Spiritual Practice: Body Listening

One of the simplest and easiest to forget spiritual practices!

Spiritual Practices 101

improve-spanish-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…

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Spiritual Practice: Silence and Solitude

My favorite Spiritual practice!

Spiritual Practices 101

 

165298_10150358430390184_519450183_16532533_3409311_n.jpgAs 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…

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Spiritual Practice: The Examen

For the summer, I’m revisiting my favorite early blogs. Enjoy!

Spiritual Practices 101

60395477_10156097013816975_2517119030393831424_nAs 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…

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Spiritual Practice: Internal Family Meeting

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The Internal Family Meeting – 

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I was thrilled when I ran across a spiritual practice involving internal family meetings. It’s similar to my work with families using family systems therapy, but instead of a meeting of various family members, the internal family meeting looks at the different parts of who you are as an individual.  We all say things like, “Part of me wants to go to the party, but part of me wants to stay home.” Looking at how these parts interact can be a really insightful way to work on becoming our truest self. 

It’s good to get to know the different parts of ourselves, but it can be hard to face the parts we prefer didn’t exist. Yet, much of what we are meant to know and learn from comes from unpleasant and difficult circumstances — or realities about ourselves, parts of ourselves that we don’t like. We must learn not to shun these uncomfortable parts, but to embrace and learn from them. My spiritual director shared this Buddhist poem with me about staying present in good and bad times, and I thought it would be appropriate here. 

 

In This Passing Moment
by Hogen Bays

In this passing moment karma ripens
and all things come to be.
I vow to choose what is:
If there is cost, I choose to pay.
If there is need, I choose to give.
If there is pain, I choose to feel.
If there is sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning — I choose heat.
When calm — I choose peace.
When starving — I choose hunger.
When happy — I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it is my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is — I respond to what is.

 

family-meetings

So, how do we have an internal family meeting and welcome all the parts of ourselves? Try this:

First, find a comfortable seat, somewhere you won’t be interrupted. Take several deep breaths and picture sitting around a table with the different “parts” of yourself. There might be parts of you at the table that you don’t like or aren’t comfortable with, but remember the poem, be present to what IS. If you are a visual person you can sketch this out with stick figures with labels over the heads of the different parts. There might be The Parent, The Lover, The Teacher, The Protector, The Spiritual one, The Hurt one, The Cynic, etc.

Then, once you’ve identified them, welcome each part of yourself to the table. Listen to each part. Ask where they came from. For instance, there may be a part of you that protected you as a child during a difficult time. Thank them for their service. Perhaps you no longer need to be protected, this part of you might now be keeping you from getting to know and trust other people. Talk to that part of yourself about your new reality and how you only need their protection when you are actually threatened. 

Have a “family meeting,” with those around the table to discern how best the parts of you can work together for your good. As you hear and heal the different parts of yourself, you will be better able to hear God as well. 

Let me know if you try this spiritual practice and what you think. 

 

Photo Credit: top pic

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Crying Here: For a Good Reason

boxes of books!

We interrupt this blog to bring you exciting news!

Hello, book-loving friends!

I have some exciting news to share with you. I feel shy to share it because it is so overwhelming to me. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

I have a friend who chooses to remain anonymous. She has read my books and decided they needed to be in the schools. She made an appointment with the heads of the Washoe County School Libraries, and we met with them. She said she would like to donate a set (of five hardback books) of the Finding Home Series to each elementary school. That’s sixty schools! And, she wanted to buy a classroom set (of thirty books) for each middle school of Snapped and Cracker!

As you can imagine, I was overwhelmed. I do not benefit financially as we bought the books at cost, but I benefit in a much greater way! The hardest part of being an author is trying to figure out how to get your books into the hands of the actual readers they were written for. In my case, writing middle grade fiction and young adult fiction, it’s hard to market to those age groups. The gatekeepers for these books are Librarians, Teachers, and Parents. The fact that three thousand of my books will now be available to students is entirely unreal.

The Librarians have invited me to speak to all the school librarians when they meet in late August and present them with the books at that time. Because Snapped tackles the issue of cyber sexual bullying and Cracker tackles racism, the librarians are also hopeful that I can speak to the social studies teachers, as these issues are part of their curriculum.

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In the meantime, boxes of books are stacked all over my little house, reminding me daily how incredibly blessed I am with good friends. Thank you for your love and support. I couldn’t wait to share this news with all of you.

Spiritual Practice: Visioning

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I have often been skeptical of visionaries. I once worked with a youth group at a church where several young women came to me privately, confiding that God had told them they were to marry a certain young man. Unfortunately, they all named the same young man! I’m pretty sure hormones were speaking and not God.

Yet, I have experienced God speaking to me and others through dreams, visions, and intuitions as well. And, there are people who are particularly in touch with what God is doing in the world; they are careful observers, who can see what the rest of us might miss. We call these people prophets or visionaries. They are people who see beyond the status-quo.

Yet I believe we can all be in line with what God wants to do in the world if we just give ourselves time to listen. As in most spiritual practices, the ability to vision starts with quiet listening.

