We cannot attain the presence of God. We’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” – Richard Rohr
I went on walkabout this morning and took pictures of what was happening in my garden. Some things need work to bring out the best in it. There is new growth every day. The snowball bush is blooming and the Iris and peonies are budding. The yellow dandelions are beautiful. Even the weeds look good. We had such wonderful rain last week. These will go on my blessing list today.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a baby squirrel. He (or she) was perched on the bedroom windowsill, and I crept over to see her hoping she didn’t run away. She watched me come closer but she didn’t seem nervous. Maybe the glass between us made her feel secure. I asked what she was doing today and if she liked the rain. Other things, too, but I don’t remember exactly what. She kept her eye turned on me and when I stopped talking her little mouth started moving. Her tail twitched a bit. This happened two or three times. She would stop and I would talk and when I stopped her mouth moved again. I wish I knew what she was telling me. Maybe she was complaining about the rain. Maybe loving it, or maybe she wanted to know where her mother had got to. Did she wonder what I said? I told her that she could stay on the sill as long as she wished or needed. This conversation went on my gratitude list. Also, it was one of the moments I felt closest to God and felt the most joy, peace, and love in that day. Probably because I was paying attention.
In the discernment class that I am teaching, there is a spiritual exercise that I have assigned. It is the Examen of Consciousness (Not the Examination of Conscience to prepare for confession). This exercise helps us pay attention. It helps us recognize our blessings, helps us be thankful, and keeps us grateful. It helps us recognize the presence of God and helps us catch when we are getting off track. Paying attention to these movements within can help us in discerning God’s will for us. It can help us know when we are following God and when we are moving away from him for whatever reason. The reason we may be feeling dry is that we are not paying attention to where God is and where he is leading us. This helps us stay connected.
This examen was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and was/is used in discerning God’s will as part of his Spiritual Exercises in a 30 day retreat. But we are using it in a simple prayer form, alone or with others; perhaps with your family after dinner or before bed. Following are the steps.
- Sit quietly. You may light a candle if desired.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance the events and moments of the day.
- Ask yourself – “For what moment today was I most grateful?” and then, “For what moment today was I least grateful?”
- Express your gratitude to God.
Spend time with this, but not more than 15 minutes.
There are other questions that can be used. Another is, “When today did I feel the most peace, joy and love?” and “When did I feel the least…?” If you are interested in more about this, let me know.
I could try to explain how this relates to talking to squirrels and loving dandelions but I am still working on that.
If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.”—C. S. Lewis