Today’s the Day!!! Book Launch Day.

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Today is book launch day for The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening. Here’s what people are saying:

“The Retreat is a colorful and winsome story that underscores howmuch contemplative practice is needed in our modern times.”
~Phileena Heuertz,author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Lifeand Founding Partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

“For those who have beeninjured by involvement in a church, or other Christian group, or those whosimply find evangelicalism to be constraining, The Retreat, is likeopening a window for fresh air.”
~Rev. Dr. Paul Sorrentino, Directorof Religious & Spiritual Life and Protestant Advisor at Amherst College andauthor of A Transforming Vision: Multiethnic fellowshipin college and in the Church.

“JacciTurner has found a creative way to introduce people to contemplative
practices, thusproviding a vista of the transformative process that occurs
when one slows down, reflects more deeply, andis increasingly open to the
present moment.”

~Douglas Gregg Founder and Director of Christian Formation and Direction Ministries and Co-Author of Disciplines of the Holy Spirit.

Join my happiness! Read the book. Write a Review. Share the JOY!!

Spiritual Practice: Reading Icons

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Review: Last time we talked about The Welcoming Prayer. It has been really good for me to practice this discipline. Since I’m not eating sugar or drinking wine, sitting with and welcoming my difficult feelings has been a daily activity. How has it gone for you?

This is an ongoing series on trying different contemplative prayer practices leading up to the release of my new book, The Retreat: A Tale Of Spiritual Awakening.

Today I want to talk about Reading Icons. I think about this as, “praying icons,” but the ancient practice says that icons are not painted, they are “written,” and therefore meant to be “read.”

People that write icons go through years of training and it is a very spiritual process for them. Icons tell a story, but they contain deep truth about God. They were a way for non-literate people to learn about God, and for us now they can be a window or doorway into the presence of God.

First, you have to understand why they look how they look. When I first saw icons, I thought they were just ugly paintings. Then someone explained to me that icons are written with inverse perspective. We are used to a perspective with the vanishing point in the distance, things get smaller to show depth in a painting. Icons are the opposite. The vanishing point is set out, behind us, drawing us into the painting, inviting us in.

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Consider this famous icon: Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity. It is two things: The story of Abram entertaining angels at the Oak of Mamre, and it is the trinity, father, son and spirit, inviting us to sit with them at a table.

There are deep and intricate explanations of this icon on the internet. For brevity’s sake, I will share only a few of them here. The Father is on the left, wearing heavenly colors, a staff authority is in his hand, and the other hand is blessing his son. The Son is in the middle, wearing earthy and heavenly colors, a staff of authority is in his hand, and he is blessing the chalice. The spirit is wearing the colors of water and heaven and he also holds the staff of authority. His hand invites us to sit at the table with them. See the opening at the table where we are invited into this holy communion? Notice how their heads incline toward one another?

I invite you to sit and read this icon. Put yourself at this table and let yourself feel what it is like to sit with each member of the trinity. You might have one reaction to the Father and a completely different one to the Son, or to the Spirit. You are welcomed in. How does it feel to be there? Let me know if you try it and how you relate to the different persons of the trinity.  If you enjoy the experience of reading an Icon, this book really helped to guide me through reading others.

The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer by Frederica Mathewes-Green 

Photo Credit Partial Icon, Full Icon

 

Spiritual Practices: The Welcoming Prayer

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Last month I introduced you to the practice of having a Spiritual Director. I love having one and if you are wanting to go deeper with God,  I hope you will consider finding one for yourself.  If you’re wondering why we are doing these bi-monthly practices, see the note below. *

Today I want to talk about the Welcoming Prayer. I’m going to be trying this one during lent. It is the process of welcoming deep feelings that get triggered throughout our day.

I don’t like deep negative feelings. With my reaction, I want to eat sugar or drink wine. Since about a month ago, I gave up both of these in favor of a healthier body, and my feelings are now more front and center. I’m hoping the Welcoming Prayer will take me to a deeper, healthier place.

