How To Focus Your Mind To Do the Will of God Even in the Ordinary

It’s becoming a familiar, but unwelcome feeling: my body in one place and my mind in another. Even as I grow aware of it, I struggle to return my attention to the moment—to be wholeheartedly present.

Just last month, I met up with a friend for a walk. After an hour or so, we circled back to the parking lot, standing on a paved pathway that led to a series of stores. I had planned to swing by Trader Joe’s to pick up a few ingredients for dinner that night, and as my friend was talking, I wondered what time it was. I calculated when I’d need to bow out of the conversation in order to get to the store so I could get home for lunch.

She laughed at something she’d just said and I smiled and nodded along. Would it be busy at Trader Joe’s? How long would I be standing in line if I didn’t beat the lunch rush?

Pay attention! Be all here! My inner voice tried to scold me back to the present moment.

Even as it was happening, I knew I wasn’t giving my friend the gift of my full attention, and I was robbing myself of the pleasures of the here and now.

 A great way to miss out on your life is to always be preoccupied with what’s next.

The spiritual practice of statio

There is an ancient monastic tradition called “statio” that, when adopted as a spiritual practice, can help us live wholeheartedly in the moment. In monastic life, statio was the practice of being where you were supposed to be before you needed to be there. To a nun, this meant arriving at the chapel five minutes before the prayer service was to start.

As Joan Chittister explains in her book Monastic at Heart:

“Statio—stopping to collect our hearts and minds before we begin something new—is the sign that we know we are about to do the will of God for the world… [it’s] the monastic gift of taking a deep breath between things; going into the next personal encounter centered, quiet, and gathered of mind and heart.”

I want my daily interactions with others to be marked by that kind of centeredness, inner quietness, and intentionality to do the will of God instead of my default mode of hurried and harried.

But how can we accomplish this?

The power of transition times

As I’ve pondered the best way to integrate statio as a spiritual practice, I’ve become more aware of the rhythm of my days. I’ve noticed that there are many times when I’m in transition from one activity to the next: on my way to meet with a friend, sitting in the school pick-up line, driving to an appointment on my way to the store, preparing for dinner. How often I find myself on the way to the next thing!

I started experimenting with these transition times, treating everything I was about to do as holy work, the will of God. During these in-between times, I started saying a statio prayer to prepare my heart and my mind for my next encounter. If I was meeting with a friend, I would pray for God’s help in listening well. If I was about to run errands, I would pray for an unhurried heart so I could treat any brief interactions with others in kindness. On the way to pick up my kids from school, I would pray for God’s help in setting my own agenda aside so I could be available for the needs of my kids.

how to focus your mind to do the will of God even in the ordinary

The daily spiritual benefits of statio

After a week of practicing statio, I noticed that the line between the sacred and the mundane had all but disappeared. When I treated every activity as “the will of God for the world,” my ordinary tasks took on new importance. Housework became an act of loving hospitality for my family. Carpooling became an act of service for my neighbor. Playing games with my kids became an opportunity to share myself with them. I discovered that treating my daily tasks as God’s work helped me live a more intentional and meaningful life.

I also found that I was more aware of the presence of God in the ordinary. He was not waiting for me to do big and important things for Him. Rather, He was right there in the details as I did my best to love Him and love others in small, ordinary ways.

Today is another new day filled with many activities and replete with many transitions and on-the-way moments. I will pray my prayer of statio as often as I remember, gathering my mind and heart, aware of God’s presence, so I can treat every task and encounter as the will of God for the world.

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*Feature Photo by Crystal Shaw on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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