Getting Where You Want to Go From Wherever You Are
How do you make decisions about the things that are most important in your life? When life throws you a curve ball, how do you adjust? You don’t need to wait until you get everything together. Start now. Praying the cross as a spiritual discipline equips you to embrace the reality of your own life and make healthy choices that work.
What Guides the Decisions You Make?
Life can be complex. It seems that everyone has an expectation for how you should handle a situation or has an opinion about how much time you spend working or has some critique about how you discipline your children.
Social media complicates the matter with public shaming and constant images of people at their very best. What guides the decisions that you make? Do you listen to the voices outside of your head? Follow your gut instincts? React to your anger or fear or desire?
The Life Compass is a guide that can help you make those decisions based on love and truth. This guide gets its strength from the spiritual discipline of Praying the Cross in which you commit to practices that strengthen your ability to remain present, oriented, and open… regardless of what is happening in your day.
There are five disciples to explore as the Life Compass offers a framework for Praying the Cross:
Centering is the ability to focus, now, without judgment. The concept is simple, but the practice can be a bit challenging. Begin by focusing on your breathing. Pay attention to the sensation in your body as you inhale and exhale deeply. Become aware of this present moment: what you see, sounds, the taste in your mouth, any smells that you notice, and anything touching your skin.
Notice any thoughts that appear and let them go. Don’t try to stop them. Just notice them and observe them as they move through your awareness. Begin by attempting this discipline for 1 minute then add more time as you are ready. Try to practice centering first thing in the morning, before every meal, and at bedtime (that’s just 5 minutes each day) and notice anything that changes.
Orienting is the commitment to staying present to what is really happening, not the way we want things to be. The idea is that God is present in the reality of a moment and our discipline is to remain aware of that possibility.
While attending to the reality of a moment, pay attention to the energy within your body and between the person with whom you are interacting. Orienting encourages us to focus on the energy of love and join that energy to the extent possible.
Orienting also honors each life as a holy journey, the fullness of each life, complete with joy and sorrow, triumph and suffering, mountaintop and valley. Begin by being attentive to reality and the energy of a situation. Try to name the energy. Consider how this moment is part of a holy journey.
Listening is being attentive to the wisdom of the body and becoming aware of the sensations that it sends to the brain. Many of us have spent years ignoring the sensations of our bodies or maybe we’re concerned that those sensations are somehow unhelpful, so this is a big step.
Begin by noticing, open to what your body is trying to tell you. Do the same thing with your feelings/emotions. Again, many of us have spent years ignoring our emotions or being afraid that our emotions will carry us away, but our emotions carry information and it’s worth listening to their messages.
Begin by noticing what your emotions are trying to tell you. Try to name them. Try to identify where you feel them in your body. Notice their energy. Breathe deeply as you notice.
Similarly notice your thoughts. Try to create a small gap between thought and action. Notice the thought first. Study it if you can. Wonder about it with curiosity. Listen to the messages conveyed by your sensations, feelings, and thoughts. If you can, be grateful for the information that they offer to you.
Remembering is recognizing that humans are story-making beings and memory influences our present moment in frequently strong and surprising ways. In a given situation, notice if a memory pops into your mental landscape. Is it a picture? a narrative? a video? Are there emotions associated with the memory?
Consider with curiosity what those mental images and emotions might mean for you. Reflect on how the story of your current situation fits with the bigger story of who you are. Go back up to 3 generations. Does that change how the current situation fits the context of the larger story?
Does this moment somehow point to a deep truth about who you are? Reflect with curiosity how/why this is so. Liturgy, poetry, art, and music help us to integrate our memories with the current moment. Create an artistic expression of how your memory connects to your present moment. If you can, share it with someone.
Learning is intentional and incorporates the voices that inform our understanding of what is trustworthy. In the Life Compass the discipline of learning creates a dialogue with an exegetical study of Scripture, current discoveries in science, wisdom contained in tradition, and lived experience so that each can contribute to the understanding of what is true.
The contribution of these four voices reveals Torah, what works, what operates in a lawful manner in the real world in which we live. To discover the truth within the holiness of your life, you are the only one equipped to enter this dialogue and make space for your own lived experience. It is work and it is worth it.
Begin with small steps… a commitment to access a study Bible and deeply read 2 or 3 verses; a review of the skills and/or resources shared on this website relevant to your current situation; a reflection upon the traditions that influence your thinking; honest consideration of how your personal experience speaks to the other voices. Consider taking up the discipline of journaling to bear witness to your efforts.
There’s no need to wait until you have things figured out! A compass takes you from wherever you are and helps you get to where you want to go. If you want to be more deeply connected to the important people in your life, if you want to more deeply explore your spiritual journey, join the conversation with other travelers on the way.