from the Fall/Winter 2015 edition of Reflections magazine.
with Catherine Lillibridge
Catherine Lillibridge had an idea. When she learned about the work of Magdalene house in Nashville, where female victims of sex abuse and human trafficking have their lives changed, LEAH was born.
LEAH, as Catherine explains it, is “A community in contemplation, prayer, and mindful action to engage in healing love with those in poverty, addiction, abusive relationships and human trafficking.”
She named it LEAH because she believes that Love’s Energy Always Heals.
The reason for the three steps of contemplation, prayer, and mindful action as a set, she says, “is because my experience with volunteerism, ministry, vocation and employment taught me that I burn out when I am only focused on action. I need the focused cycle of being in 1) contemplation and 2) prayer to partner with 3) action.”
On her blog, (www.leahtoday.wordpress.org) Catherine explains the three components:
I chose this word because it is a great word! It can mean meditation, slowing down, and thoughtfully considering, among other things. When my mind is moving quickly and I am making decisions, I ask myself if I need to CONTEMPLATE this first. Con=with, Tem=time.
Taking time is always a good idea for me. Taking five seconds to consider my words, five minutes to consider my next action, or five days to pray about a decision creates prayerful space and productive action.
When I pray, I connect to God. I detach from trying to fix or understand the problem. The cruelties that come across the news at lightning speed show beheadings to anyone who wants to watch. Families with the stressors and pressures of life sometimes imploding and sometimes exploding fill my thoughts and, thank God, my prayers. Prayer is my opportunity to lay the problems of the world and families at God’s feet. It is my opportunity to put my feet to work in the world with mindful action. I don’t sit around and wonder why and eat chocolate and drown my sorrows. Well, I don’t do it every day anyway.
I have my phone set to alert me each day and a message pops up and says “Now. One prayer.” It is a great reminder that there is no time like the present to pray. I call it Flash Prayer.
Mindful action is when I am aware that my thoughts, feelings and actions are in sync, and I respond to events and conversations in real time. Now that could mean that when I’m really upset, which involves my thoughts and feelings, my actions don’t need to blindly follow those thoughts and feelings. If I’m in sync and mindfully tuned in I realize I have an opportunity to respond and not knee-jerk react. I may need to leave the room instead of raising my voice. I may need to use the set of statements I learned while being a Girls On The Run coach: “I feel ____, when you _____, because _____. What I need from you is _____” instead of reacting with “If you hadn’t said that then I wouldn’t have said blank, blank, blank.”
Changing the way we have always been is not easy. Everyone in my family knows if I get too hungry then anyone is fair game to be snapped at. It takes a lot of self-observation and acceptance to see that “something needs to change and it is probably me,” as Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson say in Gratitude and Trust: Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life.
“Mindfulness provides the pause that interrupts habitual reactions,” says Nancy J. Hill in Unfolding: Slow Down, Drop In, Dare More. Mindfulness is also like a muscle. If it isn’t practiced daily, the old patterns creep back in. The opposite is also true that a daily practice of mindfulness will lead to subtle changes that may surprise you.
One time when we were on vacation my son said, “I’m starving. Mom, you are hungry aren’t you?” because he could count on me to always need a snack every couple of hours. He was a growing young man, and for some reason I always have the appetite of a linebacker (as a family member lovingly told me), but I had been applying mindfulness to my eating and had changed my eating habits — like eating more protein earlier in the day. I realized a whole morning had passed with sightseeing and I didn’t have the “oh my gosh, I’m so hungry I could eat my shoe” meltdown because I had been practicing mindful eating.
Catherine Lilllibridge is a member of St. David’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio. In addition to her LEAH ministry, she serves on the board of Magdalena House in San Antonio for women and their children who are escaping lives of trafficking and abuse and on the board of the diocesan Commission for Women’s Ministries. Reach her at email@example.com.
To read more articles from the Fall/Winter issue of Reflections magazine, or to read the entire issue, go to this page.
Look at this word for 11 seconds – PEACE. You can count to 11 or look at a second hand on a clock (if you happen to have access to a clock with a face!). Notice your breathing. Is your breathing shallow? Notice your posture. Are you slumped over?
Now intentionally sit up and look at the word again. Take a deep breath and create a positive, engaged posture. Close your eyes for a moment and see if the word has internalized itself.
When you open your eyes, intentionally end this exercise by saying “That was easier than I thought” or some acknowledgement of the end, knowing that the practice of a minute’s worth of intentional mindfulness is accessible again just by realizing you want it.