Here are some exercises you might try to begin a visioning journey:

Caution: If we get stretched too thin, we will not be able to stop and listen to God without falling asleep. Regular contemplative spiritual practices prepare our heart, mind, and soul to receive what God is trying to tell us. But, if you try to listen and get drowsy, honor your body by taking a nap. I believe we live in a chronically sleep deprived world. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is sleep.

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Take a walk in nature:

Getting out into nature is also an important way to listen to the heartbeat of God. God’s creation speaks or creates an atmosphere for us to hear things better. Visionary Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was what they call a “landscape mystic.” Christine Valters Paintner talks about Hildegard in her book, Illuminating the Way, “that the geography of her world was a means of ongoing revelation into the nature of God.” I’ve found this to be true for myself. Getting out into nature, whether it’s a walk in the desert with my dog, or a trip with my honey to the ocean or forest always restores my soul, clears my head and helps me hear God better.

Make a visioning board:

Gather some magazines, glue and, scissors. Think about what things are most important to your true self and are in line with your values. This is not a wish list for material possessions or fame, but a chance to clarify what unique dreams, personality, and purposes God has given you. It could be goals, dreams, or desires. It could be things you don’t see in your life right now that you would hope to see in the future. Or it could be things you already see but want to continue experiencing. Begin to look for pictures in the magazines that represent those values. When you find them, cut them out glue them in any way you want on a paper or canvass. Keep your vision board near you to remind yourself what is important.

When I did this exercise, the things I noticed that were important to me were: time with my family and friends, traveling adventures with my husband, writing meaningful books, helping people grow spiritually, and empowering women. Three years later, this board still reflects my basic values and has been a way to say “no” to things that would take me away from things that are not life-giving.

Your board will reflect what is important to you. Let me know if you try any of these practices and connect with your inner visionary.

When you feel you have heard from God it’s always good to run what you’ve heard through spiritual friends you trust and the holy books you treasure. God is good and loving and wants you to be involved in your own healing, the healing of others, and the healing of the earth. The things you hear will line up with the loving nature of God.

Spiritual Practice: Creating

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Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, suggests we are all creators and it is fear that keeps us from creating.


Rainer Maria Rilke, the poet, suggested art is a “cosmic, creative, transforming force.”*

If you believe God created the world, you will also remember we are created in God’s image. Therefore, it would follow creativity is inherent within each of us.

Creativity has ebbed and flowed for me. When I was very young, I would put on plays and charge the neighborhood kids a nickel to attend. People ask me if I had always known I wanted to be a writer. The answer is no, but I have always been a storyteller.

In my early years, telling stories was experienced in theater. I actually have a whole theater degree in a drawer somewhere. But I found this to be a cumbersome creative exercise after the kids came along. Giving up 12-20 hours a week for rehearsals wasn’t worth it for me. Eventually, I stopped acting in live theater, but I might try it again now that the kids are gone.

It was actually through studying the Enneagram about ten years ago that I decided to set aside time and space for writing (read about that here). If the desire to create is resident in your heart, you need to make space for it. Time, place, consistency, supplies, these things matter.

You know what doesn’t matter? Age doesn’t matter. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was fifty (I say “seriously” because I also have a screenplay and a book in a drawer somewhere from earlier attempts). I have a friend who went back to the piano at forty, and one who went back to ice-skating at forty-five. Creativity will always be there waiting for you, and will always fill a place in your soul with joy and light if you give it a chance.

I used to think that in times of stress or depression, I had to stop creating. But in reality, those dark times are fodder for creativity; just ask any middle school poet! We, as Americans, only want to live in Spring and Summer emotions. We avoid Fall and Winter seasons of life. But, as creatives, Fall and Winter are what give us deep wells to draw from. They are to be welcomed, learned from, embraced and explored.

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What keeps you from giving creativity space in your life?

Try these ideas to help jump-start your creativity:

Chose a time each day or each week to allow the creative juices to flow. If you’re a writer, find a space that can be your own without distractions. I write in a library on Tuesdays. Think outside the conventions of what other people say you have to do and find a way that works for you.

Think about the tools you will need for your craft. If you are an artist, do you have paints, pencils, brushes, or camera? Begin collecting over time until you have what you need. But remember the stories of children in poor countries who make art with cardboard and coal. Don’t let supplies stop you from creating.

If your creativity needs space, like dancing or ice-skating, start investigating options. Some cities have shared artist spaces and some ice-rinks let you in early, before they are officially open, to practice.

You might need other artists to encourage you. I do. I belong to two writers groups, and every time I attend a meeting it feels like a kick in the pants to keep creating. My son works out of a cooperative artist space. They build huge art for Burning Man and share tools and equipment like giant 3-D printers. They share, not only supplies, but ideas, and they teach classes for others too. The benefit of living in Reno is that much of the Burning Man art stays here so you can walk around town and enjoy it, see the example above.

Check out your local community college for inexpensive classes to jump-start your creativity.

Trust me, getting back into creativity is worth it. The joy I have in writing fills me in a way nothing else does. Let me know if you are making space and what you are creating.

*This quote, and some of the ideas in this article, come from the book, Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics, by Christine Valters Paintner in her chapter titled, The Artist.

Photo credit: Believe Art: Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv, Cavern: Mine