I’ve borrowed information, with permission, from my favorite website, The Gravity Center, to help explain the Welcoming Prayer. It’s a fairly simple but powerful practice. Here is part of their description:

“The Welcoming Prayer is a method of actively letting go of thoughts and feelings that support the false-self system.

Developed by Mary Mrozowski, one of the founders of Contemplative Outreach, the Welcoming Prayer invites God to dismantle the emotional programs of the false-self system and to heal the emotional wounds we’ve stored in the body.

The method of the Welcoming Prayer includes noticing the feelings, emotions, thoughts and sensations in your body, welcoming them, and then letting them go.”

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Instructions

When you have an overly emotional experience in daily life, take a moment to be still and silent and follow these steps.

  1. Focus, to feel and sink into the feelings, emotions, thoughts, sensations and commentaries in your body.
  2. Welcome God in the feelings, emotions, thoughts, commentaries or sensations in your body by saying, “Welcome.”
  3. Let go by repeating the following sentences:
  • “I let go of the desire for security, affection, control.”
  • “I let go of the desire to change this feeling/sensation

 

So, that’s it, easy peasy right? We’ll see in about two week how easy it is. I just tried it and may still have tears blurring my vision. Thanks for joining me on this quest to try and develop helpful spiritual practices into my life. Let me know what you are trying and if it is helpful. Jacci

*I’m writing these bi-weekly blogs to get ready for the release of my new book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening. It’s available for pre-order now on all eBook distributors and although it’s fiction, it has a lot of wonderful resources for expanding your contemplative practices.

Photo Credit: Empty Hands, Hands with plant

 

Spiritual Practices: Spiritual Direction

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Hello and welcome to my bi-monthly blog on spiritual practices*. Last time my wonderful spiritual director guest blogged about Centering Prayer because it was not a practice I had tried consistently. I must say, it wasn’t easy for me these last two weeks. Some days were easier than others. Some days it was an exercise in frustration. How did it go for you? The verdict is still out for me, but so many of my friends love this discipline that I will keep trying.

Today I thought it would be wise to talk about Spiritual Direction as I often mention my own spiritual director as the source of wisdom in my journey. I am also a certified spiritual director and a certified supervisor of spiritual directors; but I still remember about ten years ago, someone asked if I was a spiritual director and I had no idea what they were talking about — so let me explain.

A spiritual director, also known as a spiritual companion, is someone who comes along side you in your spiritual journey. They are not a therapist or life-coach. Usually, they meet with you once a month for only an hour, and usually they receive a fee, typically about $40. 

Path splits two directions, fork in the road

Maybe the best way to describe the discipline is to paint the picture of a spiritual direction appointment; so, join me in my prayer room if you will. You would be welcomed into my cozy prayer room, seated across from me in a comfortable chair, and we might chat a bit about how you are. Then, I’d ask if you’re ready for me to light the candle. If you said yes, I’d light a candle and say something like, “This candle reminds us that we are in the presence of the holy.”

You see, the role of a director is to set the table for you in the presence of the holy one. This is a conversation between three people. Then I might say, “How would you like to start? Shall we breathe for a moment, while you collect your thoughts? Take your time and start whenever you are ready.

Then the session starts. You would talk about whatever is front-of-mind and I will listen, ask occasional questions to help you notice themes, or go deeper into a subject that seems important. An example of a good question might be, “Where do you see God in this?”

At the end of our time together, I’ll ask you how you’d like to close: In silence? Would you like to pray? Would you like me to pray for you?” And then we’d set up our next meeting.

Spiritual Direction can be a wonderful spiritual discipline to receive when you are finding the old ways of prayer aren’t really working for you as well, or perhaps when you are in a difficult life transition, or you just want to go deeper in your relationship with God. Directors can be found in your area through the website, Spiritual Directors International but remember you should interview several to find one that truly fits for you.

