Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Art Journaling: Attitude of Gratitude Session 4: Feeling Gratitude Towards God

This week, as we come closer to Christmas Day, we put our focus on feeling gratitude towards God.  We challenged ourselves to harness the feeling of gratitude with God at the center of our meditation and used the following scriptures for inspiration.

original drawing by M. Estes Zywar

Ephesians 5:19
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,
Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Colossians 3:16
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
The breath prayers derived from these scriptures were to inhale on “Seek the Lord” or “Love the Lord” and exhale on “with all your heart” or “Sing and make music” on the inhale and “from your heart to the Lord” on the exhale.

For our stretching portion of the class, Kris Cross led us in a relaxation process called constructive rest position.  During this time we practiced a method of relaxation where we focused on different parts of the body and relaxed our muscles with the help of a metaphor, visualizing our bodies as a sac of sand.  As we focused on each muscle group we imagined the sand pouring out of the sac and the sac collapsing.   

Our closing prayer for this week:

Dear Lord, as we celebrate Christmas we remember what you have done for us and give thanks for all your good gifts.  We pray that our hearts would be full of praise to you.  Lord, let the light that you have put in our hearts shine for the world to see as a testimony to your love and grace.  May we celebrate fully this Christmas as we sing to you with gratitude in our hearts.  -Amen

original drawing by Brookye Keeney
I hope this workshop was a blessing to those who participated and that it helped you take time to breathe, focus on the joys of this season, find gratitude in your lives and sing to God with gratitude in your hearts!  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Art Journaling: Attitude of Gratitude Session 3: Meditate on Gratitude

Today, after spending two weeks being mindful about our breath and refocusing on joy, we considered the impact of gratitude on our time in meditation and also on our physiological and spiritual wellbeing.  The self care workshop, that inspired me to create the Attitude of Gratitude Workshop, introduced me to idea of starting meditation from the heart.  Clearing the mind of distraction can be a daunting task, but starting from the heart and focusing on a place or person whom you personally feel gratitude for can be a helpful way to enter into a meditative place that will help you quiet your mind.  The image of your heart pumping the feeling of gratitude to every cell in your body, nurturing it and filling it with gratitude for the places and people you are grateful for was helpful to me.  The leader in the workshop I took had us place our hand over our heart and if, while we were meditating on gratitude, our minds wandered away from that focus we could give ourselves a physical cue by gently tapping our chest to bring our mind back to that feeling of gratitude. 
One coloring page I supplied for my workshop was a silhouette of a person with outstretched arms (a visual image of a person expressing feelings of gratitude).  The rest of the paper left room for you to draw something that reminds you of a place or a person you personally feel grateful for. 
The Bible passages I chose this week were:

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 27:9
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.
Proverbs 27:19
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.
The breath prayer we used today was “A heart at peace” on the inhale and “gives life to the body” on the exhale.  Or “A cheerful heart” on the inhale and “Is good medicine” on the exhale.
I hope this week you can continue to breathe, focus on joy, and find peace in meditating on gratitude.
We closed our time together with the following prayer:

Dear Lord, as we take time to look inward, into our hearts, may we find peace, love and true joy.  May our hearts be filled with gratitude for those you have put in our path.  We pray that this gratitude would overflow, nurturing each cell in our body and reflect in our lives each day so that we might in turn be a blessing to those around us. - Amen

Art Journaling: Attitude of Gratitude Workshop Session 2: Focus on Joy!

For our second week of our Attitude of Gratitude Workshop we challenged ourselves to focus on the joys of the season rather than the stress.  One suggestion for doing this was to make two lists in your journal.  The first listing the things that cause you stress and the second things that bring you joy.  Our hope is that throughout Advent we can spend less time focusing on the stressful things and spend more energy on the joyous.  One person took a different take on this list making exercise.  She wrote things that cause her stress in the first column and then in the second, how to deal with that stress.  This was a great approach and a reminder that the journal is personal.  The theme of refocusing is a jumping off point so express it in a way that is most effective and meaningful to you!  If writing a list is not your style feel free to express your list visually.
The Bible passages used for refocusing dealt mainly with reminding us of Christ which is why we are celebrating to begin with. 

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Matthew 1:23
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Psalm 62:1
 1 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
The breath prayer used this week was:  Immanuel” on the inhale and  “God with us” on the exhale.
I hope your journal continues to be a reminder to breathe this season, take time stretch your muscles to relieve tension and focus on what brings you joy!
Our Closing Prayer:
Lord, as we go through this advent season preparing to celebrate Christmas, help us to see you and the true purpose of this season.  Prepare our hearts and clear our minds so that we might not be distracted and discouraged by the noise and busyness.  Let us find joy in this season to celebrate fully with our friends and family. –Amen