What Time is Church?

| March 1, 2011 | 8 Comments


From Ann Mehl, annmehl.com

Every morning before heading off to work, my father went to 6 am mass in Orange, NJ. He was the sole provider for our family of 5 and I know he worried a lot. When I reflect upon the steadfastness of his routine, what I cherish most is the way in which this simple act set the tone for his day. He felt more relaxed and at peace. Although he had a lot on his mind, his morning ceremony helped him to put his trust in something larger than himself. While I’m sure his prayers helped us a lot, I know it probably helped him more.

Although I am not in the pew at my parish church each day, I do commit to church most days in the form of an hours’ walk, run or cycle through the park. This simple prescription gives me time to open up to the many blessings of my life. It grants me a little “me time” before the demands of the day set in, and it helps me set a clear intention for the kind of day I wish to have.

Living in New York, I find that private sacred ritual is essential for maintaining perspective amid the chaos. I often recommend that my coaching clients engage in the power of a personal habit in some form, whether it’s morning yoga class, preparing a special meal, meditation, exercise or journaling. When we begin any promised routine, creativity often surges forth. It takes courage to begin any new practice, but the very act of committing to them makes us braver, and helps us to connect with our essential selves.

If we target a problem area, the routine of morning pages are often quick to suggest solutions. In a similar way, if we’re feeling stuck, exercise can remind us that we are not trapped and we notice that our limbs work beautifully in concert with our bodies. What some people wouldn’t give just to be able to walk across the room. Meditation teaches us that we always have choices, even when we think we don’t. Some of my best ideas have come to me on long walks where my mind could wander and I could look at a situation in a new light.

Joseph Campbell captures it best:

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today: you must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually wonderful will happen.”

Whether it is in morning or at night, find your “church” and go there every day for as long as you can, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If you commit to this routine for one month, I guarantee the effect will be transformational. It will change the tenor of the day, and dramatically improve your relationship with yourself.

Submitted by Ann Mehl. Ann is a certified Life & Career Coach through the Life Purpose Institute and Martha Beck’s NorthStar program. Learn more about Ann at www.annmehl.com or contact her at ann.mehl@gmail.com for a free consultation.

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About the Author ()

Ann is a certified Life & Career Coach through the Life Purpose Institute and Martha Beck’s NorthStar program. Learn more about Ann at www.annmehl.com or contact her at ann.mehl@gmail.com for a free consultation. Twitter: @annmehl Facebook: facebook.com/annmehl Newsletter Archive Blog: www.annmehl.com/blog/

Comments (8)

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  1. What a great reminder that we all need! As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I’m about to begin Great Lent – forty of days of increased prayer and fasting, with the goal of decreased spiritual, physical and mental chaos. Your article has encouraged me to remember that prayer is like the daily stretching and exercising of the spirit that allows me to avoid injury when my soul tries to bite off more than it can chew. Thank you.

  2. Margaret Beckman says:

    Amid the crashing competition for our attention in this life, finding time to practice a spiritual discipline may well be the difference between being able to cope and remain centered and not. That said, practicing a spiritual discipline is not “church.” it is a personal spiritual practice or discipline and is valuable in its own right. “Church” is something we do together – as a community of people who voluntarily commit themselves to each other – week after week, year after year, joy after joy and sorrow after sorrow. There are two human needs that may be met through spirituality and church (or your own tradition’s organizational structure, such as temple, coven, tribe, fellowship or congregation). One is personal spiritual growth and development. The other is community growth and mutual support. For those of us who practice “church” in addition to our daily spiritual disciplines, we find that living up to our highest resolve and best intentions is so much better and stronger together than as solitary individuals plodding through life as if we each lived on our own otherwise deserted island. I’m a staunch advocate of BOTH the dialy walk, run, paddle, or yoga, centering prayer, meditation routine AND attending the community gathering of a spiritual/religous covenant community. Namaste.

  3. A friend and I have been attending what we call “Sunday Sanctuary” for two years now. As christians, we feel that our ‘human service’ type professions fulfill the traditional ‘church’ sense of the word, whereby we foster and assist our community in their spiritual, educational and physical well being as a nurse & teacher. When we began kayaking on Sunday mornings, we knew that we had found the true sense of ‘Sacred Space’ out in the Natural World. http://www.sailblogs.com/member/captsuz/?xjMsgID=125717
    For me, “creating” a space for seeking a direct connection with our source of inspiration is exactly what makes these places so sacred. To each their own process of worship and sanctification……mine is found out in the wilds that were created for me to inhabit and I am reminded of this and therefore forever grateful~

  4. divya says:

    I just want gently to point out that church and “me time” are, in my opinion, two different things. I wholeheartedly agree with the main idea of this article that you need to find your personal place of “creative incubation” as Joseph Campell says, (I’m a fan of his). I just think we should be careful not to confuse this with somehow fulfilling your duties as a person of faith, if indeed you consider yourself one. If you are a Christian, for example, the whole point is to do something for God, not just for you or someone else. In Christianity, God desires you above all else. Yes, you should take care of others, yes, you should be still and medidate, and yes, you should definitely take time out for yourself and “consider the lilies of the field.” But taking time for yourself is just one piece of the puzzle. In all honesty, I sometimes make myself gag at my own tendency toward selfishness and my constant willingness to buy into the ubiquitous marketing of “me time.”

  5. Leslie Ross says:

    Your article definitely resonated with me. Raised in a conservative Jewish Congregation, my connection to spirit has always been felt in the outdoors rather than indoors in an literal “Church”. Now as an adult, on special holidays when my family still attends Synagogue, I go the hot springs or take a long hike. The natural world is my sanctuary, place place of support and comfort. Mountains are my teachers, my inspiration. Water calms my being. Trail running and backcountry skiing have been my most creative times, writing articles and envisioning projects while on the trail.

    The Deep ecology movement talks about being grounded in a place so then we can go forth into the world. Knowing the place where you are. Being at peace. Being Rooted to help off set the waves of living. Traveling often for business, I would have to carve out a sacred space for myself whether in the hotel room, in my van or on the host’s floor. It was key to my productiveness and sanity. Having that sense of place, my space was extremely grounding and allowed me time to be separate from all that was going on around me. It allowed me time to breath and be.

    Church is a sacred space that is different for everyone. Some believe that If God is within, then our bodies are our church. So taking “me” time is honoring “God”…the spirit and is as if actually going to a church. It provides a similar affect and purpose. A oneness with self and the universe. When we (Babes in the Backcountry) take women into the outdoors to learn new skills, we first start out with yoga and centering time. The goal or purpose of this sacred time is to allow each women to find center, balance and her own voice and spirit. This time to center allows for clearer decision making, enhances teamwork and promotes objectivity.

    Thanks for your reminder to all that sacred space is necessary for our spiritual well being. Though we each find it in our own individual ways, taking that sacred time actually brings us (community) closer. For more “me” time in a “sacred space” check out the Women’s Spring Equinox Full Moon Retreat at Meta Yoga Studios in Breckenridge March 18-20.

  6. Maja Gray says:

    My “Church” is the water – whether it is being out on a boat or walking on a beach, that is where I feel most connected to God. That is where my soul recharges and gives me the strength needed to continue on this amazing journey.

  7. Thank you for writing this! A lovely read.

    I especially enjoyed this:

    “When we begin any promised routine, creativity often surges forth.It takes courage to begin any new practice, but the very act of committing to them makes us braver, and helps us to connect with our essential selves.”

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