I get asked this often....
How do you practice hearing God's voice?
Well, the obvious answer is just that - I practice! The more I practice paying attention to God's activity in my life, the more familiar it becomes to notice when something is of God or is not of God. One of the regular tools I use to reflect on God's activity in my own life - and therefore hear God's voice - is the ancient Prayer of Examen.
St. Ignatius of Loyola led his followers in this prayer and invited them to practice it twice daily. While I typically practice in the evenings, it is a very helpful tool in my soul care tool box.
Ignation spirituality invites us into this ancient prayer practice of noticing God on our journey through gratitude, consolation, and desolation. We then bring our prayers before God. The Prayer of Examen is as powerful today as it was hundreds of years ago for the Jesuits. Why not try it for yourself? Use the prompts below and find a quiet place to listen to the guided version below. Make this prayer your own and discover what God invites you to hear today!
Here's my simple key for my daily reflection:
Up Arrow: When did I feel close to God today (a moment of consolation)?
Down Arrow: When did I feel far away from God today (a moment of desolation)?
Smiley Face: What moment am I most grateful for today?
Heart: What is the prayer of my heart, for what would I like to pray to God about from today? (Note: this may be something already named from the day, or something entirely different)
There's no sale here. No Black Friday ad. No click funnel. Nope. I'm not that great at sales.
I am great at sharing with you what I'm passionate about - and making sure you pay attention to and take care of your body and spirit. That's why I'm so excited about this Advent season and journeying with you through my new book, Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Advent Devotional for the Whole Self.
My friends, I LOVE the seasons of Advent and Christmas. But it's not always easy. Not all my Christmas memories are joy-filled and positive, and neither are yours. I had a stroke nearly 17 years ago - on my December birthday - that left me in a hospital room for Advent 2005. You could say that this shift in my journey invited me into more presence and embodiment. That crisis changed my life and asked me to be present in my body in entirely different and new ways with God. It actually helped me discover more hope.
But guess what? You do not need a crisis to journey closer to God this Advent season. You just need a little bit of hope and the time set aside time to do it. A reader emailed me this week that she couldn't get the book in time for Advent. I told her that was just fine, to practice presence until it arrived! Your journey is not confined to the calendar. But if you're like me and need a little accountability that does include a calendar, I have a free one for you. I'll be coloring in my days with words or images and some markers noting when I feel close to God.
Also, here's an early invitation from the book to get you started. I hope you'll use it amidst the scrolling of sales to kindle some hope in a world that truly needs it.
Close your eyes and ask yourself: Where do you feel hope in your body? Many of us connect to hope with our heart or our gut. Maybe hope to you is more about reason and thought, and you feel it in your head. Maybe for you hope is about doing something, and you feel it in your hands and your feet. Think about where you feel hope. Take a few breaths and try to connect with where you feel it inside yourself. Then, place a hand on that part of your body and breathe. If you are struggling to connect hope with a physical part of yourself, simply place a hand over your heart and ask God for hope as you breathe.
When you are ready to move on, ask yourself if there is a part of you that is holding back from feeling hope, perhaps even to protect you. It's not uncommon for us to put up walls to avoid disappointment. This is a normal response. However, I invite you to think about what it would look like to hope with your entire being. What would it mean this season? What could it look like?
As a Christian, you already know the end of the Advent story. Christ is coming! Not "Christ might come," or "Christ will get around to coming eventually," but "Christ is coming." The gift of Christ is the physical symbol of our hope in human form. Christ is God with us, let that fill you with hope for the days to come!
People think that because I often appear calm or peaceful, that is my natural inclination. But that is not true (ask my family)! Finding peace takes a lot of practice.
I began exploring Christian Meditation after my health crisis in my early 30s (17 years ago). My meditation practice today does not typically look like sitting on a pillow in the corner of a candle-lit room (although that is fun too). I often meditate in my bed, in my car (see my Instagram post this week), on my couch, on my yoga mat, or outside under a tree.
A lot of people find meditation to be an intimidating practice. For Christians, it can even be scary. But it does not need to be intimidating or scary. If prayer is talking to God then meditation is simply quieting our minds and listening to God. And, I long to listen to God whenever possible!
The practice of listening to God through meditation helps us find inner stillness. We are not striving for anything at all, we are simply sitting in God's presence and giving ourselves a break from thinking. Meditation quiets our minds, even if getting there feels loud and noisy.
Meditation is beneficial at any time of day but I find a morning meditation sets the tone for my entire day. Before the "doing" of the day begins, I simply get to "be" with God. It's a great way to cultivate peace of mind, better relationships, self-esteem, clarity, and presence in all that is ahead. There are so many scientifically proven benefits to meditation, I cannot list them all in this post.
Let's just say the benefits of meditation are worth the 10-20 minutes it costs me in the morning. The world moves at a fast pace, and most of us face stress and pressure daily. While we cannot avoid life's circumstances, we can face them with the best version of ourselves - with calm minds and peace in our hearts. Meditation helps cultivate these.
Ready to get started or re-started? Here are 7 tips for finding inner stillness through meditation:
I hope these tips help you find inner stillness. And if you're seeking further companionship in meditation, remember the Exploring Peace Meditations podcast is a great tool when you're feeling stuck or need some companionship.
What's your favorite place to meditate?
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC