Developing Spiritual Lifestyle Practices - Day Two: Cultivating Heart Attention


Today we are going to continue our exploration of the twelve spiritual lifestyle practices that are outlined by Fr. Richard Rohr in his excellent book Just This. 

Rohr calls the second of the twelve practices: Cultivating Heart Attention.  

I have a really hard time paying attention for any length of time.  It's something I've dealt with my whole life.  I  probably would have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder when I was a kid.  

I was what they referred to over and over again in my progress reports, a daydreamer.  

Honestly, I was bored.  I had a hard time focusing on one thing at a time, so my way out was to drift into my imagination where I could think about all kinds of things at once.

As time went by, I grew to hate myself for those kinds of episodes.  I wanted to be like everyone else---rather than some slack-jawed idiot who stared off into space, thinking about God-knows-what.  

Funny thing... I wish I could think like that again.  I would love to just sit quietly and let my imagination drift to places that weren't marked by deadlines, schedules or all of the things I think are pressing.  

I long to be in touch with my heart again---to feel the wonder of letting my thoughts go to wherever they wish, and to follow them with joy.  

This is what Fr. Richard means when he says that we should cultivate heart attention--to think deeply from our hearts rather than about them.  If we do this fully, we will discover that we will go deeper into our feelings, desires, longings and secret prayers than ever before.   

If we don't allow ourselves to truly feel, to pay attention to what our heart has to tell us about ourselves, it will be nigh to impossible for us to live into the unique and grand purpose that God means for us to fulfill.  

I mean, how would we know what to do, how to act, what to say to a world that desperately needs to believe us when we speak of life and love if we haven't fully experienced both?  Fr. Richard puts it like this:  
I wonder if deep love for anything is possible if we have never dwelt there, at least for a few moments. 
Some of you might be afraid to let yourself feel.  You might be wary of your feelings, distrustful of them because of things that have happened to you in the past.  

I  read this amazing poem by Thomas Merton that inspires me to move forward in courage when it comes to my heart attention:  
Perhaps I am stronger than I think.
Perhaps I  am even afraid of my strength, and turn it against
myself, thus making myself weak.
Making myself secure, Making myself guilty.
Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me.
Perhaps I would rather be guilty and weak in myself,
than strong in Him whom I cannot understand. 
May you find the space and the quiet to think deeply from your heart.  May you discover the strength to feel your feelings, to experience life and love in ways you never thought possible.  

May you discover that at the very center of everything you are thinking and feeling is none other than God.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  

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