One wall of our parish chapel is made up of floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows. A circle of deep red-orange sits in the center panel, and from that core come colorful lines and swirls in shades of orange, yellow, purple and green. It is a beautiful mosaic, one I have looked at many times; but last week, for the first time, I noticed that the window is not one-dimensional. Pieces of glass randomly rise up from the base, adding dimension and movement. I was surprised by this discovery.

How is it possible, I wondered, that I have looked at this window so many times and not noticed this design feature?

I became intrigued by the mosaic and began to look more closely at the window, noticing the juxtaposition of shapes and colors. I sat in different areas of the chapel to give me different views of the window. I was entranced by the subtleties of its design, and as I paid more attention to the window, my appreciation for its beauty grew.

This, I think, is what being mindfulness is about, this intentionally slowing down, paying attention and noticing—looking at what is right in front of me and seeing it in a different way.

Living mindfully takes practice and energy. It requires me to focus, to notice, to look and to see. It is a discipline.

Living mindfully, it seems to me, is the antithesis of what is valued in our culture, where we love to talk about how busy we are.  Busy with what? I often wonder.

I find I am most able to be mindful early in the morning. Walking the dog, I am aware of the sun coming up and coloring the sky, of which flowers are in bloom (lilacs right now), of birds singing and squirrels playing. I am aware of the gentle breeze moving the air around me and shaking the treetops one street over. It is the most peaceful time of my day, and I am deeply appreciative for the quiet of it. Sitting on my sun porch, writing this,

Once I leave for work, though, I struggle to hold onto this level of awareness, to stay open to the little joys of my day.

I recently read an article about mindfulness, which suggested creating a calendar of positive experiences, and recording at least one moment of joy or gratitude every day. Even pausing for one moment to reflect on something positive can reshape the day and provide a different perspective.

The image of the stained-glass window is the reminder I carry these days—a reminder to look more closely and to be open to surprises that are right in front of me, if I only take the time to notice.


8 thoughts on “Mindfulness

  1. annemarielom

    What an excellent, understandable piece on awareness. I’d like to recommend a book that I am reading. Kathleen Singh combines mindfulness with the aging process well. The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older Paperback – August 5, 2014
    by Kathleen Dowling Singh (Author)

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Anne Marie, I love the title; I will definitely look it up. I think one of the blessings of aging is that I am more able to sift through what really matters and let go of what doesn’t. I find that practicing being mindful helps so much.

  2. Karen

    Great post, Madeline. I often find myself noticing details of trees – I’m always amazed of the patterns of the bark and the way the tree limbs stretch out – some heading straight up and others heading downward. I’ve always been fascinated by their textures – just like a stained glass window’s dimensions. Miss you. Hope all is well with you.

  3. JustinSchaefer6688

    What a beautiful realization of mindfulness! It reminds me of the Jesuit practice of the Daily Examen, at the end of the day. I was surprised to hear that St. Ignatius spoke so highly of awareness, that even if you forget to do any other spiritual enterprises, never forget the Examen. I think because this awareness leads to gratitude, which can become a source of joy, peace, and endless prayer and thanksgiving. I, myself, also started keeping a moleskin planner where I write a few things from each day that I am grateful for, so that I can now, go back a year or two to any day of the year and see what I was thankful for. One of my housemates does a similar practice of writing 10 brief words of something he was thankful for each day.

  4. jamesrneal

    I like your use of the stained glass design to bring awareness to our lack of, well, awareness. I have to force myself to shut down the chatter mill in my mind so I can simply look and listen to the world around me. It is a work in progress.


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