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Archive for October, 2017

I opened my email account this morning to find the October newsletter from E-Magis, the newsletter of IgnatianSpirituality.com.  The intro to the newsletter floored me:

Silence allows us the space and quiet to pay attention to God. Whether we enter a time of silence through the Examen, focused breathing, or another prayer starter, embracing silence can help us deepen our relationship with God. 

Embracing Silence

In that place of inner silence, the language God speaks is love.

It is pretty much in a nutshell what I wrote last night in “Like a Bad Penny…“.  (My version just took 1127 words to get there!)  But I love it when stuff like this happens :-).

My first thought was “What a coincidence!”…my next was “What an affirmation!”  It made me smile.  Still does.  Thank you, E-Magis.

I admire Ignatian spirituality anyway, and I am always inspired by the E-Magis newsletter articles.  It is also a great resource for anyone interested in taking prayer deeper.

I first heard of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus), founded by Ignatius Loyola (hence, Ignatian) from my father, God rest his soul.  He had been educated by Jesuits, or “the Brothers” as he called them.  He always said “they were tough, but they were great educators”.  I wish he were here now so I could tell him that I, too, am benefitting from their great educators.

Early in my return journey “home” to church, I came across two books written by Father James Martin, SJ.  One is fiction, called The Abbey: A Story of Discovery; the other is non-fiction, called Between Heaven and Mirth.  The Abbey was simply a well-written, engaging, poignant novel.  Between Heaven and Mirth made me laugh out loud!  I admire writers who can make me laugh as Fr. James did throughout the book, and simultaneously I was drawn to his insights into Catholic spirituality and how joy, humour, and laughter intersect a spiritual life.

I think I’m following a fairly typical spiritual path, and it led eventually to learning much more concerning Ignatian spirituality.  I [try to] practice the Ignatian Examen, an exercise devoted to reviewing our daily activities, through a series of about five questions, to discern God’s presence throughout the day and reflect on how or whether we responded accordingly. We express gratitude for various events/people in our day/life, and then consciously look forward to the next day and ask for God’s grace to accompany us.

The Jesuits have a special place in my heart because they remind me of my father, and because they cultivate intellectual achievement and are renown for scholarly books and articles.  Check out IgnatianSpirituality.com and see for yourself.  Try the Examen – it can be considered a type of meditation, I would say; at any rate, you will at least have developed a greater self-understanding, and that is always a good thing!

So, yes, the intro for E-Magis this morning affirmed my own insight into silence and how it allows us to hear the voice that is love, the indwelling Spirit in all of us.  That voice more often comes through as a whisper than as a wind, which means we must be still to hear it.  Then we will learn, as the Jesuits say, to embrace silence.

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So, like a bad penny…I keep turning up.  Thank God, I say.

I haven’t written here in a while.  Three years, in fact.  Not really sure why I’m here now, but something called me to it.  I’ve learned to listen when that happens.  And then to act.  Because life usually takes a turn for the better when I do both.  That’s key:  listening and acting.

Listening requires something most of us don’t make enough time for:  Silence.  Quiet.  Calm.  And by that I mean solitudinal listening.  Yes, alone.  Just you.  Maybe the cat.  But essentially you, solo.  Okay, you say you will try it and so you sit on the floor on a pillow, and wait.  For what, you are not entirely sure.  You close your eyes.  And notice that inside your eyelids your eyes are blinking like mad.  That’s annoying.  Then the thoughts charge forth:  you’ve got an itch; your knee is aching; you’ve got emails to reply to; what’s for supper?; why am I doing this again?

It’s impossible to listen when you’ve got music playing in the background, or the TV on, or your phone at hand with all its bells and alarms turned up high so you don’t miss those all-important notifications of yet another “like” on social media.  And there are plenty of other excuses you can make for why this won’t work.

