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The Blessing of Living in the Present

Something that has been a great help to me during this strange season is a “mindful pause.” If I take a moment to notice my present state, I find I am quite often a bit tense and stressed. Of course this makes sense given our current situation. But what I also notice is if I take a deep breath, my shoulders relax. I scan my body internally for other signs of tension. I actively let go of the tightness in my face and sit a little bit more comfortably in my chair as I relax. I take another deep breath and check in with myself. Am I tired? Anxious? Content? Scared? How’s my energy? As I assess my feelings, I notice I am both tired and grateful, I am anxious and content. We carry many things at once and that’s okay. The psalms often reflect this holding of complexities. This practice of “mindful pause” allows space to process and normalize my experience in the present. It allows me to give grace and compassion to myself. It allows me to remember there is a bigger picture, a God that is always moving and working toward the good. Even in chaos.

The “mindful pause” allows me to be still. To rest in the present moment. The psalmist practiced this as well. “Be still and know that I am God,” he reflects. When life feels overwhelming, “Be still and know that I am God.” Part of being human includes a memory system that remembers the bad things easier than the good things. It’s called the negativity bias. This is not entirely bad and in fact, has helped us survive as a species. For example, I need to remember if I touch a hot stove, I get burned. But in our world where bad news is in abundance, our brains have not adapted our response. The research says negative events are quickly stored in our memory where it takes dwelling on the positive more than 12 seconds to be encoded into long-term memory. That does not seem like a long time but it requires more effort.

One way to combat negativity bias is to dwell on the good. “Be still and know that I am God” is a reframe. It challenges us to rest the tough stuff in God and slow our pace and notice the moment. When we do this, we oftentimes create space to notice those things we are thankful for. We meditate and focus on the good. This is the blessing of living in the present. This moment is a gift.

So as we go today, may we “mindfully pause” and breathe more deeply. May we be still and savor this moment. May we relish the ordinary gifts we see around us and cherish the time we have. May we rest in the God that works toward our good and the good of others and take part in this work as we live and share together. Amen.

— Ally Matteson


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