Day 23 of #31DaysWithIgnatius

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#Day23of31WithIggy: Gratitude is countercultural.

The development of today’s post was particularly challenging because I have been confronted with very strong feelings of anger and disappointment at the actions of someone very close to me.
This occurrence has seen me read over a chapter in my class notes on “Ignatian Discernment and Decision-making,” (I know I’m such a nerd!) in search of the terminology to articulate this particular movement of the #Spirit.

Briefly put, the way of Christ is #countercultural. The devil seduces and tricks us into believing that we are entitled to x, y, z in a consumerist ideology and that we deserve things. Of course we have rights, but the distortion lies in the soleness of taking; without the awareness of where it comes from; that it is a gift in itself from God. (Think, Principle and Foundation, SpEx No. 23)

So although today has brought about its challenges, I am #grateful for them. Human emotions, especially the less-celebrated ones like anger, sadness and disappointment, have their place and purpose. For me, that place is with God; always with God, who is always with me. #ThankYou

#IgnatianSpirituality #31dayswithIgnatius #spex #spex23 #principleandfoundation #31dayswithIgnatius #emotion #anger #counterculture #Jesus #faith #discernment #bemagis #bemore #bemorehuman

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

Insight: How is your Heart?

The following article is from the On Being blog, posing some questions well worth our attention.

On Social Conventions and Getting to the Heart of How We Are
BY EMILY JACOBI (@EMJACOBI),  GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

It began when I was a teenager. Skeptical of why I was being asked, with a adolescent’s proper disdain for convention, I felt a certain squeamishness around the phrase “How are you?” How was I? I was a teenager! I was experiencing all sorts of things — good, bad, mysterious, and otherwise. How could all that be encapsulated with a standard response like “I’m fine”?

As I’ve grown older I’ve mellowed. I appreciate “How are you?” as a ritual that encourages conversation, especially between relative strangers. There is a way of asking, of using eye contact and tone of voice, that indicates the questioner is genuinely interested. Even when its use is perfunctory, asking “How are you?” can be an initial step that leads to deeper conversation.

Even so, I still go through periods of feeling frustrated by the social convention. When I most need to be asked and heard in my response, I am most unsure whether I can answer the question honestly. I’ve watched as I’ve asked the question out of convention to friends, coworkers, and housemates, when I didn’t really have the time or space to fully listen to the answers in all their messy, complicated glory.

It was when I traveled to Chiapas, Mexico a few years ago that I learned a different way to approach this standard question. Working with a community of Mayan villagers who were facing eviction from the Mexican authorities, my organization, Digital Democracy, was training them in photography, video, and satellite communications. I was working specifically with women in the community, most of whom only spoke a few words of Spanish, so I learned a few words of their language, Tzoltzil, one of the family of Mayan languages still spoken today. K’uxa-elan? they taught me to ask as I greeted people in community. “How is your heart?” is the English translation.

How is your heart? I would practice asking the villagers — to grandmothers (abuelas) and little kids alike. “My heart is seated” (their poetic way of saying “my heart is at peace”) was the most common response, but they deployed dozens of heart-centered metaphors to describe how they were doing, far beyond what I was capable of learning in my days there.

How is your heart? It, too, is a social convention in the Tzotzil Mayan community, yet, when asked in English, has a tender quality to it and sends a signal from the questioner: Hey, I really care about you and how you are doing.

I’ve practiced asking it, both of others and of myself. It’s not a question I’m likely to pose to a random person on the street. And I certainly won’t ask it of my housemate when I pass her in the kitchen as I’m running out the door to catch the train. But, when I want to take a moment to settle in, to catch up with that same housemate over tea, or to indicate that I am open to deeper connection to a new friend, it’s a question that is surprisingly appropriate — partly because it is a question we so rarely ask ourselves.

“How is your heart?” has quite a few things going for it over “How are you?” It is more specific, allowing the person being asked to focus on just one aspect of their complex being. The unexpected question implicitly gives permission to the person being asked and allows them to pause, check in with their heart (both literally and metaphorically), and answer in a way that is likely to be genuine. Even if the person being asked isn’t interested in sharing a vulnerable response, a response like “my heart is angry” or “my heart is closed” is acceptable, giving the questioner an idea of how to transition or appropriately end the conversation.

