BREATHING - LISTENING - CONVERSATION
PRAYER WORKSHOP: Here's some practical tips to help with prayer, "Ignatian Spirituality for Dummies". You may find one, none or all of the following suggestions helpful. They come from the approach suggested by Saint Ignatius Loyola, whose method of prayer and contemplation uses the imagination to bring prayer to life.
Breathing Exercise (adapted from God of Surprises by Gerry W Hughes SJ) This exercise involves concentrating all your attention on the physical feelings of breathing in and breathing out, without deliberately changing the rhythm of your breathing. Focus attention on feeling the cold air entering your nostrils
and the warm air when you exhale.
At first you may become self conscious about your breathing
and find it becomes irregular,
but this does not, as a rule, continue.
If it were to do so, and you find yourself becoming breathless,
then this exercise is not for you at present.
Most people find that on doing this exercise
the pattern of their breathing changes,
the breath becoming deeper and slower,
and they begin to feel drowsy.
In itself, it is a very good relaxation exercise,
but if you care to use it for more explicit prayer,
then let the inbreathing express all that you long for in life,
however impossible it may seem in practice,
and let the out-breath express your surrender of everything to God,
all of your life with its worries, sins, guilt and regrets. Keep your attention fixed
on your desire to hand over all these worries about self,
and do not clutch at them as if they were a treasured possession.
Listening Exercise (adapted from Praying in Lent by Donal Neary SJ)
Sit in your chair, upright but comfortable, with your back supported. Now just notice the sounds that you can hear,
sounds far away.
Just hear them,
don't even try to name them..... Notice fainter sounds,
then sounds which are nearer.
become aware of them..... And the sound of your own heartbeat,
but your own rhythm of life.... And the sound of silence in your place of prayer,
the silence within yourself....
Listen like this for a few minutes.
Conversing with Jesus
Imagine you see Jesus sitting close to you.
In doing this you are putting your imagination at the service of your faith.
Jesus isn't here in the way you are imagining him,
but he certainly is here, and your imagination helps to make you aware of this.
Now, speak to Jesus .... if no one is around, speak out in a soft voice ....
Listen to what Jesus says to you in reply,
or what you imagine him to say ....
That is the difference between thinking and praying.
When we think, we generally talk to ourselves.
When we pray, we talk to God.
(Anthony de Mello SJ, Sadhana ps 78-79)
St Ignatius calls this conversation a 'colloquy', and says:
A colloquy is made, properly speaking, in the way one friend speaks to another,
or a servant to one in authority -
now begging a favour,
now accusing oneself of some misdeed,
now telling one's concerns and asking counsel about them. ....
In the colloquies we ought to converse and beg according to the subject matter;
that is, in accordance with whether I find myself tempted or consoled,
desire to possess one virtue or another,
or to dispose myself in one way or another,
or to experience sorrow or joy over the matter I am contemplating.
And finally I ought to ask for what I more earnestly desire in regard to some particular matters. (The Spiritual Exercises nos 54, 199)