Spiritual Practice: Body Listening


 I invite you to continue with me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice, we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Review: Silence and Solitude – How did the silence go for you? On my last spiritual retreat, I added Body Listening to my silence. I was experiencing post-election stress when I met with my spiritual director and she helped me with a body listening exercise. It was very helpful so that is what we will focus on today. I had the rest of the 24 hours to sift through what my body was telling me.

Body listening is something I generally forget to do until my body is screaming at me in some way, but it’s better if you don’t wait that long and make it a more regular practice.

Here’s how it works. Sit comfortably in a chair and practice breathing deeply, allowing your body to relax and your mind to focus. As your body relaxes, let your mind wander around the different parts of your body until something catches your attention. Once something draws you, either because it is hurting or just wants your attention, let that part know you are listening. You might even say, “I’m here. What do you need.” This might feel a bit silly, but trust me it works.

When that part of your body tells you why it needs attention, let it know that you heard and you will give it what it needs. Don’t forget to follow through and do what your body needs.

woman in long sleeved dress surrounded by water plants
Photo by Alise AliNari on Pexels.com

I have a friend who teaches a Listening class at the university. She has me come in and do this exercise with her class. When the students listen to their bodies, they usually realize that they are hungry, sleepy or need to exercise. No surprises there.

But I’ve also seen some deep things come out of these exercises. One woman was drawn to a freckle on her arm; it was itching. She ignored it, then that night had a dream that she went to her dermatologist. She chose to listen to her body and went to see the doctor who found that freckle was actually a melanoma. She had it removed and she is fine.

One woman was drawn to her non-dominant foot. She felt she was being called to step out in leadership in ways she was not comfortable with.

The first time I did this exercise, I was drawn to my lungs. They felt tight and said they needed more room. This was true because I had a lung infection and needed to go to the doctor, but I also saw it as true in my life; I physically and spiritually needed more room. I went home and used one of our spare rooms to create a prayer room. It gave me space to be with God and be creative. That is when I started writing books.

As I mentioned earlier, I did this exercise the last time I was on a silent retreat, with my spiritual director (we will explore spiritual direction later). My eyes were twitching terribly. This is what happens when I’m under a great deal of stress for an extended period. They had been twitching since the election, as many of my friends of color and from the LGBTQI community were in great pain and fear.  I was somatizing that stress. When I stopped to listen to my eyes, they told me they were worn out from seeing so much pain and hurt. They told me they needed to rest and to turn off Facebook for a while. I promised to listen and did those two things. They immediately calmed down.

Listening to your body can be a powerful thing. Give it a try a few times in the next two weeks and let me know how it goes.

Click to Listen

Bonus: I recently did a podcast with Merritt Onsa at Momentum Podcast. We talk about spiritual practices join us by listening in!

Girl with shell: Photo Credit:

Spiritual Practice: Silence and Solitude



As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, is out on Harper Legend. In light of that, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice, we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Review of the Examen: This discipline had a surprising effect on me. As I reviewed the places I’d seen God at the end of the day, I started noticing those places more during the day. How was it for you?

Silence and Solitude

This is one of my favorite spiritual practices. I used to take college students to a week-long camp on Catalina Island to practice different forms of prayer. The one they were most terrified of was 12-hours of silence. This was also the one they ended up loving and learning from the most.

It’s counter-cultural to be silent and alone. People (including me) are so tied to our phones that we stay instantly connected, to technology and to each other. But getting away, and practicing silence is a powerful experience.

I love the analogy of a cloudy jar full of river water. If you let the jar sit for an hour, the sediment will settle to the bottom and the water will become clear. So it is with our mind, body, and soul. If we allow ourselves to be quiet, even or an hour, we will be able to see things more clearly, hear better, and make better decisions about our lives.

The Quakers understand this. For one hour each week, traditional Quakers sit together in silence. They are listening for God to speak. If they hear God they ask themselves two questions: Is this word for me alone, or is it to share? I’ve been to a Quaker meeting where no one shared for the entire hour. Sitting together in silence is a powerful thing. Is there a Quaker meeting in your town? Maybe you could visit. I only went twice but they were very welcoming.

