what they are talking about? No one? Just me?

I so often find my mind racing, analyzing the details of each and every moment of my day, my week, my life. I try to accomplish the most mundane, simple tasks, like doing the dishes, and I realize I’ve been on autopilot for 15 minutes and I now have no idea what I’m doing. I have transitioned to existing in one place physically while my mind wanders into an entirely different world.

Our brains are crazy, incredible places. I am constantly astounded by the depth and magnitude of the wanderings of my mind. When put to good use, we can use the great gift of our imaginations to encounter the Lord. We can write The Lord of the Rings! Our minds make us uniquely human, and our imaginations allow us to participate in the creative artistic power of the Lord. But, our imaginations are also capable of incredible evil. We can isolate ourselves, imagine the worst scenarios, and allow the Devil to creep into our everyday lives.

When I was younger, I remember using my imagination for hours on end, writing hundreds of handwritten pages of my “stories” and playing alone with my American Girl Dolls. Then, something shifted. I stopped using my creativity for good. I think the most imaginative people can also be the most anxious. I stopped living in the moment, and I started living in my own fears. It began in church, during Mass when I had time to think, and then it extended to car rides, late hours when I should be sleeping, and trips to the grocery store. Bit by bit, I lost myself, and my family lost me, to the tunnels and caverns of my own fearful imagination. I stopped existing and being present to my family and myself, and this is an incredibly dangerous existence. This is the type of existence that leads one to despair. I didn’t know this until recently, but despair is a great sin, one that separates us from the Father, and shows that we are afraid to trust in Him.

Bit by bit, I lost myself, and my family lost me, to the tunnels and caverns of my own fearful imagination.

I’ve found different ways to deal with these thoughts, but they still plague me from time to time, sometimes for hours on end. This summer, I decided that I wanted to stop living in my imagination and start living in the real world. So, as one step of many I’m currently taking right now, I started a course in Catholic Mindfulness. This online course is designed to be eight weeks long, and it teaches Christians how to exist with God in the present moment. The author, Dr. Gregory Bottaro, lived as a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal for four years, and he also has his doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Bottaro combines his years of prayer and formation as a friar with his clinical experience as a psychologist to create a multi-faceted course for faith and mental health.

Jean-Pierre de Caussade once said, “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond our wildest dreams”. How many moments of joy might I have missed because of the fears that are swirling around in my mind? With this course, I am taking my life back. I am choosing to live in the moment and to acknowledge my fearful thoughts, but I won’t dwell on them. I am choosing to recover, and I am choosing to be happy. Happiness, as I am learning time and time again, is a choice.

“The present moment holds infinite riches beyond our wildest dreams.” ~Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Each week of this eight week course, I’m going to make a post on my journey. Each week has a slightly different focus, and I’m hoping to draw one main lesson from my practice to give you an idea of what Catholic Mindfulness is truly about.

God speaks to us in the present moment. He speaks to us through our experiences, our desires, and through the people we interact with. Dwelling on past mistakes, holding grudges, or fearing the future is not what God wants- these are tools used by the Devil. And, friends, I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of him being in control. That’s why I’m taking this course- because I want to live in the moment. I want to fill my mind with all the joys and sorrows I experience in my everyday life, instead of fearing the future or dwelling on the past. God is here with us now. Don’t you want to be here with Him?

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