Listening Prayer

While deleting old files from my laptop, I discovered a children’s story I did a few years ago. It was part of a series on teaching children different ways to pray. My task was to teach the children how to be silent and listen for God to speak to them. This is not an easy concept for adults to understand, so how do you teach children ways to listen to God?

When a person prays, they often say things to God but don’t take time to listen for a response. In this situation, prayer happens when a person does the talking (or thinking) and God listens. There is only conversation happening one direction, from us to God. True friends have a mutual give and take in a relationship, so they take turns speaking and listening. An important part of praying is learning to listen to God instead of always talking and expecting God to listen.  How can we listen to God when God doesn’t have a body and doesn’t speak with a voice the way people do?

One way people learn to listen to what God is saying is by becoming very quiet on the inside (internally within our hearts) and the outside (externally with our bodies). When a person reaches this point of stillness, they stay quiet for a period of time in awareness of their connection with God. It is like two people sitting quietly on a beach watching a sunset and enjoying the companionship with each other without the need for words.

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People are so accustomed to being busy and active that stillness is really difficult. You notice your thirst or hunger or the itchy spot on your arm. New thoughts pop into your mind almost as fast as you let go of the previous one. The body becomes restless and the chair feels uncomfortable. If you practice being still often enough, it becomes easier to listen without these distractions. You realize that God does speak to people with ideas or feelings or words to a song or mind-pictures. Each person experiences this listening time in different ways. It is hard to know how God will speak to you until you actually listen.

Sometimes when people first start to listen for God’s response, it seems like God isn’t there. You can’t tell if it is really God who’s speaking to you, or if you are just making it up in your imagination. This is a normal response. God loves that you are trying to listen and will surprise you in many different ways if you keep paying attention. God uses your thoughts and imagination and other sensory experiences to communicate with you.

Take a moment right now to try a listening prayer. This is one way to get quiet on the inside and outside. Make sure you are comfortable in your chair. Wiggle around until your body feels comfortable and relaxed. Allow your arms to rest in your lap. You can close your eyes if you wish to remove visual distractions or you can focus on an object in the distance. Instead of looking intently at the object, try to stare at it with “soft eyes.” This means your face is relaxed and soft while your eyes stare through the object, which allows the object to become slightly out of focus. If your body becomes uncomfortable, take a few deep breaths in and out.

Imagine sending love to God and feeling God’s love return back to you. This may make you feel really happy. You might imagine a stream of light like a flashlight shining from your body up to heaven and God’s love coming back down to you like a sunbeam shining on your body. You may wish to cross your arms over your chest as if giving yourself a hug to give a bodily sensation of being loved and held by God.

Once you are in this time of stillness, you can ask God a specific question or tell God something on your mind, then sit back and wait for a response. You can approach this time with a sense of curiosity and openness. You might receive a response which may show up as an idea, words to a song or a visual image. Sometimes you will become aware of a signal in the environment around you, such as a warning siren in the distance or your pet snuggling up to you. You might wonder what message God might be trying to tell you with these signals you noticed. When you feel that it is time to end the prayer, take a moment and express thanks to God for the time of listening and companionship. People often end their time of prayer with “Amen” or “Let it be so” or with a bow.

Listening prayer takes practice. Try to do this prayer first thing in the morning before you get out of bed or right before you go to sleep at night. God wants to have a conversation with us every day and is very happy when you take time to listen.

What things do you notice when you listen to God?

What if you held the key to your own health?

For years I have felt a sense of dis-ease within myself. I struggled with weight gain, dissatisfaction with my body image and discomfort with hormonal changes. Keeping up with my peers in yoga class was difficult, so just stopped going. I felt tired or restless most of the time, but couldn’t sleep well at night. There was no energy for creativity or self care with the demands of raising children, working and other responsibilities. I was emotionally exhausted, physically limited and spiritually drained.

I wanted to reboot my body, mind and spirit but wasn’t sure where to start.

I turned to self-help books on wellness, therapy and bodywork. I met with a fitness trainer, a spiritual director and a nutritionist. There were too many experts sharing advice on how to be healthy, but most of those ideas did not seem to work for me on a long term basis. During a six week unplanned sabbatical following surgery, I finally had a chance to slow down and listen to my inner wisdom. I began to trust that I could make wise choices with the tools I collected over the years, but this time, I listened to how my body, mind and spirit responded to the combination of those tools. I made a commitment to self care based on my own inner wisdom. I began the slow healing journey back to optimal health and well-being.

Self Care begins with an awareness of what you need for your own well-being.