Does Spiritual Direction sound like something you’d like to try? Let me know and I’ll try to help you find a director in your area.

*This blog series is leading up to the release of my latest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening. It is available for pre-order now!

Photo credit chairs

Photo credit paths

Spiritual Practice: Centering Prayer

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Hi all,

As you know I’m doing on a series on contemplative prayer practices to help prepare for the release of my new book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening (now available for pre-order Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and Google Play).

I really want to tell you about Centering Prayer, as it is a very popular form of contemplative prayer, but the thing is…truthfully, I don’t have a centering prayer practice of my own yet. There, I said it. But, I’m willing to try it for two weeks and see how it goes. I hope you will join me in this! I’ve asked my very own spiritual director, Joan, to guest blog. She is the source of many of my blogs (the wisdom behind most of my epiphanies) so I know you will enjoy learning from her with me. Without further ado, Joan Stockbridge.

“I was thrilled when Jacci invited me to write a guest blog on Centering Prayer. It’s the practice that has most transformed my life. And I also needed a nudge to refresh and renew my commitment to the practice! So thank you Jacci.

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Centering Prayer is a contemporary expression of ancient Christian practices. It was developed by Father Thomas Keating who wanted to expand awareness of Christianity’s rich contemplative tradition.  I first learned of Centering Prayer from an article in Time Magazine! It soon became a very important part of my prayer life, gradually bringing me deep peace and a sense of God’s indwelling presence. It’s an essential part of my commitment to ongoing conversion, helping me open to God’s love while also releasing fears and obstacles to that love.

Centering Prayer sounds very simple.

  1. Choose your love word (also known as your sacred word). This word will be your reminder to yourself that you are surrendering to God during the prayer time. My word is God.
  1. Set a timer and sit comfortably, with your eyes closed. Say the love word silently to yourself as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
  1. As thoughts arise, let them go. This is the hard part. One teacher has said, “Be gentle with yourself. The heart beats. The lungs breathe. And the mind thinks.” It is natural to have a rush of thoughts. The practice is to gently, without judgment, notice that you are having thoughts, and then to return to the sacred word. During an introductory workshop, a participant once said to Fr. Keating, “In the last 5 minutes, I had 5,000 thoughts!” And Fr. Keating replied, “How wonderful! 5,000 opportunities to return to God.”
  1. When the timer goes off, spend a couple of minutes giving thanks for whatever has happened. Many people like to conclude their Centering Prayer period with the Our Father or another favorite prayer.

See www.contemplativeoutreach.org for a lot more information. And there is a beautiful centering prayer meditation available for free on the Insight Meditation application for smartphones. If you download the application, search for Maria Gullo’s Centering Prayer.  Her gentle voice and clear instructions are very helpful.”

Thank you Joan! I’m ready to try it, who’s with me?

Candle Photo Credit

Spiritual Practice: Living with Intention

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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: 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 took 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!

*As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March 28th through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon right now). 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 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 named 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!

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*As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March 28th through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon right now). This book is fiction, but came out of my time at the Grounding Retreat. In anticipation of it’s 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

 

Spiritual Practice: Praying a Labyrinth

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As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon). In anticipation 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: Wow, look how far we’ve come already! We’ve done The Examen, Silence and Solitude, Body Listening and Lectio Divina. I’m really enjoying using Jan Johnson’s book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina. Let me know if you practiced Lectio and how it went.

Today let’s talk about Praying a Labyrinth. This is a fun one and it’s quite profound. A labyrinth is not a maze where you can get lost, but it kind of looks like one. Labyrinths come in different configurations and can be found in interesting places. They are often found at spiritual retreat centers, and some churches have them, some churches even have portable roll-out Labyrinths.

But here’s the fun part: try googling “labyrinths near me.” Once I was walking in the desert and found a HUGE labyrinth. I have since visited it many times. Someone took the time to create and maintain it. Amazing. One of our local parks has a beautiful labyrinth. The most interesting place I’ve seen a labyrinth is under a freeway overpass!

