Monday, April 21, 2014

The Discipline of Reflection

"Olive Branch and Easter Egg"
-in my meditation garden-

I have been writing this blog for over a year now. In doing so,  I have discovered that my daily posting has become a focal point of my entire day - something I really enjoy doing.

Yesterday I was talking to someone about my blog-writing venture. She said something that really struck me, "What a gift to be able to reflect on what you do every day instead of just only doing it." That one little remark proved to be very insightful for me, and it provided me with an understanding about why I am enjoying my blog-writing so much. The experience has caused me to be a much more "reflective" person.

Like many people, throughout most of my life I was an "action" kind of guy, always busily engaged in a host of activities - church, teaching, meetings, events, shopping, reading, going to the gym, always doing something. But I rarely took time to really reflect on why I did the things I did, or why I thought the things I thought, and the significance they held all held for me in life. I've changed quite a bit nowadays,  and writing this blog has helped me to make those changes.

Of course I still "do" lots of stuff every day,  but the difference is that now I find myself paying much closer attention to my everyday living. I pay attention to what I do, to what I read, to what I am thinking, to what I am hearing and saying in conversations with others. I pay attention when I browse  the social media and listen to the news. I pay attention when I am at a coffee shop, or sitting in a restaurant, or walking in the desert. 

And as I "pay attention,"  I find that I am daily struck by some sort of revelation or another. 

I am often struck by insights into my own self and into my relationships -  struck by new insights into what I mean when I say that word "God."  Many times I am struck by some new understandings of  scripture stories that I had read thousands of times before. I am struck by the beauty of a flower blooming on a cactus or the silent peace of a desert oasis.  I am struck by the innocence of a small child in a grocery store and by the sadness of an old man at a coffee shop.

And when I am struck by those flashes of insight, I find myself stopping and "reflecting" upon what they are revealing to me. I  don't just "think about" or sort of "ruminate," Instead,  I "reflect" on my actions, my thoughts,  and the insights that come to me -  prayerfully and carefully, with an open mind and an open heart.  

I am actively developing a daily "disciple of reflection," and discovering that discipline is having a profound effect on my life-journey and on my journey of faith.

Sometimes my "reflections" are expressed in pictures that I take of the insights that have come my way.  I snap a photo of the "new life" I experience as I gaze upon a simple olive branch and Easter egg in my garden. I take a picture of the vast wilderness,  a picture of the rising sun, the glow of evening,  the blood-red full moon at night. 

And of course, my daily "refections" always lead me to some form of writing about them, and this is exactly why this blog has become such a focal point of my daily life - a great gift to me,  allowing me to reflect upon the significance of what I think and do instead of just simply doing it.

Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, teaches a spiritual path that involves a "twice-daily" period of "prayerful reflection" about what has gone on in everyday living.  The more I think about it, this is very wise advice, not just for Jesuits, but for anyone who has set out to walk on any sort of a spiritual pathway.

You don't need any special talents or profound spiritual gifts in order  to develop a "discipline of daily reflection," nor do you need a whole lot of time to do this. Any one of us can work at paying closer attention to what goes on in the hours of daily life.  And how much time would it take to stop a few times a day and carefully reflect upon what it all means? 

Anyone who wants it,  can embrace the gift of "reflecting upon what you do and not just only doing it." 

Time to start the day -I'm getting ready to write tomorrow's post. 

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