I’m into the second week of the Spiritual Exercises. In the Exercises, “weeks” aren’t really 7 days. They are often just how long it takes you to get through that part of the retreat.
In the second week of the Exercises, the retreatant engages with the life of Jesus. The retreatant is invited to practice Ignatian Contemplation and place themselves in the stories of Jesus’s life. They are invited to engage with the sights, sounds, tastes, feels, movements, and emotions in each scene.
This has always been extraordinarily hard for me. I think it’s because I my mind wanders too much when I try to just sit and imagine things. I mean, there I am sitting in the room watching the angel visit Mary and suddenly my eyes catch a bee buzzing in the corner of the imaginary room. Then I wonder what a bee is doing buzzing around in the 1st century. Then, of course, I have to Google bees to figure out if they could actually be buzzing around in this scene… and well… all is lost.
So, this time, I tried something different at the suggestion of my spiritual director. I just started to write after I finished reading each passage. I wrote about what questions I had, what I felt might be missing in the scene, and eventually… the words flowing from my pen did exactly what my wandering mind could not – it placed me in the scene. It also allowed me to see the scene through new eyes and go beyond the details of the text itself.
Each time I write, whether it’s these morning reflections or a writing assignment or just journaling through the exercises, my mind is a little like this image I drew. My mind (most likely the Holy Spirit inspiring my mind) invites me to go left, then right, then left again. I’m never fully sure where the journey is taking me.
But the journey always leads somewhere.
If I just have the courage to start.
I often quote a prayer by Thomas Merton that begins: “Lord, I have no idea where I am going.” The prayer is about moving – the pen across the paper, feet along the road… It’s about moving even when the destination is unclear.
May God’s grace get you moving today – one step, one mark of the pen at a time. There are wonderful things ahead.