On the themes in this blog is to point out the deep Christian traditional practices associated with what we now refer to as mindfulness. In general, Christian practices are predicated on an engaged participant and mindfulness is an stance of engagement. In the following excerpt a Benedictine nun describes the simple practice of statio. Which she so aptly calls the “virtue of presence.”
In addition to silence, community customs, and the common table, the monastic practices of statio and lectio are also tools of the spiritual craft. Statio is a monastic custom that was born centuries ago but clearly belongs in this one. Statio is the practice of stopping one thing before we begin another. It is the time between times. It is a cure for the revolving door mentality that is common in a culture that runs on wheels. In monastic spirituality it is common for the community to gather outside of chapel in silence before beginning prayer or at least to gather for a few minutes together in the chapel itself before intoning the opening hymn of the Office.
My novice mistress, in fact, insisted that we all be in chapel five minutes before the bell rang for prayer, an expectation the logic of which managed to elude me for years. After all, "an idle mind is the devil's workshop," the Puritan in me knew well. "Every minute counts," I'd learned somewhere along the way "Time is golden," the samplers taught. Think of all the things that could have been done in that additional five minutes a day or thirty five minutes a week or two hours and twenty minutes a month or twenty-eight hours a year: another chapter of typing, another batch of thank you notes composed, another wash ironed, another set of papers corrected. Work, valuable work, could have been done and I could still have made it on time for prayer.
It took years to realize that, indeed, I could have gotten all that work done and still had my body in chapel in time for prayer. It is highly unlikely, though, that my mind would have been there too. The practice of statio is meant to center us and make us conscious of what we're about to do and make us present to the God who is present to us. Statio is the desire to do consciously what I might otherwise do mechanically statio is the virtue of presence.
If I am present to this child before I dress her, then the dressing becomes an act of creation. If I am present to my spouse in the living room, then marriage becomes an act of divine communion. If I am present to the flower before I cut it, then life becomes precious. If I am present to the time of prayer before I pray, then prayer becomes the juncture of the human with the Divine.
We have learned well in our time to go through life nonstop. Now it is time to learn to collect ourselves from time to time so that God can touch us in the most hectic of moments.
Statio is the monastic practice that sets out to get our attention before life goes by in one great blur and God becomes an idea out there somewhere rather than an ever present reality here.
Chittister, Joan. 1990. Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 176-178.