Spiritual Practice: Living with Intention

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Review: Last week we talked about breath prayers. Did you try it? It’s such a lovely, easy way to bring prayer into your day, isn’t it?

Today I want to talk about Living with Intention.

Every time I go to yoga, my instructor starts a session by asking us to choose an “Intention” for our practice. The first time I went, that was a new idea for me, but I’ve found that it helps to have something to go back to when my mind wanders or when the pose is hard to hold. Sometimes this intention sets the mood for my day or even my week.

About a decade ago, I started picking an intention for each new year. This would be a word, a phrase, or a scripture, to sort of “pray into” for the year.

For example, when my kids were younger I remember picking the phrase, “People are not an interruption” – two years in a row! I really needed help remembering that.

When I was going through a particularly hard time, and the voices coming at me were overwhelming, I chose the image of living with blinders on. The idea was to keep my eyes on Jesus and what I believed he was calling me to do, instead of being distracted by all the negative things coming my way.

How do you find an intention? Well, first you need to set aside some time to reflect on last year and sort of brainstorm about this year. Recently, a friend of mine wrote a blog with some great questions to help this process. I encourage you to click on her blog to see the questions! I took her questions on a recent silent retreat and journaled through them.

Then finally, I came to a word that kept surfacing as I answered these questions and spoke to my spiritual director about them. The word was contentment. This year my husband is retiring. That will be very new for us and will come with a large loss of income. There is a verse in Philippians that I have always loved; it says in 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

I feel content in my life right now. I like my job, I like my church, I like my life. As we begin a new chapter, I want to stay in the place of contentment.

Well, that’s my intention for the year. I’d love to hear yours!

*This book is fiction but came out of my time at the Grounding Retreat. In anticipation of its release, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. As I said above, 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!

Photo Credit

Spiritual Practice: Breath Prayer

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Every two weeks, I’ve been posting a blog about a different spiritual practice, and you, hopefully, have been trying them with me. For more information, as to why we are doing this, read the bottom paragraph.*  

Review: The Labyrinth, how did it go? Did you find one in a strange place? If not, keep looking; they are around and worth the search.

This week we are going to try something called “A Breath Prayer,” also known as “The Jesus Prayer.” This way of praying has been around a long time — since the sixth century! It’s a very easy discipline to learn and helps a lot when you are stressed. Traditionally monks would pray these phrases as they took slow even breaths. The phrase comes from the verse,  Luke 18:10-14 and is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

This has been shortened over time to “Lord Jesus, have mercy,” or even “Jesus, Mercy.”

When I was at a wonderful “Grounding Retreat” at the Gravity Center in Nebraska, we learned a few variations on this prayer and you can try them all on their helpful website:  https://gravitycenter.com/practice/breath-prayer/

Heres one that stuck with me: The leader, Chris, asked us to think of a name God would call us, to listen for a name specific to us from the holy. I listened and heard the name, “My Beloved.” Then he had us think of our heart’s greatest need from God in that moment. For me, the issue was TRUST. I was just coming off a very difficult time and in need of a job; my future was uncertain and my heart was sore. So, my breath prayer became, “My Beloved, Trust Me.”

I got to practice this breath prayer immediately when leaving the conference for the airport that day. My ride was late and I practiced breathing and praying all the way to the airport. I remembered I could trust God. God has always been faithful in my life. As I was standing in the body scanning machine with my hands over my head, praying, “My Beloved, Trust Me,” I heard my name called over the loudspeaker. “Final boarding call for Jacci Turner.” And I knew then, that even if I missed my plane, it wouldn’t be the end of the world; I could trust that God was good and would take care of me. And, I made it on that plane too, dirty looks from those waiting passengers and all.

So, take a moment, think of what name the Spirit wants to give you. Then listen for what you most need right now. Put them together to make your own breath prayer for the next two weeks. Try praying it in traffic jams, check-out lines, waiting for your child to buckle their car seat or on your way to work. Let me know how it goes!

*This book is fiction but came out of my time at the Grounding Retreat. In anticipation of its release, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. As I said above, 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!

Breath Photo Credit