Be Active and Know

Today’s post is by Jeff Nelson

To help him with his schoolwork, we’ve purchased several fidget cubes for our son. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are small six-sided objects, each side with a series of buttons to press, switches to click, balls to roll with your thumb, and so on. They were born from educational and psychological theory stating that having something to fidget with can actually increase one’s focus and attention on the main task at hand.

We’ve seen the difference that these trinkets make. I’m pondering ordering one for myself, and I wonder how much my own attention in my elementary days could have been aided by this device.

I have to confess that such an urge to fidget asserts itself into my prayer life, too. It doesn’t suddenly recede as I sit myself down to spend conscious time in communion with God. I am usually able to quiet myself with some tried-and-true tactics such as deep breathing or slowly repeating a word like “peace” or “spirit.” But I also have times when I have energy to burn.

In these times I think of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, where he describes cultivating a prayerful awareness of God as he swept the floor and washed the dishes. These were actions counter to the usual contemplative wisdom to “be still and know that I am God,” but they helped him complete necessary chores while being actively mindful of God with him.

Like Brother Lawrence’s practice, not all prayer exercises are meant to be observed sitting still. One can practice forms of “movement prayer” or walk a labyrinth, or pray while exercising or shoveling snow. We fidgety types have plenty of options available for focusing on God’s presence.

Maybe a cube to use during centering prayer would work, too.

March 03, 2017 by Jeff Nelson
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