My husband and I are committed fans of The Great British Baking Show. In this series, hobbyist bakers compete to win the coveted title of Britain’s finest amateur baker. We love to learn and attempt the techniques, so we pay attention. The bakers knead, chop, roll, mix, stretch, and press dough as the camera zooms in, never missing a bit of action. There are seven seasons of the show on Netflix, and over the years we have watched each of them—twice.
Imagine my surprise when we came to the second-to-last episode of season 6 (for the second time), and I noticed that one of the semifinalists is missing most of her fingers on her left hand. I had never noticed! I had spent hours watching close-ups of her hands, never understanding the true skill this baker possessed.
Upon realizing this, I exclaimed, “I wonder how many other things in my life I never even notice!” My husband gave a quick and witty reply—which I have since forgotten—with a grin to match.
It did make me pause. I wonder how many of those things I never notice would literally change my life if I simply became aware of their presence?
Mindfulness is a research-based practice, or discipline, of bringing one’s awareness to the present moment and accepting what that present moment brings. Because of its proven effectiveness, mindfulness is included in many therapy interventions used to treat anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, sleep disturbance, and much more. It is a practice of slowing down, of being fully present physically and thoughtfully. It is quietly noticing what is happening inside of you and around you, then acknowledging those things without judgement.
I lead therapy sessions. One typical exercise I often use to demonstrate the concept of mindfulness is to go through the five senses with a glass of water. I have my client hold a glass of water and ask them to describe in detail what it is they see as they hold it up to the light, feel as they hold in their hand, taste as they take a drink, smell as they breathe it in, and hear as they turn it around in the glass. There is no right or wrong answer, the point is to simply slow down and notice. It feels a little weird, but so does anything we are not used to doing.
For those of us who profess and live as Christians, the practice of slowing down and being present is a bit like coming “home” when it comes to spiritual practice. As always, God knew what He was doing when showing us the way to live inwardly rich, steady, peace-filled lives.
It always amazes me how simple but difficult it is to stay in the rhythm God intended for my life. This is not so much managing the outward activities or general busyness—although that certainly does create a challenge—but the internal rhythm of peace that I am always invited into at any given moment regardless of what is going on around me. While this invitation is constant and so simple, it is tricky to internally slow down to the point of realizing it is there and that I have the ability to step into it.
As with the baking show, I do not see or appreciate the beauty and true reality of what is around me unless I stop and slow down to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel it.
Even when I do, I do not notice the tension growing in my body steadily throughout the day. I do not notice my scattered and anxious thoughts, or the images and shadowing feelings that linger after I turn off social media. Nothing noticeable, really. Nothing that significant, right?
Yet, the impact shifted things more than I realized, all while going underneath my conscious radar.
It’s when I come back to the practice of mindfulness, when I choose to sit and pay attention, do I notice it again and come home. When I wake up in the morning, or in the quiet when my son is napping, I sit to open my Bible and notice the physical calm as I take a deep breath. I notice how easy or hard it is to turn my thoughts through focused prayer. Where do they keep wanting to go? Notice that. I notice God there with me, physically and now in my thoughts, His living presence in and around me, in all things in my life.
Yes, there He is. And in this moment also. His care, His grace—I can notice it all. I can come back to noticing Him, in me, in this world: moving, living, and active. And wonderfully faithful.
I can finally see it, feel it, hear it all clearly and come home. God says “come back to Me” again and again. “I’ll give you what you need. Don’t worry about tomorrow, come seek and find me. Abide in me. Be mindful of my abundant presence.”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (John 15:4).
Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).