Written by: Lisa Kelly
Mid-lecture the teacher inconspicuously taps on the front corner of my daughter’s desk to call her back to attention. Much like me, my daughter is a dreamer, comfortable letting her mind wonder into other worlds or places she would like to be. Often it seems my prayer time is just that: time to wonder away to another place.
During Sunday mass I wonder how many people in the congregation are actually following the homily at all. I imagine their minds tuning out the words from the pulpit, coming to rest instead upon their to do list or some recent conversation or upcoming tension to be dealt with. As I wonder about them, I realize that I am just as checked out as they are, lost in my head.
At its very heart, though, Ignatian spirituality is about the exact opposite of letting your mind wonder carelessly in prayer. It is about being fully present to the moment, every moment, including those during prayer and those throughout the day. The depth of Ignatian prayer comes not from saying any particular words or incantation, but from being fully in a moment of relationship with Christ.
In the Examen, I sit one-on-one with Christ. There is no mediator. There is nothing to hide behind. It is just eye-to-eye conversation. This experience of being fully present to Christ, or rather Him being fully present to me, stops my mind in its tracks. There is no where else to be or wonder in to. Here in this moment, with Christ, is the only place I need or want to be. It is where I am most honest about what is going on in my life, where I hear revelation unfettered by the clatter of the day. Only in this full presence is there peace.
And then, like the teacher tapping on the desk, I am brought back from my presence with Christ to my daily reality. Being fully present in the moment means constantly recognizing beauty around me, need in front of me, and capacity within me. In each moment I am aware of my interior movements, my feelings and motivations and what invitations God has placed before me. Aware in the world, I notice the warmth of the sun, and the breeze. In conversations I focus fully on the person before me, look them in the eye, observe their affect, really listen to what they are saying, and respond with sincerity. Only then is there true connection. If I am not present to the moment, I miss that. I miss opportunities to see or respond to God.
CS Lewis wrote that evil seeks to keep us out of the present moment, wasting it with regret of past or worry about the future, because only when one is fully present in the moment can God be engaged. Right here and right now, to what are you present? Therein lies your treasure.
Photo: “paying attention” by Leonard John Matthews from Flickr (Used under Creative Commons license)