I most hate the feelings that I least understand. I wish they would just fall in line where I tell them to, and that my crazy body could keep up with me and stop being so tired and hungry all the time.
This past fall I was introduced to the precious idea that my life circumstances, thoughts, emotions, and body could be speaking to me; sometimes even screaming. All the parts of me are calling out together with invitations for self-care, spiritual guidance, conflict resolution, and the grace of God. After beginning a regular practice of learning to listen to my life and seek to notice God’s presence and voice, the incongruities in my emotions and desires have become gifts of focus, conversations of prayer, and nudges towards meaningful action.
I’ve modified an exercise that would typically be done with a spiritual director to make it easy to use as an individual reflection and journal exercise. Give it a try, and may the act of listening to your life and sensing God there bless you.
Soul Attention Exercise
Soul Attention is a 30 minute prayerful journaling exercise. As you respond to each question use bullet points, simple phrases or single words, and write as many as you can. Go with your gut, be honest and unedited. Do not include any explanations. Pause after each question, and in a moment of silence ask God if there is anything to add or change. Each question should take about 3 minutes to fully answer.
This awareness exercise is not only designed to open a meaningful prayer conversation with God, but to invite you to receive His available love, grace, and healing as you slow down and listen to your soul.
If you are ready, begin with a simple prayer such as Psalm 139:23: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
May I pray with you? Lord, give this beautiful daughter of yours the grace she needs to pay attention and become aware of not only her self, but also the great things, perfect plans, and wonderful gifts in store for her.
- What is true about your life?
List facts of your life: your relationships, positions, activities, etc. Avoid qualitative words like “kind” or “loving”, focus only on unarguable facts like “I am a mother” or “I am single” or “I work 50 hours a week”.
- What have you been thinking about?
Thoughts that come to you regularly, problems you are actively working to solve, something or someone that pops in your mind regularly, a decision you are deliberating, etc. Different than feelings.
- What emotions have you felt recently? What triggered them?
These are feelings and emotions, different than thoughts. Things like “sad”, “lost” or “betrayed by…”, “ignored by…”, “jealous of…”, “lustful for…”, “angry at…” etc. Note how your emotions are currently interacting with yourself, others, circumstances, and God.
- What is going on with your physical body?
Pause for a moment. Focus on your physical body. Are you feeling tired, sore, weak, strong, how is your posture? your libido? your digestion? your health?
- If Jesus were standing in front of you and offered to give you a kind, clear, and honest answer to any question- what would you ask Him?
- What do you desire or long for?
Is there anything you wish you could do, have, be, or feel?
Once you are finished, pause and pray Psalm 139:23 again “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Read through all of your answers twice.
- What do you notice?
Ask God to help you notice what He sees, to make meaningful truth stand out from the page, and for connections to surface.
- How will you respond?
Remember that you are laying your heart before a gracious, forgiving, loving God who is thrilled to be having this conversation with you. Your response to the exercise could range from confession to worship to pursuing a dream or longing you may sense God making clear. It should be motivated by love, not fear or achievement. Make an intention to revisit this conversation with Him in prayer at any quiet moments you have this week. Be sensitive to notice any presence or response from God.