Some of you have heard me talk about a daily spiritual practice I observe: my intentions and gratitudes. Every day I send a message to a friend of mine who has agreed to be on the receiving end of these texts. The messages are short and simple, and consist of something I’m grateful for, and something I intend for the day – that’s it. She might respond, she might not. It’s up to her. I’m satisfied just knowing that someone else knows what I’m feeling thankful for and what I intend each day.
The moment when I sit down to compose this message each day, any number of things can happen. I might draw a total blank. I might have a hundred thoughts scrambling for my attention. I only have two rules for myself: don’t overthink it and be honest. I usually start with whichever one comes easiest. Sometimes my intention helps me find my gratitude, and vice versa. Sometimes my gratitudes are rather mundane, like, I am grateful for this yogurt I am eating right now. Sometimes they are huge, like, I am grateful for planet earth. As for my intentions, sometimes they read like a to-do list, while other times they are more along the lines of “I intend to be kind to myself.” And then there are those times when my honest assessment is that I am not feeling grateful for anything and I don’t care what happens. In such cases a few moments of mindfulness, paying attention to my breath, or to the sounds I’m hearing around me, can usually help me find my way back to the present, and back to some bit of real gratitude or quiet intention.
I got the idea for this in part from something I learned about in seminary: an Ignatian spiritual practice known as the Daily Examen. Based on the teachings of the 16th-century Spanish Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, the Examen is an exercise to prayerfully review one’s thoughts, desires, and actions at the end of the day. Jesuits, and others who observe this practice, reflect on which moments of their days brought them closer to God, and which moments distanced them from God. I was intrigued when I learned about the Examen and tried something like it for one of my seminary classes. At the end of each day, I would ask myself: when was I aware of my part in the interdependent web, when did I feel my connection to the whole human family? When did I feel disconnected? It was very difficult to keep up such a practice. I could rarely remember moments that were usually quite fleeting, and the questions I was posing for myself were way too broad. I have found that, rather than looking back in search of something, to instead start my day with gratitude and intention has helped me cultivate more simple moments of connection on a daily basis.
I wanted to share this in some detail with you all because I know that it can be hard to find a meaningful daily practice that fits into our lives. I wonder, what have you tried? What would you like to try, to find your way to deeper connection?
Yours in faith,