How is your heart? When we start conversations by connecting our talking selves to our bodies, we bring more of ourselves into the interaction. We might recognize anxiety or stress that was otherwise bubbling under the surface, impacting us without our conscious awareness. Or it may help us recognize a feeling of expansiveness and joy that accompanies spending time with certain friends. Whatever the answer, it is likely to be useful.

When I was younger, I often wondered about the heart as a metaphor. Was it just a poetic expression, a cultural projection on a body part? That seemed the most rational explanation. A Western, scientific worldview taught me that it was simply a part of the body, made of muscle and blood, and any meaning we assigned to it was metaphorical.

Traveling all over the world and working with cultures and languages vastly different from my own, from southeast Asia to southern Africa, from the rainforests of the Amazon to the desert sands of the Sahara, I’ve been pleased to learn how wrong I was. Metaphors for the heart exist in every language I’ve encountered, and the colloquial ways we talk about it. “Heartache” and “the heart of the matter” seem to me to be anything but accidental. There’s a growing body of scientific evidence around this, too, with books like The Heart’s Code connecting ancient traditions to the experience of heart-transplant recipients and the HeartMath Institute’s pioneering research into the way the heart and brain communicate with one another in a more reciprocal way than previously assumed. What will we know about our hearts 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now? A great deal more that we currently imagine.

So, if you haven’t already, I invite you to take a deep breath and ask yourself: How is your heart? I’m asking because I want to know, because I think it matters. Because I’ve learned that how my heart is doing matters. Because the world of human affairs is messy and complicated, and it seems to me that the more we pay attention to one another’s hearts the better off we’ll all be.

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Another Side of Romance

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In light of upcoming Valentine’s Day, Vinita Hampton Wright reflects on:

…What happens to a person willing to be swept up in love.

Romance requires an open heart. Whether you are lifted out of yourself by a kiss or by a prayer of deep contemplation, neither can happen before you say yes to the possibility. Yes sets in motion new relationships, new conversations, and new avenues for showing others care. You don’t get to the kiss before you allow your eyes to meet another’s. You don’t get to the gifts of friendship until you say yes to the talk over coffee. You don’t get to that sense of the Divine until you say, in some part of yourself, yes, even though you have no idea what you’re saying yes to.

Romance is risk. It’s difficult to experience romance of any kind while you are fearful and self-protecting. So, whether or not February 14 signals to you the celebration of a significant other, I believe that God wants to see real romance in your life. Divine Love wants you brave and joyful. If you don’t feel particularly brave or joyful, be willing to get there. That’s a start.

For me, what’s important is our openness and ability to make space on our hearts for love. Sometimes we might say out loud that we love one another, but perhaps more often, talk about having love for another (“Do unto others…”) in our regard for the other. Yet children express it so freely, even though it is known to the adult: “I love you to the moon, around the sun and around the world 500 times and back.” Why might that be?

Perhaps it has to do with a child’s innocence; not naiveté but innocence. Love is so important to them. Expressing it is so important. And therein lies the fort of being,  waiting to be unlocked with the key of courage.

You don’t get to that sense of the Divine until you say, in some part of yourself, yes, even though you have no idea what you’re saying yes to.

Romance is risk. It’s difficult to experience romance of any kind while you are fearful and self-protecting.

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Reflection:
• In prayer, do you allow for romance with God’s love?
• “Only by loving and being loved does one become truly human.” -William Johnston SJ

Four Voices, One Message

Words do not convey the gratitude and joy I feel for having stumbled upon this jewel-of-an-example of what good humanity can achieve. If you watch one video today, make it this one.

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Beyond (L-R): Dechen Shak-Dagsay, Tina Turner, Regula Curti and Sawani Shende-Sathaye.

“Beyond” is a compilation of song and prayer featuring four different voices that convey one shared universal truth.

The opening lines say:

A compassionate heart takes the fear away and gives inner strength. It is vital to educate the heart beyond yourself. The true meaning of life is love. By giving, you find true happiness.

You can watch the video here through SBS.

