"Hineni" - Here I Am - Mindfulness Exercises

On Sunday in Brooklyn we started our Six Words series by learning about the Hebrew word "Hineni" which means "Here I am." Moses used this word in response to God calling to him from within a burning bush in Exodus 3. You'll be able to hear the full sermon here.

Theresa Elwell, a leader in our community who has developed a practice of meditation and prayer for herself over the past year, led the whole community in a mindfulness exercise before reading the scripture on Sunday. Then during communion people were invited to take home a marble to use as a grounding object in their prayer life this week. 

Below are two exercises to help you practice prayer and mindfulness this week. Use them throughout your day to calm your anxiety, to center yourself, and say "hineni" - Here I am, Lord.

Exercise #1 - Grounding in the Present Moment                                          

(This exercise is adapted from the book Sacred Wounds by Teresa B. Pasquale, p. 30-31)

1. Wherever you are, become aware of your surroundings. Where are you sitting or standing in this moment?

2. Begin to notice your breath. Engage in the practice of intentional breathing, even if this just means breathing in your nose and out of your mouth.  

3. Begin to feel your surroundings. Touch whatever is closest to you - this might be a marble or the case of your cellphone, the object nearest to you, even the fabric of your clothes.

4. Notice the texture and dimensions of this object you are holding or touvhing, as you continue to intentionally breathe through this moment of stress. Is the object you're holding jagged or smooth, rough or textured? Notice how it feels. Pay attention to the dimensions of it.

5. You will have memories, thoughts, and feelings flutter through your mind. You will have ideas, worries, or concerns begin to crowd your brain and tense your body. This will happen. This is part of the human struggle. Your goal is to 1) not attach to any one thought, feeling, or sensation, 2) return to breath as a way to ground in the moment, and 3) return back to the object you are using as your point of grounding. 

6. Feel the breath moving through your lungs and then begin to ground your whole body in the present moment. 

7. Continue to breathe and ground with your object of choice. Be present with how it feels to sit; stand, and be wherever you are in this moment. Feel your feet on the ground, your body in the seat (if you are seated), and the object grounding you.

8. Distractions will always come, and the intention of this practice is to return to your breath and ground yourself in the present moment whenever you are feeling carried away by the chaos of your mind, life, and body. Allow yourself these moments of peace and when you are ready, begin to gently chant to yourself praying "Here I am, Lord." Repeat this phrase over and over in your mind or aloud as you ground yourself in the present moment with your God.

Exercise #2 - Centering with Scripture

Before you begin, choose a passage of scripture to read at the end of this practice. 

Begin by simply noticing how you are sitting. Place your feet flat on the floor, hands on your lap, palms up. Slowly close your eyes and begin to notice your breath. The inhale, filling the lungs, the exhale, letting go. Breathe in deeply, and as you breathe out, let go of any thoughts or worries that you might be holding onto. Take another one, breathing in your day, your week and then exhale, letting it all go.

Feel the ground beneath your feet and the chair underneath you, supporting you. Notice the places on your body that are making contact with these supports. Allow your skin, muscles and bones to soften and relax into these grounding surfaces. Release any tension in your shoulders. Feel the spine long and at ease. Allow the head to be gently supported by the neck.

Open your senses. Take another deep breath in, noticing the smell and air passing through the nose and into the body. Turn your hands over and rub them on the tops of your legs. Feel the fabric of your clothes and the heat of your hands on your lap. Soften the eyes. Release the jaw.

Notice any sensation you may be having inside the body - tingling in the hands or feet, heart beating in the chest, the energy buzzing inside the body. Whatever is there, be present with it. Now widen your attention so you can feel the whole body present in the room with others. Allow your ears to open, letting sounds and words wash through you. Awake, alive and open to God’s word in this moment.

When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and say..."Here I am, Lord" then begin to read your Bible passage. Read it twice through slowly. Allow yourself time to notice the words and thoughts that stick out to you but don't overanalyze them. Simply let them resonate through you. When you are finished, lift up your thoughts in prayer to God.