Memo from Pastor Rene
In my last column I wrote about how a constant focus on grim news actually changes the way your brain works, because you’re in constant threat analysis mode. Higher reasoning is diminished. You’re more prone to emotional instability.
Yet there is a cure to what one researcher called “flooded brain”: The meditative mind, that relaxed state you enjoy when absorbed in something awe-inspiring. Even 20 minutes of focus on something beautiful produces measurable improvement.
In that column and a recent blog post I asked, “How do you reach that meditative state? Is there a practice that helps you find peace?”
I got so many interesting and inspiring responses that I don’t have space to share them all! Here are just a few:
“Looking out our kitchen window on a crisp clear morning and seeing tree tops emerging through a white blanket of soft fog. No words can describe those moments.” – Loretta Stone
“Walking in a forest of giant redwood trees with lots and lots of ferns and greenery growing underneath and a stream flowing through. That is my happy place.” – Vicki Berlin
“Listening to gospel music on my car radio, driving to work. I pass Twin Lakes Beach, where the ocean sparkles in the sun. The sky is that beautiful blue; puffs of clouds dotting it. The air is clean and brisk. It is all so awesome. God is everywhere, always.” – Rhonda Carle
“As a blue collar country boy, my ‘meditation’ consists of puttering in my garden, tinkering in the shop, driving my tractor (ooh yeah) and making fun and useful things.” – Dave Osland
“I picture fly-fishing at Lake Almanor: The sun is setting, reflections off the water are a majestic pink. The water is still, birds are swirling, and a trout rises to take a snack off the surface. Bliss!” – Mike Schiro
“One of my favorites I’ve carried with me from childhood is the 23rd Psalm. I recite it from memory, visualize the whole thing, and put myself in the scene with Jesus.” – Sue Crocker
“About 25 years ago, my husband and I adopted an act of gratitude we learned from a friend. When outdoors in a beautiful place, she would suddenly stretch out her arms and shout out, “Behold!” So now when we see God’s beauty, we say “Behold!” And when I say “Behold picture!” our kids know exactly what to do. Over the years, we have taken lots and lots of Behold pictures.” – Kryss Crocker
“Watching baby animal videos! A University of Leeds study shows it reduces stress.” – Kathleen Donahue
“Starting my day with reading from the Bible when I am first awake. Then I imagine beautiful images of what God created such as a baby’s face, the waves, the trees, the sunset, my mother’s face in heaven and I thank the Lord for all of that. Then arranging a few garden flowers and dancing to Michael Bublé songs! By calming my mind first, I make better decisions later.” – Faten Mansour
Zach Friend told me that after reading the column, he and his wife Tina decided to be more intentional about taking their young son Elliot to watch the sunset over the ocean regularly.
One local teacher, Mark Littlefield, told me that the moment he realizes he’s awake, before his mind can jump on the hamster wheel of anxious thoughts, he says the Lord’s Prayer from memory. “Our Father who art in heaven…” Then he recites the famous verse about the fruit of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23)
Last month I read something similar about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daily practice. For the last year of his life, Dr. King prayed through that same “fruit of the Spirit” verse every morning. After reading that, I figured, if it was good enough for Mark and Dr. King, it’s good enough for me. I’ve been trying the same practice for the past month, and can honestly say the impact has been astonishing.
Then at the end of the day, the most awe-inspiring thing I can contemplate is the grace of God. When I sing these words I’m often moved to tears: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
I encourage you to find time every morning, before you begin that headlong plunge into the bottomless rabbit hole of today’s news feed, to nurture your soul. You’ll find your capacity for compassion, patience, and understanding increased to amazing degrees.
Thanks for all your responses. Keep minding your head.
René Schlaepfer is senior pastor of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, www.tlc.org.