Listening can seem daunting at first, and annoying.  I mean, all those ruminating thoughts that you weren’t even aware of begin cascading down at warp speed, and your brain suddenly baulks and says “Nope, this is too crazy. I’ll never be able to do this”.  Ah-hem…that’s the ego, trying to make you think you can’t do it when in fact it’s the ego, feeling threatened.  So you get up and check for iMessages on your phone.  You gave it a whole 30 seconds.  Well, there’s a win for the ego.  You didn’t know you were so easy to manipulate, did you?

So go back and try it again.  To make it easier on yourself and so you are not mentally counting the seconds, set your oven timer or your phone’s alarm for one minute, sit down, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and just let those ruminating thoughts do whatever they want.  They are just thoughts, and they come and go.  There will always be another one, believe me.  They come and go precisely because we are not aware of them.  But there is a fine line between being aware of and dwelling on something.  Be aware of thoughts; be aware that they spew forth, come and go, and they often are repetitive.  They want your attention.  So notice them, and let them move ahead to make way for the next one.  Just do not dwell on them.  Dwelling on thoughts turns them into stories in our heads, and the stories begin to include feelings; feelings manifest in our bodies physiologically where they act on our inner systems and do weird things like make our blood pressure rise, cause our hearts to pound, put knots in our stomachs.  Wake us up at 3:00 a.m.  And then we feel stuck with them.  How do we get rid of them?  Most often we don’t, because we weren’t even aware we’d been caught up in them.  See how insidious this is?  This is not the work of your Soul.  This is pure ego.  You can read all about the ego from great sources such as Eckhart Tolle, so I will just say here:  the ego is not your friend.  Well, not a good friend at any rate.  We all have an ego, and we all need one; it’s not bad per se; it just lives from a place of fear and so distorts our perceptions based on its fears.  It’s a trickster!

The voice of your Soul is never that of fear or negativity, and will never cause you distress.  It is the voice of love and its purpose is to guide you toward the fullness of joy…joy which has been there all along.  I’ve learned a little about this over these past few years.  Thank God.

The voice of your Soul is God, the indwelling Spirit.  People who don’t align with a religious practice call it ‘spirit’, ‘the universe’, ‘higher consciousness’, etc.  God speaks through our Souls.  Thankfully, like that penny, the Soul’s voice keeps turning up.  I know you’ve heard yours, knocking from the inside trying to get your attention.  I know you’ve quashed it.  I know you’ve pushed it aside.  It takes perseverance to do that!  I know…I was really good at it.  So why not use that same perseverance to listen?  What might your Soul want to say to you? Why not take one minute and sit quietly? And tomorrow, take two minutes.  Any gap created among all those ruminating (mostly useless, I’m sorry to say) thoughts can be enough for your Soul to make itself heard.  We need only listen.  The voice of Soul, or God, is most often heard as a whisper; it is not loud or vexatious or judgemental.  And when you hear it, you won’t forget it.

I should say:  Joy is not the same as happiness.  Happiness is dependent upon external factors and is (usually) short-lived, until the next happy event, while joy is inside us and long-standing.  Joy can even be experienced during times of strife, while happiness is out of there like a shot!  The beauty of joy is that it has nothing at all to do with the ego, does not require searching for or runnng after, does not result from a goal attained, and does not depend on what other people think about us.  The added benefit of getting in touch with our joy is that the more you are in touch, the less the ego can assert itself…such a relief!  Joy is innate, inherent in all of us…a gift from God.  It enables us to feel gratitude for even the smallest pieces of our lives, and it gives us strength during times of distress and turmoil.

I’ve changed the name of my blog to reflect the furtherance of my life’s path since I last posted an entry here in 2014.  During mindfulness meditation a few years ago, God reached me through a gap in my thoughts.  I listened.  I acted.  I returned to church and now attend a local parish administered by the Franciscans, a loving, compassionate, and community-oriented Catholic holy order.

The beautifully poetic Psalms resonate deeply with me, and this quotation in particular:

Thou dost show me the path of life;

in thy presence there is fullness of joy;

in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 16:11

Fullness of joy indeed.

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