Self care is a commitment to YOU first. That is the most important step on your wellness journey. Self care means paying attention to your body, mind and spirit on a regular basis and trusting that you know on some deep level what you need for your own well-being.

Most of us have tried a variety of approaches to wellness. When one area of our life gets in balance, another area seems to fall apart. That’s because we focus only on one area at a time, such as our physical body or our emotional response or a spiritual practice. We forget to look at the whole picture of wellness. Your body, mind and spirit are interconnected and need to be addressed as a whole. You can take charge of your own health and find simple ways to start on the road to better health by addressing all these areas simultaneously. Everything is connected. You have choices. It’s time to bring your whole self back into balance and listen to your inner wisdom.

As I work with clients on their overall wellness, I have found that there are a variety of resources to balance the body, mind and spirit. I want to share some of these self care techniques with you on a regular basis through my wellness newsletter and blog. You get to choose the ones that work best for where you are right now in your quest for wellness. The important thing is to start with the easy things that can help you take those first few steps towards health and wellness.

Balance cards spread

I created two unique decks of wellness resources with my top 64 self care tips, called Balance Resource Cards. These cards are designed to be tangible ways to balance your body, mind and spirit. The two decks of 36 cards each (32 wellness tips and 4 instructional cards) come in a folded envelope tied in a gold or platinum elastic bow. This allows for an abundant supply of tips that you can choose from each day as personal wellness practices. Each card is designed to provide practical self care tips related to health and wellness.

The cards are simple enough that most people can use the resources to bring balance to their body, mind and spirit. They range from simple breathing techniques to restorative yoga poses to spiritual practices such as gratitude and forgiveness. The cards can help you create your own unique plan to small-step your way to healthy living. You can simply choose a card at random from the deck or pull several cards to practice for the week. If something doesn’t work for you that day, put it back in the deck and pull another card. Keep a deck at home and the second deck at work or beside your computer. Display the cards in a decorative bowl or business card holder where you see them regularly as self accountability. You have choices and can create the perfect wellness routine that works for you.

For those of you who already have a set of my Balance Resource Cards, I hope you are using the cards regularly. If you like the cards, I would love it if you could do me a favor and share this post with two friends who could use a self care boost in their life. If you do not have a set of the wellness cards, then I encourage you to give yourself a gift as an early holiday present.

That’s the beauty of this gift of balance. There are many choices that you can do right now to improve your health and wellness. The cards can complement the things you are already doing or provide some new opportunities for healing. Listen to your inner wisdom as you use these resources and discover what works best in order to heal your body mind and spirit. You hold the key to your healing process.

Are you ready to choose the gift of balance? If you sign up for my newsletter, you will receive a special gift before the end of 2015 as a special thank you.

I choose to balance my

body, mind & spirit.

Photo Meditations

I’ve always enjoyed photography. I go through cycles of viewing life through the camera lens until my attention is shifted to other things, which causes me to push aside this practice. Eventually I am captivated by a view or a flower or an interesting photo on social media. Then I find myself reaching for my camera and resuming this spiritual practice.

I’m currently enjoying an eCourse by Susannah Conway called Photo Meditations 2015. This week I’m paying attention to lines and shapes and forms. Normal objects are transformed around me as I watch for these forms to appear in my camera lens. I completed Susannah’s April Love 2015 photo prompts earlier in the year and enjoyed the challenge of looking for those interesting views each day. It was fun to see how others interpret the prompts and inspire me with their discoveries. I like having a daily photo challenge to watch for as I go through the day.

I enjoyed Vivienne McMaster’s Be Your Own Beloved eCourse last year. I always learn new tips for taking photos in these courses. In addition to feeling more comfortable taking selfies, I was inspired by Vivienne to take Photo Walks on a regular basis, snapping photos of the things that captured my attention on that particular walk. I usually remember to do this when I go get my mail at the end of the driveway, so I often see the same limited number of objects to photograph around our property. That’s OK, because each season brings new perspectives.

Photography is a meditation practice. I find myself pausing to look closer at objects. As I take pictures, I see the details I normally rush past in the daily tasks. When I return from my walk, I review the pictures and share favorites with friends on Facebook, Instagram or Flickr. I sometimes use a beautiful shot as my screensaver on the desktop computer for further enjoyment.

My typical photo of choice tends to be nature shots. This eCourse is helping me see objects with a new perspective as I tilt the camera or zoom in for a close-up shot. Surprisingly, lines and shapes are all around me, forming interesting patterns. I like this shot of my piano. When I tilted the camera, I was amazed at all the lines I discovered. A good life lesson: Changing our perspective can bring new insights.piano linesThere are some great books on Photo Meditations. Howard Zehr’s Little Book of Contemplative Photography: Seeing With Wonder, Respect and Humility was my first introduction to photography as a spiritual practice many years ago. Eyes of the Heart:Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner is a favorite resource of mine. It is full of practical tips and reflective questions. My newest find is Shooting with Soul: 44 Photography Exercises Exploring Live, Beauty and Self-Expression by Alessandra Cave. You can use it for inspiration with all the different prompts and ideas.

Do you spend time taking pictures as a spiritual practice on a regular basis? If you have not tried photography as a meditation practice, I would encourage you to give it a try. Notice the things that capture your attention and snap photos of them. Take a Photo Walk and look at the world through your camera lens. Look for interesting shapes and lines around your home.

Enjoy discovering the world through your camera lens this week!

Three beautiful things

I have a friend who often posts her list of “three beautiful things” on social media as a gratitude practice. She inspires me to practice gratitude, even if I don’t always post those things for the world to see.

Gratitude boosts your immune system and elevates your mood by dumping ‘good feeling’ chemicals in your body. It gives your body a chance to rest and digest, instead of being on alert in our typical fight or flight mode.

It is not HAPPY people who are THANKFUL.  It is THANKFUL people who are HAPPY. (author unknown)

Here are my favorite ways to practice gratitude:

  • Write three things I’m thankful for in my journal each day. i like to do this at the end of the day.
  • Use a blank calendar as my Gratitude list. Write things each day I am grateful for.
  • Post three things on social media that make me happy. I can do this daily, weekly or for a month at a time.journal

When I spend time focusing on the beautiful things in life, I find I have a positive outlook on other aspects of my day. It also bubbles over to others. If you are not already using gratitude as a daily practice, I encourage you to try it for the rest of this month.

My three beautiful things I celebrate today are:

  • A birthday: my dear husband.
  • An anniversary: 29 wonderful years! (June 21)
  • A funeral: remembering a creative aunt.

What is on your list of three beautiful things in your life?

Self Care for Introverts

Life feels busy this month. Each week appears balanced at first glance. I have steady work, time for friends and even an art day scheduled. I’ve been checking things off the “To Do” list with great satisfaction. Perhaps I’m feeling busy because I don’t have a large block of uninterrupted time to work on a writing project I’d like to complete. Despite a writer’s retreat next week, I am still feeling busy.

Busyness: noun
1. the quality or condition of being actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime.
2. lively but meaningless activity.

I finally realize the answer. While I’ve been taking time for various types of self care, I have not been taking time for my morning meditation. I’m an introvert. When I don’t get that block of quiet time first thing in the morning, it feels like I spend the rest of the day rushing from one task to another. I need quiet time to create a center of balance for my day.

How do you create time for yourself in the midst of busyness? Do you block out time on the calendar? Do you say no to something that drains your energy so you can do something that energizes you? Do you take time to sit in silence?

The first rule of self care is to say YES to yourself. Saying yes is a way to give yourself permission to do the things needed in order to be well. Life has a way of changing. Sometimes we need to say yes multiple times.

Silence is important for introverts. Silence creates a pause in the day which creates a still point. This stillness allows you to listen and hear your quiet inner voice that cannot be heard over the constant activity and noise of daily life. Silence allows you to become present in the moment. As the brain chatter and stream of thoughts slow down, you begin to notice what is happening within your inner landscape. The inner landscape is another term for the sensations, thoughts, feelings, images, messages or other cues that are present inside a person. Your inner landscape informs the body’s intelligent response system and intuition. This awareness or knowledge of what is happening to you on the inside is called the inner wisdom. Silence helps you listen to your inner wisdom.

Begin your day by pausing in silence. Take a few deep breaths, then allow your breathing to return to normal. Take a moment to set some intentions for the day. Taking a moment for this simple practice is helpful for introverts.
The Conscious Examen is a way to pause at the end of the day and review the events. St Ignatius of Loyola developed this form of prayer as a way to “find God in all things.” The five steps of reviewing your day include:
  1. Gratitude: When did I feel closest to God? When was I most grateful?
  2. Grace: How has God been working in me? When did I notice God’s grace?
  3. Sorrow: Where did I fail? When did I feel separated from God?
  4. Forgiveness: Reconcile my shortcomings through confession and forgiveness.
  5. Hope: Ask for God’s help and guidance for the future.
Are you creating time for silence in your daily self care routine? What are you saying YES to this week? I’ve said yes to quiet time every morning for silence and meditation.
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