PART TWO: The “Opening” Disciplines
Intentionally learning to notice when God shows up is a huge part of the spiritual journey. After all, we cannot open ourselves to someone we do not notice. The opening spiritual disciplines help us pay attention to our lives and God’s activity within them. They open us to truths about ourselves. And inevitably one truth leads to another and another. The more we tell God the truth about ourselves, the more authentic our relationship with the Trinity can be.
The opening disciplines specifically address how to make space in a crowded life to notice the movements of the Spirit of God. They can take us into deep places of knowing how we are accepted, received and lovingly known by God. And it is receiving this love that moves us to worship.
First Discipline: Contemplation
In a world where people anchor their identity on the shifting seas of performance and accomplishment, contemplation seems inefficient and too unproductive for the daily grind. But it is contemplation, not just having experiences, that truly opens us wide to life. Experiences can be lost to us in the mad rush to simply accumulate more. Contemplation invites us to enter in the moment with a heart alive to whatever might happen. It is not just thinking about or analyzing an event or person. Contemplation asks us to see with faith, hope and love. It asks us to seek God and the “meanings” threaded through our days and years, so that our experience of being embedded in the triune life of God deepens and grows.
A contemplative person recognizes that every experience offers more than meets the eye. They know that “bidden or unbidden, God is present.” Consequently, contemplatives are open to seeing the unseen world. They sift he days for symbols and scan the sunsets for meaning. They enter into the being of life, alert to transcendencies in ordinary things. They believe God may be found and reverenced if one is prepared to notice how marvellously mysterious and personal life in this world is. So contemplatives invite into the moment and tell us to be.
Spiritual Exercises (3 choices):
1. Contemplate Jesus. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God. Become quiet. Express o God your intention to rest in his love. Use your imagination: you may want to picture yourself leaning on Jesus’ breast as John did or sitting at Jesus’ feet as Mary did. When thoughts and distractions come, gently return to Jesus. Begin again and again.
2. Palms down, palms up. Sit comfortably with both feet on the floor and your hands on your lap. Breathe deeply and relax. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of Jesus. Turn your palms down and begin to drop your cares, worries, agendas and expectations into Jesus’ hands. Let go of all that is heavy or burdensome. Relax. Breathe deeply. When you have given your cares to Jesus, turn your palms up on your knees. Open your hands to receive God’s presence, word and love. Listen. When you feel prompted to end, tell the Lord what I tis like for you to simply be with him.
3. Take a contemplative walk with Jesus. Express your intention to be alone with God. Enjoy moving your body. Smell the air. Take in the sights. Appreciate God’s good handiwork within and without. Love Go for his gifts and goodness to you.
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