Practices for Embracing Our Many-Sided lives: Examen

offeringOur spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, journaling, all can be ways we follow Romans 12’s admonition to offer all of our lives to God each day.   By stopping to truly consider all of who we are, each side of who we are and each side of our lives, we allow our whole selves to be put into the presence of the living Christ.

This living Christ allows us to begin to discover how each of these aspects of ourselves and our life journeys can be embraced as sources of strength, blessing, and healing to ourselves and to others.   Doing so personally allows us to also come in touch with how these inner sources of strength can become ways to become the hands, feet, and presence of Christ to other people and all creation in our daily lives.  When we talk about become bearers of the cosmic Christ, or the body of Jesus, to the world, we mean that practice.  To do it we must grow to embrace more of who we are, in all our messy complexity, as individuals.  We can learn through such embrace of ourselves how to embrace the complex, messy, complicated people all around us.

I want to spend a few blog posts sharing some spiritual practices which might help us make space in our lives to see, acknowledge, and embrace all of who we are so we might learn to embrace others around us.

To start I share an ancient meditation and prayer practice which is new to me, the Examen prayer or Examen meditation.  This type of prayer or meditation grew out of the Jesuit community as a way of daily reflecting on your day, looking for how well you have connected with Christ each day and ways you may have ignored or struggled against this nearness to Christ.

Here are some articles about Examen prayer or Examen meditation:

http://www.marquette.edu/faith/examen-of-consciousness.php

https://gravitycenter.com/practice/examen/

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/how-can-i-pray

Here is a form of the Examen prayer I have led a few groups through, which I am currently using some in my own spiritual journey:

meditateTake a moment, centering yourself, whether closing your eyes or focusing on a relaxing image in the room.  Breathe deeply, feeling the peace, calm, strength, and resiliency available to you in each moment as you breathe in.  Hold your breath for a moment, feeling that strength settling deep within you.  Then breathe out slowly, feeling the stress, anxiety, nervousness, fear, frustration of the day before leaving your body.  Continue to breathe in and out, slowly and carefully, as we continue together.

Take a moment and slowly review your day yesterday, looking for places of life, strength, joy, and resiliency.  Also pay attention to moments of stress, anxiety, challenge.

Begin as your eyes open in the morning.  What did you see?  Hear? Smell? Taste?  Feel? As you get up and begin to go through the day, what steps did you go through?  Pay attention, moving through each step of your previous day, to where you found life and joy.   Take a moment as you experience it to pay attention, sit with it, and express gratitude to whatever source of goodness you acknowledge.

When you see a moment of sorry, pain, tension, frustration, sit with it as well.   As you do, ask: what does it teach you?  What source of strength, grace, life, did you encounter and draw on to get through that moment?

multi colored threadContinue to take time, to focus on the movements of your life, the people you encountered and activities you took part in through the hours of your day, looking for moments of joy, moments of peace, moments of connection, and also moments of tension, challenge, growth.  Pause at each, savoring the goodness in your day, and listening to the lessons those challenges teach you.

Continue this through lunch.  As your day continues.   What work do you do?  What recreation, or care for others, self, or God’s world do extend – or receive?  When you leave home or return:  Who greets you, or what do you discover?  With whom do you eat dinner and how?  What events wind down the business of your day either in rest or activities of celebration, connection, upkeep of your life, or care for others or yourself?  Where do you find blessing, life, joy?  Challenge?

Take a moment and pause, paying attention to what theme connects these experiences of joy, peace, connection, celebration.  Take a moment and pause, paying attention both to what lessons your points of tension might invite you to hear and what sources of strength brought you through them.

parker palmerTry to think of a few simple words or images which summarize this theme   If you wish, write it down or draw it, so you can carry it with you.   Let it help you remember as you encounter moments of joy and challenge the strength, connection, and resources you always carry with you. .  If you are comfortable, in a word or two, speak it to the group.

As you feel ready and complete, open your eyes and listen together to the words of author Parker Palmer—

“self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch. . . Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. . . Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”  ― Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

 

What practices help you embrace the presence of Christ in the up’s and down’s of your daily life?  I look forward to learning about new practices to embrace the presence of Christ in our daily lives.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

 

 

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