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A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Discovering the road to inner freedom

Features

Cecily McNeill
15 February 2012

Being able to say in complete honesty ‘This is who I am and this is my problem’ is a first step on the long road towards inner freedom.

Ignatian spiritual writer Margaret Silf told a group of people during a two-day seminar in St Joseph’s, Mt Victoria, last November (2011) that being able to tread lightly on the earth was key to detecting and avoiding danger.

Quicksands can look exactly the same as stable sand yet the effect of walking on quicksand is quite different. Being aware of the feeling beneath our feet helps us to avoid getting stuck.

But to be able to stay free of the danger, we need to be free of ‘any undue hankering’ to go where the danger is.

To be free of anything that might pull us off course, we need to be able to
stay focused on what is really coming from the core of our being – the practice of awareness distinguish between what is life-giving (solid rock) and what is life-denying or even life-threatening (quicksands) – the art of discernment sit lightly to all that happens, with a readiness to let go of what is not, or is no longer, leading us closer to our true selves in God – the art of detachment.  Practising these skills daily helps us to grow in spiritual freedom.

Margaret Silf quoted a Native American story in which a grandfather tells his grandson how in every human heart two wolves dwell and are in constant conflict with one another until the day we die. The little boy looks up and asks, ‘But Grandad, which wolf wins?’ Grandad replies, ‘The one you feed!’

What we feed by giving it our energy and attention will grow. What we withhold energy and attention from will shrink.

The daily review or ‘Examen’
The process of discernment is enhanced by using a ‘Review of Consciousness’ prayer sometimes called the ‘Examen’ or ‘Review of the Day’.

By taking a few minutes at the end of the day to reflect on what has been happening, we can reconnect our daily life with our life in God.

Start by asking God to show you how he has been present and active in the events of the day and to shed his light on your own memories and feelings about what has been happening.

Replay the day’s events in your mind and notice anything that particularly catches your attention. Stay with that memory to examine it more closely.

Look back over anything you feel grateful for. Maybe there was a meeting with someone, or a letter or friendly gesture. Did something make you laugh or move you to tears? Has a problem been solved or did you notice something in God’s creation that gave you joy? Give thanks to God for it.

Remember those who deserve your gratitude for the blessings of the day – those who provided the food you ate or the essential services, those who did something for you they didn’t need to do. Remember something in the day of which you can be proud. (We often find this difficult.)

What has drawn you closer to God today? What have you learned about God and his Kingdom today? What happened to make you feel loved? Were you able to give a sign of love to another person?

Was there any time or situation during the day when you felt that your ‘inner compass’ was running true? Remember this experience and store it as a reference point for the onward journey.

Was there any situation in which you feel you were being untrue to yourself? Does this make you want to change anything in your course for the way ahead?

Are there any dark patches during the day? Is there something that you now wish you had handled differently? Is there some hurt that you are still carrying, caused by someone else? If so simply express your feelings to God as a child might talk to a loving parent.

Maybe something has left you feeling inadequate or fearful or resentful? Stay with these feelings for a while and notice if you can, where they may have their roots.

Like the brambles in our unmade garden, the roots of unease in our living are often a long way from the place where these feelings show themselves in the outer surface of our lives.

You may want to ask God to show you the deeper reasons for any negative feelings or reactions during the day and for guidance on how you might open these roots up to his healing and enlightenment.

End by asking for God’s continuing blessing on tomorrow’s living as you let yourself sink into his loving care for you.

Review taken from Wayfaring: a gospel journey in everyday life (2009) Pp 70-71.

See also Building a firm foundation of God-focused spirituality