“Justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private.”  -- Cornell West

One of the joys in being back at work has been listening to check-ins at the various meetings I’m having. To hear about, as if in the village square -- or actually the Zoom square! -- the goings-on in the lives of the people in our beloved community. Over the past year, life has thrown us collective curve balls -- even if personal lives for some of us might be going relatively well.

Reality is swirling so fast that the world we awaken to in the morning can be stunningly different within a few hours. Change, both personal and global has left me curious, breathless, stressed, and at times distraught.

I’ve needed to shift from swirling to stillness. To anchor. To attend to the spaces within myself that can quickly become a neglected garden overrun by weeds while I’m fretting over the world beyond that garden. But if I become choked by my inner weeds I’m less able to apply myself to the activity of loving the people around me and the larger world I’m so concerned about.

My son who loves gardening once told me that a weed is nothing but a plant and how we consider it. So I started cultivating the garden of my spirit with a daily personal check-in to consider its metaphorical plants, to appreciate their beauty and address what I believe to be the weeds.

My inspiration for this has been the spiritual practice of the Daily Examen, a method of prayer created by Ignatius of Loyola, co-founder of the Jesuits, who believed that spending a few minutes considering the day we experienced was the most important daily practice to cultivate.

Practice of the Daily Examen, which you can find out more about here, was originally considered an examination of conscience, but it’s more modern forms usually focus on an examination of consciousness. And while the traditional Daily Examen has a particular structure, I was most inspired by its overall intention as I created my own examen practices that take place for about five to ten minutes at the start and end of each day.

Here are the steps of this practice for me -- which I jot down in brief notes. I find the act of writing allows me to better focus, and it has been both encouraging and sobering to view the journey I’m on over time:

Sit quietly, center and breathe, connecting with the light within.
Three things I’m especially grateful for are....
Three things I’m excited about for the coming day are...
My intention for this day is….

Sit quietly, center and breathe, connecting with the light within.
Three things that felt affirming today are....
The one thing I’ll improve is...
Journal: the singular experience (positive or negative) that stood out for me today is...

While I journal more extensively at other times, for this practice I write my “singular experience” in a little “Thought A Day” journal that allots just a few short lines to capture a single thought.

The few minutes I spend in these brief personal check-ins each day has encouraged me to take a little time to connect, with tenderness, to myself. It has also allowed me to acknowledge how I am consciously creating my days with meaning. To acknowledge the joys and sorrows of my days, and sense what things I might need to process more deeply.

The weeds are pretty cleared in my garden. My spirit has been nourished and fortified by it all.

How have you been checking in with your Self?

Palms together,

Rev. Jacqueline