Silence and Solitude (being alone) is even harder. I’ve never met a generation so afraid of solitude. My granddaughter does her chores while FaceTimeing a friend. There is a lot of fear of being alone. One student, during our Day of Silence, hated the experience as being alone meant he had to face himself; he didn’t like what he saw, but eventually, this lead to some deep healing.

So here is my challenge: Take some time away, by yourself and turn off your phone. Drive to somewhere beautiful, sit by a tree or look at a lake. Let your spirit settle and listen for God. You may not hear a voice, but God can speak in many ways. One student, who had just about finished the day, and was feeling like a failure for not hearing anything, went and stood out on some rocks that jutted out into the ocean. He threw up a challenge, “Okay God if you’re gonna speak, I’m here.” Then two huge pelicans flew down and rested on either side of him. This was very unusual for the shy birds. As he stared in wonder at the birds, dolphins started doing aerial acrobatics in front of him. He was awed and humbled.


God will not always be so dramatic, but if we listen, he will speak to us in some way.

If silence is already a discipline of yours, try taking it to the next level. Book a room at a retreat center for a 24-hour silent retreat. I try to do this monthly and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to it. It’s like pushing the reset button on my psyche.

If 24 hours feels daunting, you can go on a guided retreat; most Catholic retreat centers offer them. Or you can try breaking the time into hours; every hour try something different: Take a walk, sing, take a holy nap, read, draw, eat, journal, be creative.

I’d love to hear back about how your silence and solitude day goes. Or let me know in advance if you’re going to give it a try so I can pray for you. Have fun!



Photo Credit:  dolphins



Spiritual Practice: The Examen


As you may know my book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, came out on  Harper Legend.

With that in mind, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice, and we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

The Examen

I thought it best to start with a spiritual discipline which is an easy on-ramp. This is one of my favorites. It’s best to use it at the end of the day, but you can really use it any time. I’ve even tried it early in the morning and it still works! It’s a way to reflect on the day, rejoice and mourn over the day – and move on from it.

There are different ways to practice the Examen, and if you google it, you’ll find many examples. Some have five steps, but I need easy access to spiritual practices so I go for only two.

clear glass ball on sand surface

First, look back over your day for a place where you saw God, or Good or your True Self. Chris Heuertz, of the Gravity Center, suggests that this is like looking in a bag for your keys; you know they are in there, you just need to find them.

Sift through different memories until you find one where you saw that Light of God, felt peace or breathed deeply. Savor that moment, rejoice over it, treasure it. This is not a time to congratulate yourself, but to enjoy the presence of God in your life.

Do you know that if you savor a good memory for thirty seconds and really try to remember all the senses associated with it: the smell, touch, taste…it will be placed into your long-term memory?  

Go ahead, do it right now. Think of a small, enjoyable memory you had today, close your eyes and savor it for thirty seconds.

Many of us have ruminated on too many painful memories, cluttering up our minds with negativity. We need to consciously replace those with treasured moments. This first step will help us build a storehouse of positive memories.

Then Second, sift around for a time today that you missed God, or Good, or operated out of your False Self. Sometimes these come more easily to us, as we are self-critical. Sometimes it’s hard to choose just one. But do that, choose one and don’t beat yourself up over this memory, just hold it lightly. Perhaps you need to mourn something associated with the memory or make a mental note to apologize to someone. This memory or behavior is a part of you and the goal is to hold it in the Light and welcome it and then, let it go or give it to God so that it doesn’t weigh you down.

That is it. That is the way I use the Examen. Remember that tomorrow is a new day, and this spiritual discipline will help us begin to look for God moments throughout the day as well.

Let’s try to do this daily for the next two weeks. Let me know how it goes for you. I’ll be trying to do it with you and let you know how it goes for me.

Photo Credit: Cavrarn, mine.

 Orb Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com