Insight: Eternal Communion

It is by the love of God through his incarnate Son, joined in the Spirit that we are here. We are social beings, community-seekers and home-makers.

I found this insight cause for meditation tonight, so I share it with you.

I am created for eternal communion.

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Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

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Image: A crying woman in a refugee camp, from Ethicaltraveler.org

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, on which we recall the suffering and sorrow of Mary. She is venerated as a companion to those who suffer, and as an intercessor in times of our need.

Suffering and sorrow is part of being human. Yet no matter how dark things can seem, you are never alone in your pain. We always have Christ, our most Faithful Companion, and through him his Mother, Mary,  and ours too. 

Speak Up on Mental Illness

Keeping-Company.com FCJ SistersThe death of Robin Williams has struck a cord with many people. Many were shocked by it, saying that they could not have imagined someone so uplifting, funny and well-loved, succumb to suicide. But to put it bluntly: that’s life for you, and the indiscriminate and unbiased nature of mental illness. Unfortunately, an uncomfortable silence continues.

And that’s the point of Australia’s R U Ok? Day, appropriately following on from yesterday’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Far from being “just another” good cause or campaign to support, these initiatives seek to dispel social taboos and myths on mental illness and offer support to the multitude affected by this condition, by making connections, encouraging conversation and opening up.

Even if you haven’t personally experienced depression or anxiety, or witnessed a mental breakdown, chances are likely that someone around you has or is going through it right now.

You don’t have to be a doctor or medical professional. You don’t have to be a counsellor. You don’t even have to know them very well or be their best friend and confidante. All you need to do in this kind of accompaniment is to be open-minded, open-hearted and compassionate so we can speak up on mental illness.

Let’s all be a little kinder to one another and to ourselves today. Let’s all be a little gentler and more welcoming with our time, presence and availability. A few minutes or a few words to someone in need can help them and make all the difference. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, click here to access a list of services available. And that’s the truth: there is help available, there is someone willing to listen and there is someone who cares.

God is our Faithful Companion

From Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI:

Faith promises no magic pass-cards.

What it does promise is that God will be with us so that we do not have to walk through loneliness, sickness, violence, anxiety, fear, and death alone. We have a hand to grasp, a love to embrace, a truth to cling to, and a power to sustain us (even through death itself). We walk in the same world as everyone else, but, like a young child holding on to her mother’s hand as she walks into school for the first time, we are not alone, a trusted, sustaining, guiding love walks with us. God doesn’t remove us from what can hurt us, but walks with us amidst it all.

Perhaps it is because tonight I needed to hear these words in my heart that I feel it, but God really is our Faithful Companion.

When family and friends and plain old ‘good fortune’ seem to fall away, faith is knowing that no matter the storm, God is always with us, Emmanuel.

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Living Courageously

I received a lovely email from a sister wishing me a blessed time on the upcoming pilgrimage, which ended with: “…may you be gifted with much ‘courage and confidence, but above all great confidence.’ -Marie Madeleine.”

Henri Nouwen has the following to say on courage:

“Have courage,” we often say to one another.  Courage is a spiritual virtue.  The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart.”  A courageous act is an act coming from the heart. A courageous word is a word arising from the heart.  The heart, however, is not just the place where our emotions are located.  The heart is the centre of our being, the centre of all thoughts, feelings, passions, and decisions.

To live courageously then is to live from the heart; impassionedly, authentically and humbly.

For Reflection:
• How is your heart? Describe its colour, weight or feel. Is it light or heavy? Does it feel full and vibrant or sunken in and wary? Perhaps there are pebbles resting at the bottom, and you only notice their rattling if you let your heart be moved. Do you know what feelings, qualities or attributes lie in your heart at this moment?

• When did you last have a ‘heart-to-heart’ conversation with a friend or loved one? When did you last have one with God?

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Heart via 'Google Image Search'

VIDEO: How To Change The World

The following post contains a video.  If you cannot see it in your email, please click here.

I have only just discovered “Kid President”, a series of web clips starring a young boy with a huge heart. Many of his videos are remarkably refreshing, injecting humour,  dynamism and authentic goodness into the online world. This one in particular has a wonderful message for us all: the world is changed by ordinary people – little people living out big love.