The Way of Dis-Engagement

For most people, the hardest thing about meditation or prayer or doing the examen is starting. That shift, from everyday reality to an inward focus, is a bumpy one. You might need to try a few times before dis-engagement feels comfortable and natural.

Put your electronics completely away. (No don’t use your cellphone as a clock!) Even with your eyes closed, you will attend to a flash from a device, so get them out of sight. Don’t worry about what someone might think if they see you. Just focus on yourself. At first, you will need a quiet space. Ideally it would at home, but most of us don’t have a lot of private space at home. It could be in your parked car, or in the back room during a lunch break, or somewhere else where you won’t be disturbed.

Take 10 deep breaths, very slowly. This alone will signal to your body to slow down. Most of us breathe too rapidly and shallowly anyway. If it helps you, imagine yourself breathing in light and warmth and exhaling stress. Don’t try to do anything else while you are breathing in and out; use your fingers to keep track of your breaths. At the end of ten, you can keep breathing, but allow yourself to listen to your own thoughts.

When you start to attend to your thoughts, they might be all over the place. You’ll realize that your body is restless. You’ll remember the name of that actor you were talking about yesterday. You will remember that you have undone tasks. You will probably feel anxious. Just let the thoughts come and then go, like waves on the beach. They will eventually slow down.

Now you are ready for inner work; either reviewing your life or reading a passage of Scripture, or just connecting to God in meditation. Just the act of disengaging will have health benefits and assist you in dealing with stress. When you feel done with your spiritual practice, whatever it is, it sometimes helps to have an ending ritual; making the sign of the cross, counting ten breaths again, or standing to stretch. Now you can go back to “ordinary time”; hopefully a little calmer and more in touch with yourself.

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