As I reflect upon my own mindful gratitude practice and gather resources to reboot my Mindful Gratitude workshop, I am continuing to explore the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast. The “Stop. Look. Go.” practice is one of the new tools I found and wanted to share. It is an informal practice that happens in the comings and goings of daily life and takes only a few minutes and some reflection. Here are the three parts:
1.) Stop. This alone is a quite valuable practice. We live in a culture that is all productivity, rush and noise. Can we take a moment and be still? What benefits might we experience if we do? In Steindl-Rast’s words, we need to create “stop signs” in our lives that create a pause and be still.
Take a moment and reflect: where might you create a stop sign in your own life? What cue will you use as a reminder?
2.) Look. Be curious about your own experience in this moment. What do you see? Hear? Feel? For what can you experience a sense of gratitude? You don’t need to manufacture anything, and if something quite difficult is happening, there is no reason to try and change it. Perhaps you just remember that you are alive. That you are breathing. That there is no moment exactly like this moment.
3.) Go. What seed for action is this moment offering you? Living is an art that you create as you go. How can you make it beautiful for yourself? For others? Ask yourself these questions and wait patiently for an answer. When you get one, do it, act on the insight that comes from your own intuition and reflection.
Need inspiration to start this practice? Here is a beautiful video from gratefulness.org’s website.
Did happened when you took a moment to stop, look, go? What did you find? Please share your thoughts below.
This last week I facilitated a retreat experience for the folks at Equality Ohio. I loved this opportunity to help build sustainable activism for a cause that is meaningful to me. At the end of our time, the group submitted questions. Here are my responses.
How can we balance acceptance through mindfulness with the activist’s desire to change the world?
This is a deep and ever present question for many. I will do my best. First of all, there is a rich history of intermingling, to mutual benefit, contemplative practices that boost awareness and acceptance with social justice work. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the work of Ghandi in India are both good examples of this rich history.
I think what acceptance did in those moments, and what it can do now, is to separate the act of doing from the result.
A mindful person is still an active and engaged, perhaps even more so because he or she is fully present in the moment.
There is also an awareness of the larger context outside of the self. This is important. It allows a person to see that they are not alone in the doing. In addition, objectively, one person can’t take ownership of changing the world, but they can affect change in individual moments. Acceptance provides a healthy mode of keeping us “right-sized.” What I do matters, and its not the only thing that matters would be one way to think about this dichotomy.
What can we do as a team to support ritual and practice in our work as activists? What other resources are available for this?
Going back to a historical perspective, there are many good models for how ritual and practice can be paired with community work, the Civil Rights Movement being one. In modern day, the Movement Strategy Center (here is a link to their blog, too) has some really interesting resources that might be worth checking out. I recommend reading Love With Power: Practicing Transformation for Social Justice and Out of the Spiritual Closet: Organizers Transforming the Practice of Social Justice.
For the ceremony, we decided to each create a sky lantern where one side would be an honoring of present and passing lives and the other side would be a welcoming of new gifts.
Immediately, this time was different from the last in that Mel’s adorable little children were not quite ready for bedtime. In the pictures below, what you don’t see are the tiny hands, feet and voices in the background and Mel trying to coerce her little people back into their beds.
It is 3:53 am on Thanksgiving day. I have been up since 3:30, but I also shut off my bedroom light at around 8:15, so I guess I have had a solid night’s sleep- not that I have been doing any clock watching.
It has been 32 hours since I have had anything but water and hot tea. I am mostly over the hump now. Around 5:00 yesterday I started getting a headache, followed by body pain and general lethargy, but now I feel fine.
“You didn’t come into this world.
You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.
You are not a stranger here.”
– Alan Watts, Shirin Yoku website
As I become aware of what actions, behaviors, habits and practices are life-giving for me, I find that I am drawn to spend more and more time in nature. In the mornings, I feel compelled to breath deeply the air as I leave the house, open my window when I am commuting, slow down enough to bask in a moment of sunshine before I enter a building.
The more time I spend in world of nature, the richer my interactions become. A sunset will fill me with a sense of emanating warmth. Mornings of low-hanging fog over dewey grass will fuzzy my sense of here and there. Soft blankets of grass will move me to visceral connection, my fingers (or toes) moving through the strands.
Our divine souls when illuminated
with purity and grace, fly high
as sky lanterns in the dark skies
the flame never going out
– by Yasmeen Khan
I have written previously about my interest in the use of ritual as a way to enhance awareness of, and bring intention to, the mundane and profound experiences and passages in human life.
Melissa shared with me the idea of using paper lanterns, or sky lanterns, as part of a ritual to release “old stuff”- things we want to get rid of but keep hanging on to for some reason- longings that no longer serve us, habits that have proven to be harmful, or memories that cause pain and suffering. I thought the idea was really beautiful, so we set a date and I ordered the lanterns.
“For just that moment of speaking, whatever you say is there, briefer even than the taste of gelato or the light on the frescoes at San Marco.”
– Angie Estes, “Want” in Poets on the Psalms
A most powerful insight that has developed for me over time is this: words, rituals, do in fact have power over humanity- power to heal and power to transform- perhaps only in the moment, perhaps over a lifetime.
I recently wrote about the power of ritual to harness our both intention and attention toward honoring the moments of our lives. Because this topic of ritual has been on my mind, I used the inspiration to create a writing prompt for my writers group made of amazing women whom I know through either the Columbus Area Writing Project or the Pages program.
“The power of ritual is profound and under-appreciated. Mostly, I think, it’s because we live in a time-starved culture, and ritual is time-indulgent. Who can afford the luxury of doing one thing at a time? Who has the patience to pause and honor an activity before and after we do it? We all should.”
-Peter Bregman, “The Value of Ritual in Your Workday” in the Harvard Business Review
I am not a superstitious person. And yet. For some reason lately the concept of ritual has been swirling around in my brain- beautiful and shrouded in mystery, they seem a powerful component of life and humanity.
Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review states, “Rituals are about paying attention. They’re about stopping for a moment and noticing what you’re about to do, what you’ve just done, or both. They’re about making the most of a particular moment.” This makes sense to me. What ways do I find to celebrate the joys in life- small and large? In what ways do I honor the difficulties? Maybe ritual is a way to honor a moment. To see that I am perceptive and open to noticing the stages and transitions of my life and the lives of others.