So, when you find one, how do you pray it? Well, there are as many ways as there are people. You have to try a few ways and see what works for you. I will often pray out all the things that are bothering me as I wind my way toward the center of the labyrinth. When you get to the center, which takes a while, so don’t rush it, there is a God space. I think of it as the goal, or center, a place of unity with the divine. I like to try and leave my worries there. Then, on the way out, I think of all I have to be grateful for, for there are many things. This makes me a different person with a new perspective when I leave my burdens in the hands of someone bigger than me, and with gratefulness on my tongue.

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You can even walk a labyrinth with friends!

Here are some other ways to pray a labyrinth adapted by Lana Miller from Soul Shaper by Tony Jones. 

1.Ask God a question upon entering and then listen for an answer.  For example:  Ask God what he wants to tell you and listen for an answer.

  1. Pray for yourself on the way in, stop to experience God’s love in the center, and pray for others on the way out (or vice versa).
  2. Recite the Lord’s Prayer as you walk.  (Instead, you may recite some familiar prayer or scripture.  Repeat it as you walk.)

The interesting thing about walking a labyrinth is that just when you think you are getting closer to God, you move away. Isn’t that just like life? It’s a journey, a metaphor, a pilgrimage on the road less traveled.

Now, you try it. Track down a labyrinth near you and take a walk. Let me know what you think! Enjoy.

Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina

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As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon). In anticipation 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 Body Listening: How did it go for you? I’m glad to say that my eye twitching resolved in about three days — so grateful. My break from Facebook was key so I’m glad I listened.

Today will talk about one of my favorite Spiritual Practices, Lectio Divina, which is Latin for Divine Reading. This practice comes to us from the Benedictines. In its traditional form, Lectio Divina has four separate steps: reading, reflection, response, rest. It’s more about listening than reading. You can use this spiritual practice with the Bible or any holy book, or even with poetry. To demonstrate I’m going to use a beautiful poem by ee cummings called, I Am a Little Church.

You can google Lectio Divina and find a lot of ways to do it, but I’ll share an easy and fun way. You can do this in a group or alone; I’ve done it both ways. If you are in a group, you can speak the word, or invitation aloud at the end of each reading.

The first step in Lectio Divina is to read the passage slowly, meditatively, perhaps read it out loud.

Let’s try it together:


i am a little church (no great cathedral)

far from the splendour and squalor of hurrying cities

– i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest

i not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;

my prayers are prayers of the earth’s own clumsy striving

(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children

whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around them surges a miracle of unceasing

birth and glory in death and resurrection:

over my sleeping self float flaming symbols

of hope, and I wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church (far from the frantic

world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature

– i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;

i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to

merciful Him Whose only now is forever:

standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence

(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

 

During the second reading listen for a word or phrase that sticks out to you and reflect on it for a moment. You can even speak that word or phrase aloud.

During the third reading listen for an invitation from the passage. Something you might want to keep or do or try in response to the passage.

Then rest. Let the passage sink in and stay with you throughout the day.

Try it before reading on!

Let me know what word or phrase stood out to you.

For me it was the line: “over my sleeping self float flaming symbols

of hope, and I wake to a perfect patience of mountains”

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With the world as crazy as it is, this image if very comforting to me right now. I love to think of hope floating over me as I sleep. I need to reflect on the perfect patience of mountains. I can see mountains out the window from where I am typing. They have lived through and survived so many things — a testament that we will live and survive the changes in our government and world. I needed that assurance today.

 

By the way, I want to introduce you to a book I’m using to help me practice Lectio Divina. It’s by one of my favorite authors, Jan Johnson, and I’m linking it here. If you want to use Lectio with scripture, this book will be a great help.

Let me know if these practices are helping you!

 

Photo Credit, Little Church , Mountains

 

Spiritual Practice: Body Listening

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As you may know my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon). In anticipation 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: 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.

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.

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: