My mindfulness/meditation practices ebbed and flowed this year, and looking back at my work provides satisfying and useful perspective.
I've already explored how we might improve our mindfulness/meditation practices in the new year, so let's recap some of this year's top columns.
Here's hoping that remembering some of the pieces and ideas will provide any spark you might need in your personal journey.
"Are Meditation/Mindfulness a Threat to Christianity?"
This column, which proved to be popular with readers, came up after a principal at a Kennesaw, Georgia, elementary school apologized to parents who complained about the school's mindfulness practices, which some thought promoted non-Christian beliefs.
So I set out to find opinions from experts about whether the practices are contrary to Christianity.
Two Christians told me they didn't find the practices to be a threat, although they acknowledged that mindfulness/meditation do provoke fear among some, especially evangelicals.
Chattanooga psychologist and Christian Kim Gaines Eckert weighed in on the topic.
"It's the same dynamic that happened with yoga before it became mainstream," she said. "The majority of people can separate it in their minds, and that's where I try to come at it from when I'm talking to people. And even regardless of its roots, it's not like meditation or prayer are owned by any one religion ... but the fear is 'I'm going to get sucked in without knowing it.'"
Click here to read the entire column.
"Masculinity and Meditation: Lessons From NFL Defensive Lineman Joe Ehrmann"
This column came to me unexpectedly, but in it, I revisit one of the most powerful, insightful, important messages I've ever heard.
I went to an event that the National Center for the Development of Boys hosted to hear former NFL defensive lineman Joe Ehrmann speak about masculinity, and little did I know he would tap into the benefits of mindfulness—but not before giving moving and honest insight into the dangerous culture of masculinity.
"The three scariest words that every man receives in his lifetime is when he's told to 'be a man,'" Ehrmann said in that speech. "When you tell a boy to be a man, it's almost always in the context of 'You're not enough.'"
Click here to read the entire piece. You won't regret it.
"4 Ways to Mindfully Consume Media"
It's always good to periodically check in with ourselves and make sure we aren't becoming news and media zombies.
In the column, I wrote:
The 24/7 national news cycle of CNN, MSNBC or Fox—which some people leave on as constant background noise—is equivalent to listening to hours of screaming.
It's ranting. It's fear-mongering. It's misleading, and constantly having that in our ears and minds can skew our worldviews. If we listen or watch constantly, we are letting in a lot of negativity without even thinking about it.
Click here for four suggestions about how to mindfully consume media.
"'Mortal Kombat' Director Discusses His Recent Film on Mindfulness"
Sometimes, I get to interview the coolest, most unexpected people.
This was the case when I spoke with co-anchor of "Nightline" Dan Harris, and even more so when I talked with director and producer Larry Kasanoff, best-known for films such as "True Lies" and "Mortal Kombat."
Kasanoff was looking for inspiration for a "Mortal Kombat" character—someone with an Obi-Wan Kenobi vibe. So he sought out Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
After talking with the spiritual leader for two hours, Kasanoff said he felt like he had been on vacation for a week and wanted to know the monk's secret.
There started his journey and the ultimate creation of the documentary "Mindfulness: Be Happy Now."
Click here to read more about that.
"2 Revelations From My Mindfulness Weekend"
Going to this mindful retreat was the scariest thing I've done so far in my practice, but it turned out to be the best mindfulness-related experience of my year.
I basically spent a weekend in an Airbnb with strangers, meditating, practicing mindfulness, coloring, hiking, and being silent and reflective.
My anxiety and ego made this sound like a horrible thing to do, but it's a good thing I've learned not to let that control me.
Click here to read about my experience.