Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Holy Days

The Presentation

Mindfulness and Departure

February 2, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, I found myself pondering Simeon and Anna. It seems to me that they were mindful people, paying attention to the details of life in the temple without undue distraction for years. This made me wonder about how my own mindfulness can open me to receive Jesus when he comes to me. And too, I began reflecting about how deeply at peace they seemed once they had beheld the baby. Take a look at the lessons I've paired with the story of Jesus' presentation in the temple. After them, you'll find my collect and reflection.



Business & Technology

Tech Addiction and the Business of Mindfulness

Erin Griffith

Story of a retreat in which tech inclined professionals are invited to change their relationship with their technology.

Consider the import of the statistic that since 2014, more people in the world have access to mobile phones than to toilets.

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Arts & Architecture

New 'Washed Ashore' exhibit in Little Rock

Jennifer Nixon

Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Description of art on display at Clinton Presidential Center in which artists from Oregon nonprofit Washed Ashore work with plastic objects washed up on beaches, highlighting the damaging effects of plastic garbage to sea life and to the environment.

Pay attention to Clinton Foundation's communications manager, Ben Thielemier’s take-away message–that we must be mindful of the things that are easy but have “unintended consequences.”

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Business & Technology

The Explainer: The Case for More Silent Meetings

Harvard Business Review

Video in which presenter makes case that silent meetings can be more effective than traditional ones to accomplish certain objectives.

NB: This video is behind a paywall. HBR allows several free views per month; it is my hope you can use one yours to watch this.

Think about meeting spaces where you might experiment with the silent meeting format.

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Spirituality & Psychology

VOCES8: Nunc Dimittis - Arvo Pärt

VOCES8, Arvo Pärt


VOCES8 performs Arvo Pärt's setting of the Nunc Dimittis.

Listen twice, if you have the time. Once with your eyes closed. Then with your eyes open, taking in the images.

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How can our atunement with the ordinary prepare us for the extraordinary?


Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.
And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-- and a sword will pierce your own soul too."
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:25-40

This weekend, I am at a beach cottage with one of my dear friends and her daughter, my goddaughter. I got here early to open the house. Those who came before us had put out the garbage and recyclables. I walked to the road to retrieve the garbage can and bins. It’s a long windy gravel driveway. As I walked, I became aware of a dis-ease in my being. Bringing that awareness to consciousness, I listened for thoughts. There were several. I am worried about getting my work done. I’m worried about writing this blog! I’m missing my mother, who used to love this place before she died. I am stressed by the many transitions in our family’s life. And on it went. In a matter of seconds. No. Stop. I said to myself, with all compassion. Be here now.

My sister in law has taught me much about mindfulness; she is a skilled teacher of mindfulness and practices it daily. I felt her presence with me. I knew what to do. I closed my eyes and felt the slightest breeze. I opened them and looked at the sky. It was a fearless blue. I saw the sea grapes nearby rustle and heard small footprints of some sand-dwelling creature. I was immersed in glory.

The Nunc Dimittis, Simeon’s words of departure after meeting Jesus, are among of the most beautiful utterances in all of scripture. The image of Simeon and Anna, two very old people who had waited their entire lives for the moment we overhear in the temple in today’s gospel, is nothing less that riveting. To me, what makes it so is the utter mindfulness reflected in the moment. Each of them sees in Jesus everything they are meant to see. They touch and hold infinity. Then, immersed in glory, each of them blesses Jesus. Their wisdom becomes a part of him.

This is how the Spirit moves among us. And our work is much simpler than we imagine. It is, first and foremost, to be fully present. To be mindful. Mindfulness is not a state we think ourselves into. It is visceral. It is deeply physical. Being mindful entails planting our feet in one solitary moment and taking it in with every sense to our fullest ability.

In today’s first business and technology lesson, we learn about a retreat in which tech-oriented professionals are asked not to abandon their cell phones, but to relinquish them for a brief time. The intent of their retreat guide is to invite participants to become more mindful in the spans of time when they are with their technology. All-or-nothing thinking about our tools of technology does not work. These tools can connect us, free up much time and space in our lives, and can support our creativity and productivity. They can also ensnare us and rob us of agency, time, and energy. It’s up to us to determine how they impact us. Mindfulness with technology is no different than mindfulness at a beach cottage. It’s about staying utterly grounded in the present moment.

In today’s arts and architecture lesson, we hear about an exhibition occurring in several sites across the country and sponsored by the Oregon nonprofit, Washed Ashore. The artist uses plastics washed ashore to create images of sea life in order to call our attention to the volume of plastics from products we consume that are threatening our sea life and our planet. I am trying to make daily choices that are small but, when added to your choices and made over the course of months and years, can shift the tide of consumer-driven markets away from plastics. It’s another place where our mindfulness can help us see and protect the life in front of us.

In our second business and technology lesson, we hear about a different way of gathering–in silence. I have used this approach with groups, and we have found that it can indeed lead to much richer ideating. There is a peace in a meeting absent the ubiquitous dynamics of jockeying for air time, and losing creative ideas while waiting your turn. The silent meeting is one good way to stay grounded in the present moment.

In today’s spirituality and psychology lesson, I offer a musical setting of the Nunc Dimittis paired with images for your contemplation.

Simeon and Anna's story is a visceral one. Anna had spent her life in the temple. At the moment she sees Jesus, she knows redemption has arrived. Simeon holds Jesus. Smells him, feels his tiny movements. And he tells Jesus' mother that this baby child will reveal the inner thoughts of many people. And will pierce her own soul. You don't say something like that unless you are utterly present in the moment. Being attuned to the ordinary makes us more able to receive the extraordinary when it comes to us. And then, more able to let go and depart in peace, having partaken of both.

As I finish this proper, I am just learning of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and eight other people in a helicopter crash today, including one of his daughters, Gianna. Many people in this world die tragically, I know. The deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter and friends touch me and my family in a particular way because our boys grew up watching him play. We’ve just been texting each other about how this tragedy brings home the reality of death, the fear of loss, and the beauty of each sacred moment we get to spend together. I am grateful for this moment with you, dear reader. And I pray for all the saints who have entered into glory.

Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised. Luke 2:29