Ash Wednesday: Mindful in Returning

An article by on February 14, 2018

I began this podcast with a 10 day mindfulness challenge. I thought Ash Wednesday a fitting time to return to it. I encourage you consider using these next 10 episodes to begin or renew a habit of mindfulness practice for your Lenten season intention.

How do you react when someone you know makes a statement with intense conviction – and the thesis of that statement is utterly at odds with your own principles?

We are often offended by an alternative viewpoint. It is especially difficult when the person suggesting this other worldview is forceful, unyielding in delivering it. I am not usually convinced by such an approach and I imagine none of you are, as well. When my perspective shifts, it usually happens after hearing a discussion about those views and then I take time in prayer and mediation in which I hold those points loosely before God. In quiet reflection my heart can be reached, my spirit hears the softest whispers (versus clamoring of earnest truth-tellers) and I see myself in that other’s eyes.

Mindfulness is bandied about a lot these days; from hospital recovery rooms to 2nd grade classrooms, as a guide to controlled eating and as prescription for today’s angst. But just like the countless quick-fixes and 3-steps-to-freedoms, mindfulness as a technique or tool to hatchet away at something more profound – habit that holds you hostage to living fully, it might work for a moment, but does not change much long-term.

Jon Kabat-Zinn popularized mindfulness as a methodology for health and healing in the US in 1979 when he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic and developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. This 8-week program is shown to be clinically effective to ease stress, pain and illness through soi-disant“moment-by-moment awareness” strategies. But just like Kabat-Zinn himself, the program separates the principles of mindfulness from their spiritual origins, diluting its impact on the life of the practitioner. Mindfulness becomes an exercise scheduled into the day (if even that) rather than transforming, changing ones perspective – a way of existing – a lifestyle.

My faith tradition is Protestant Christian and my faith reference is Jesus. If you do not share the same belief framework, or that of Buddhist philosophy, I have found a majority still orient toward a More Than, a sense of awe and wonder that intuits being part of something bigger. It is this context in which we are changed – when I know that I am not alone. Not only are there countless other souls marking this journey with me, there is something More Than us that holds us together, that draws us toward one another and toward this larger space, that is also intimate, personal, internal space.

But to inhabit that space and be moved by it, in it – it takes time. It takes time for my thoughts to be drawn together so I can bring my focus to center. And then more time to rest in that space. And then a little more to listen – to hear in the deafening quiet as Isaiah once inhabited, the whisper of God.

So I begin this podcast with a 10-Day Challenge. My challenge is for my listeners to spend 5-10 minutes each day developing a habit of mindfulness – one that is more than just an exercise, but one that seeps into your day. I will begin each episode with a short instruction to explain the purpose, what it is meant to accomplish, and then guide you into the mindfulness practice for that day. I want you to understand how the practice works, what mechanism are engaged that elicit change – because even knowing how it works will help make it work more effectively.

My hope is that we will grow together in becoming better at listening to each other, hearing the heart of someone different than me, than you, more willing to hold our thoughts and opinions loosely – in the presence of one another, in awe and wonder in the presence of the More Than.

You can also find more information and resources at my website

Today, may you walk at the pace of grace.


“Meditation,” violin: composed and performed, by, Kaaron Waltz Gross

Jazz Shuffle Blues by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2014 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

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About Nicole

Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MI).

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