Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
During this Jubilee year of sabbatical we are revisiting our Monk Manifesto by moving slowly through the Monk in the World retreat materials together every Sunday. Each week will offer new reflections on the theme and every six weeks will introduce a new principle.
Principle 5: I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.
Read the meditation or click below to listen to an audio version.
Find a comfortable seated position in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Begin by allowing a few minutes to center yourself and enter into contemplative space. Let yourself slowly move into silence, release whatever is pulling at your attention, with each inhale imagine you are welcoming in the gift of breath, with each exhale, surrender more deeply into this moment, letting go of what is not needed right now.
We are going to experiment for a few moments with the energetic quality of our bodies. First, pretend that you feel exhausted and overworked, slump into your chair, feel your whole body wanting to collapse in on itself, imagine you are looking at the clock, counting the minutes until you are free again. Draw in your most difficult moments at work, and see if you can bring them present in your body, really experiencing what that is like and noticing where you feel this, being present to what is happening within you.
Then take a deep breath and shake that out.
Next, pretend that you feel vital and alive, waking up refreshed and renewed from a good night’s sleep, you are strong and energized for the day ahead. Breathe this experience into your body, imaging it filling you from your toes all the way through your skull, picture a golden energy swirling through your body and a feeling of aliveness and being connected and in love with the world. Notice how this feels in your body and just take a moment to be present to your experience.
Then take a deep breath and release that experience.
Finally, see if you can find a place somewhere between these two extremes, a level of energy that might be sustainable for you over several hours. Bring yourself fully aware to what is happening in your body. Let your body embrace a place of alertness and energy and presence.
Now imagine yourself at work, perhaps at your day job, or doing dishes laundry, or caring for a loved one. Imagine that the thought has just crossed your mind that you wish this experience were over, that you want it to be later in the day when you are back home or done with this, or on vacation, whatever the story is you tell yourself when you don’t want to be doing what you are doing. Then just notice what is happening in your body. Become present to your level of energy, see where you feel this in your body or where the energy seems to be blocked.
Then again, shake this out and take another deep breath.
Again, imagine yourself at work or doing chores and imagine that you are bringing yourself fully present to whatever task this is. There is nothing in the world as important as this moment, as this dish, or writing the next word in this report. Let your breath be sustained and slow. See what happens when you bring curiosity and wonder to exactly what you are doing right now. Bring an attitude of contentment to this moment, as if nothing else were needed for you to feel satisfied. If distractions arise or your mind wants to fast forward in the day, gently bring it back to this moment.
What if you were not in a hurry to finish your task, but simply allowed yourself to savor the experience as one of the gifts of being human and alive? What if you believed that this moment held the key to your inner transformation? What if you lived in a way that each moment was a practice of attention and honoring of the sacred at work right here right now?
Now notice your body and its energy. Pay attention to what you are feeling and where. Be with whatever your experience is right now.
Make a silent vow to yourself to practice this in your everyday life whenever you can, knowing that there will be many moments when you fall back into old patterns. Each time this happens, simply begin again, as St. Benedict advises in his Rule. Begin again by remembering that this moment is holy, this moment is all that is needed for an encounter with the divine.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner