coffee

In my daily meditations today, I wrote about generosity, and the need to take a regular still point, in order to become aware of our levels of love and compassion. At times we fail to do this, and it leaves us open to drifting through life without cultivating the virtues of love, kindness, peace and good will toward others.

So how do you do this, practically? What does this look like?

One way is through a version of a Jesuit spiritual practice known as the Examen. If you want to know more about the Examen, read up about Ignatius of Loyola, and you will see it is part of his much wider teaching on spiritual practices. He was quite the lad for that sort of stuff.

The morning Examen I set out below is modified, for two reasons: a) I want something that people who do not self identify as Christian/religious/whatever can engage with. b) The purpose of this particular exercise is to become more aware of our attitudes and dispositions, and by becoming aware, to change them for the better.

So here’s my five step Examen:

1) Be grateful.

“What am I grateful for today? What things, people, events, or circumstances can I be grateful for?” Even in the most dire of circumstances, there should be a crack of light that you can be grateful for. Even if it’s just: I’m not dead yet. For most of us though, there are many more things than that, for which we can be thankful.

2) Accept your failings.

Gently reviewing the day gone past, and being really honest with yourself, recognise, and accept your failings. This doesn’t mean beating yourself up, or wallowing in self condemnation, it’s an honest, unflinching, recognition of where we’ve gone wrong.

3) Acknowledge your successes.

Reviewing the day again, consider where you did well, where your attitude was positive, where you were loving and kind. It’s not about bigging yourself up, or thinking about how great your life is. Its about sensing where your attitude was positive, and recognising what led you to put others first.

4) Forgive and be forgiven.

If the review of your day has brought to mind times when people have hurt or upset you, try to forgive them. Recognise that often our hurt springs from how we feel about ourselves as much as anything else, feeling compassion for others is the beginning of the forgiveness process.

Compassion needs to extend to yourself, and you need to accept that you also need forgiveness. There are three ways of looking at this, for those who have a belief in God, they may seek forgiveness from the divine. For those without that belief, they need to forgive themselves. For everyone, there may be a need to gain forgiveness from someone you hurt. This is the change point, the place where we say we’re going to live differently. In the Christian tradition, this is linked to a process called repentance, which effectively means to turn back, to change your ways.

5) Prepare.

Having gone through the first four steps, you’re in a better place to prepare for the day ahead. Spend a few moments considering what you have ahead of you, and who. Recognise where your weaknesses may come under stress, accept them, and make it your intention to address whatever comes your way with an attitude of love, generosity, and humility.

On a daily basis, this needn’t be a lengthy process, but particularly in combination with silent meditation, this is a really helpful and healthy regular practice to develop.

If you want to receive my free daily weekday meditations, sign up here.

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Would you like to come on a retreat with me? I’m looking for expressions of interest for a short residential retreat in the North of England in the latter half of 2018. The kind of numbers and types of people I get will determine the finer details.

What would it involve?

There are two options – let me know which you’re interested in.

  1. Meditation retreat, with teaching sessions, one to one discussion sessions, and three different silent meditation practices. This is for anyone, perhaps particularly those who want to develop a regular meditation practice of their own. Or know they need to find some silence in their lives. As well as the serious stuff, there will also be laughter, that’s more or less a given.
  2. Deconstruction retreat, with talks and group discussions, as well as time for reflection and one to one discussions, all on the theme of positive deconstruction. This is for people who know that the faith or religion they’ve been clinging to needs to change, or perhaps just needs to die. Either way, it needs to be done in a good way. Also laughter – it’s all the more vital when this kind of stuff is on the table.

I like to do things in the outdoors, so all things being equal, any retreat will involve some time outside, obviously any access requirements will be taken into account in the planning.

An expression of interest isn’t the same thing as a commitment, and there are lots of reasons why it might not work for you (money, dates, time off work, you suddenly deciding that you hate me etc.) But if you want to explore this, go here. This is a time limited thing, for obvious reasons.

Beaten

Stripped

Torn

Sweat stinging

Ears ringing

Heart straining

Lungs straining

Eyes staring

Eyes aching

Thorns cutting

Nails.

Cut up

Hung up

Left

Inexpressibly alone

Just waiting

So thirsty

And hungry

Aching

Fading

Breath weakening

Heart slowing

Pain growing

Overwhelming.

Bones shattered

Strength gone

Blood congealing

Flies buzzing

Flies landing

Legs rubbing

Surrounded

Infinitely alone.

Flesh

Not

Stone.

Black descending

Fading

Gone.

Fin.

 

On this day in history, approximately 2000 years ago, a Jewish revolutionary and mystic known as Jesus of Nazareth died after being executed by the Roman authorities.  In his mid thirties and of a peasant background, Jesus was a charismatic figure and is believed to have amassed a small army of followers who welcomed him to Jerusalem where he provoked the occupying powers in a series of political ‘stunts’. After a few days of increasing tensions, he was captured late one night and swiftly tried. His execution is thought to have taken place at approximately 9 am, on a rubbish dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

He left behind no writings, and founded no religion or political party, and yet is regarded as one of the most influential and controversial people to have ever lived. His teachings of non violent political resistance and radical ‘love for others’ inspired some of the greatest political thinkers, and some of the worst, from the intervening centuries.

 

There has ball_lost6een a lot of positive feedback from the Lent reflections I’ve written, and I’ve enjoyed doing them too. To such an extent in fact that I’m now in the the throes of setting up a new project, a daily email sent out Monday – Friday with a reflection or meditation to start your day. If you’ve not spotted the Lent Reflections, and would like to join in, you can still do so. Obviously we’re a few days into Lent already, so you’ve missed a few. But not too many.

You can subscribe to the Weekday Meditations list here, Lent meditations subscribers will NOT be automatically added to that list. If you want to get in on the Lent action, see the previous post to this one.

eliot ash

If you are looking for a reflective resource to use through Lent this year, please feel free to sign up, here, to my (free) series of Lent reflections.

The series will not be posted here on the blog, rather they will be emailed out daily at 7am through the six weeks from Ash Wednesday.

At Easter the project will come to an end, and subscribers won’t receive any more emails.

The reflections are short, and are based on six topics: Loss, Grief, Doubt, Emptiness, Waiting, & Gratitude. All quite solemn, as befits the season. They’re intended to draw us, together, into an inner journey leading up to Easter.