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Mindfulness: It’s not just for Buddhists

I was featured in a story on mindfulness that’s running in the Catholic Courier of Rochester this week, so I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about this favorite spiritual topic of mine. I said a lot more than was quoted in the piece (not unusual given newspaper word counts), which also featured a Trappist monk from the Abbey of the Genesee, one of my favorite retreat places. If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that my journey into mindfulness (and sometimes back out of mindfulness when I’m getting sloppy or lazy) started with my “mindful oatmeal” practice from years ago and blossomed into two books related to the practice of mindfulness in daily prayer and daily life. With each step forward on this path, I become more convinced that this is the way to inner peace and a deeper relationship with God. And when I stray from that path everything becomes slightly out of balance and more frenetic.  Read more

Collage as prayer: cutting and pasting my way to God

Sometimes losing our serious adult demeanor for a bit and doing childlike things can take us deeper into our spiritual center than any book on prayer ever could. Case in point: I spent Saturday armed with scissors and a glue stick, cutting and pasting — and praying. Although I’d done collages before on my own, back when I was working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I had never used the art form as a way to deepen my spiritual life. Until this past weekend when I headed back to the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, my new favorite spiritual place, for a six-hour workshop called “Collage as Prayer.” I convinced one friend to join me and then met up by chance with another once I got there. We had a great group of women, probably about a dozen of us or so, led by Sister Ethel. The result? Two collages and a whole lot of insights into myself and my spiritual journey.  Read more

Everyday Divine: a chapel on wheels

When I returned from my first silent retreat several years ago, I realized that my automatic response upon getting into the car was to turn up the radio. Loud. I wasn’t listening to anything spiritual, mostly the classic rock channel on my satellite radio. The experience of silence on retreat prompted me to give it a try while driving. Instead of singing all the way to and from my daughter’s preschool, I turned off the radio and allowed myself to sink into the quiet of my little makeshift chapel on wheels. Read more

Wisdom Wednesday: Do not lose your inner peace.

About five for six years ago, I kept bumping into St. Francis de Sales. He seemed to show up at every turn in my reading and writing. That’s when I first discovered his beautiful reflections on spiritual friendship, which prompted me to write Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship (Ave Maria Press). What I love about St. Francis is the fact that this 17th-century bishop’s writings could be so relevant to our world today, not just the writings on friendship but on just about everything. Like the Wisdom Wednesday quote below. There’s lots more where this came from:

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. — Saint Francis de Sales

What are you feeding – fear or joy?

I’ve been ruminating on this topic — What are you feeding? — for a while in my private time because I think it’s a pretty big deal. If we feed our fears, if we feed our anxiety, if we feed relationships with people who don’t really care about us or, even worse, make us feel “less than,” we throw a spark on the dead leaves lying around on our spiritual doorstep. Eventually it becomes a raging forest fire of self-doubt or unhappiness and, if we’re not careful, it will siphon off all the energy that should be feeding the good things in our lives.  Read more

Of course yoga is spiritual. That’s the point!

A couple of friends sent me an article today called “Yoga – A Catholic Perspective,” and as soon as I saw the graphic and the one-line synopsis, I knew I wasn’t going to like it. But after getting through about three paragraphs, I realized I was wrong. I didn’t dislike the story; I HATED it. I have to say that this is one of the most insulting pieces — and that’s being really kind — I’ve ever seen written on the topic, and that’s saying something. I mean, I don’t know what this priest’s experience with yoga is personally, but there is almost nothing about this story that holds water for most of us who are intimately involved in the two aspects of his topic: Catholicism and yoga. Read more

Remembering Thomas Merton

Ever since I first came in contact with the writings of Thomas Merton about 28 years ago, he has spoken to me. I know I’m not alone there. Countless people of every faith and persuasion have found meaning in his writings and his life. Of course, others will counter that with claims that he was too flawed to be held up as a role model, or, dare I say, saint, but that’s precisely why he’s a great example. Read more

Creating Calm Amid Life’s Chaos

Well, I didn’t plan for this confluence of events, but, as is often the case, the Spirit took care of that for me. Today I’ll be out in Canandaigua, New York, talking to 70 Catholic prison chaplains about “Creating Calm Amid Life’s Chaos.” Couldn’t have come at a better time, what with this week getting off to a somewhat chaotic start here at Not Strictly Spiritual. Read more

Convergence, coincidence, and cosmic connections

If you go on silent retreat, or spend any serious amount of time in deep and quiet prayer, you’re likely to find that some new synapses are firing. Suddenly it’s as if you’ve discovered a previously dormant channel in your brain. Read more