"In our modern milieu, the word heart has become soft. It might refer to just feelings or the seat of the sentimental life. We think of the heart as the warm place where our emotions are located, in contrast to the cool intellect, where our thoughts find their home. But the word heart in Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, purposeful, and moral energies. It is the seat of the will; it makes plans and comes to good decisions. Our heart determines our personality, and the place where God dwells but also the place where evil directs fierce attacks, causing us to doubt, fear, despair, resent, overconsume, and so on.” Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit ©2010 by the Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust.
Henri Nouwen was a 20th-century Dutch priest known for spiritual direction. History is filled with other men and women who chose to pursue a deeper engagement with God. One of those whose names we are probably familiar with is St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), who founded the Jesuits. Jesuitresource.org offers a workbook developed by Gillian T.W. Ahlgren, a professor of theology at Xavier University. One of the suggested exercises is to create a daily practice of examen, a reflection on the inner workings of your day. You will find it provides an opportunity to understand what seem to be disparate events more holistic way—some of the questions to consider. Don't try to answer all of them. If you skim through them daily, you will quickly recognize which ones to dwell on.
- What did I learn today?
- Where did my eyes linger?
- Where was I blind?
- Where in my life do I need greater honesty?
- What did I forget to say today? Who needed me to do or say something different?
- What could I admit about my life that would prompt a hopeful change in me?
- What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
- Where am I neglecting myself?
- What was God trying to tell me today?
- Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
- What did I avoid today?
- What am I doing that is not helpful to me?
- What is crying out for my attention? How can I best attend to it?
- Where do I need help – e.g., greater creativity, courage, support, or imagination – to engage in change effectively?
- When today did I feel most myself?
- From the evidence – why was I given this day?