This is the followup to Einstein's Relevancy #3 - In Difficulty Lies Opportunity
Intead of avoiding the difficulties or seeking to escape them, we ought to simply receive them. Difficulty, suffering, pain, are not necessarily bad things. One of the ways that I have handled this over the past 10 years has been through the advice of my spiritual director and his encouragement to use Ignatius' Awareness Examen. (I've included a full contemporary version of it in the weblog list.) As pertains to difficulty in my life, I've been instructed to not try to move on from it too quickly. Most of the time we want quick resolution to the problems in our lives and we fail to learn the lessons that these uncomfortable times might bring us. Maybe there is a fine line between masochism and honest reflection, but few of us are masochists. At least I'm not. My temptation is to move on as fast as possible and escape the conflicts and difficulties of my life. That may mean ignoring significant issues instead of resolving them.
In the Examen, one of the most helpful parts is the Reflection section:
Reflection on the Day:
The operative questions are: What has been happening to me? How has God been working in me? What has God been asking of me? Let your mind quietly go over the different phases of your day. What feelings did you experience? What thoughts or reflections moved you (positively or negatively)? Do these movements tell you anything about how God was working in you and what God has been asking of you? How have you responded? Is there any specific area of your life that you know should be focused on (particular examen)? Reflect on the day from that perspective and discuss it with God.
What I have learned in this is to be much more aware of how I feel in relation to the things that happen to me. In recent weeks I've experienced a fair amount of loss - not merely my dog but also friends moving and colleague changes. As I've said, all these are losses, not all equal, not all connected in cause, but they connect emotionally with me. My feelings over several weeks has been one of sadness. It was important to get to this acknowledgement. I could have identified my feelings as depression. But when I look at depression it is usually accompanied by a lack of energy and motivation. This is not how I am responding. Instead I'm responding with a fair amount of energy and looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. Though I'm saddened by the losses, these are not debilitating losses.
God is at work in the midst of the difficulty. The examen has helped me identify my feelings, how I've responded to them, and reflect openly on what God is doing in me and asking of me. My response of energy is a result of answered prayer and God's work in my life. I'm still sad. I'm still examining that part of my life and for now it is my examen. When I look back on each day I'm also encouraged by what I God is doing in me and through me. One thing for certain, I'm not running away or avoiding the pain that comes with loss. I feel it. But it is also being overcome - slowly but surely. This is a gift I might not have received if I'd been on the run or in denial or...?
If this is of any help, you might consider looking at the examen as something for your daily life.
Live in the moment.