Right now, I'm gently rolling out new artomats while letting my mind wander and body work in small movements. It's podcasts, simple colors, small pieces, sustainable energy.
The timing is grace—a deep-breathed selah—permission for energy-recovery, for paying close attention to my capacity. These tiny paintings are not only what I can offer, but they are also what I need.
This is the beauty of the creative life: generative in so many ways.
When you ask your 9yo what she thinks about one of your latest:
-"That's a very good painting."
What do you like about it?
-"It has a LOT of colors. And I like the circles."
Is there anything else I should do?
-"ummm... a little more circles? And you should put some hearts on it!"
(Swallowing a laugh) Hearts? And what color should the hearts be?
-"Green! Because that would be A REALLY CRAZY color!"
Do you know what only you can do?
When you find out, mix a little awareness, time, courage, and self compassion together and you can do this. We need you to.
"We are not here to do what has already been done."
I've been walking through a series of books recommended by fellow artists, and this one has caught my soul. It reads like the proverbs for Artists. Such practical wisdom on how to approach your creative practice.
The third in this series, which is still ongoing! You can see we move from a few tones and text on the base of the canvas, and are now beginning to shape the overall form. "All" is inspired by the famous words of Julian of Norwich, this timelapse gives you a glimpse at the process of an abstract painting.
My creative people: I can't recommend this enough. It's considered a primer on the creative process. And if you want to be fluent in your creativity, this book holds the key(s).
Since reading, I'm attempting to transition from an intuitive process to a more deliberate approach for conceptual pieces. It feels a bit like jumping off a cliff without knowing if I can stick the landing, but what am I if I am not challenging myself?
(The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp)
These pieces feel like mountains to climb.
A soul-stirring journey.
Each piece carries its own weight, but they are intended as one. And the color is based off one of my most personal abstracts, "Denim," reaching back into my childhood, into clay-stained jeans and dirty knees.
Fitting, as these are about prayer.
Fitting, as I have to reach and kneel just to apply the paint.
Fitting, as that is the life of prayer, reaching and kneeling, and mostly for me: waiting.
There is more to come: We are just laying the foundation on these.
(Time-lapse video of an abstract painting in progress, inspired by The Welcoming Prayer by Thomas Keating.)
Here's a bit of the process. We aren't quite there yet. But this is how far we've come in the beginning stages of Serenity, a contemplative abstract painting inspired by the Serenity Prayer.
During our week I worked behind the scenes to write an examen for our group, pulling from both our time together and my own experiences of reflection and Divine awareness. The idea kept popping up in my mind and around day three a long-time friend and fellow creative, Fred McKinnon, contacted me with the same vision.
And here we are.
I want to share something personal about this examen. I recently experienced a difficult circumstance that left me feeling unsure of what was going on both within myself and in the circumstance itself. In all my journaling, I was only scratching the surface of understanding, without much resolution or hope.
As I previewed this examen, a compassionate understanding washed over me. I was overwhelmed by both facing my own pain and the realization that it was all okay; that there was a Divine presence with me even then. Hope had arrived. The change in me was so real that even Drew noticed a difference, and since then I have been able to dig deeper into this circumstance with an assurance that I am held. Hope carries me.
THIS is the power of the examen, not just in reflecting and stillness and being aware, but also in a direct and real shift within our souls. We can receive a new understanding of ourselves and our circumstances if we allow a moment to recognize the Divine at work.
I know we are each finding a reflective time that works for us, and this one may not be it; and that's okay. But for a moment, enjoy this gift from us to you.
Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. (1 Pet 1:18a, MSG)
- That Life-Changing article on Life-Giving routine HERE. Emphasis on how this changed the game for Mandy this summer, and I'll be referring to this for all of my future habit-planning sessions.
- And an extra bonus resource: she talks more about this in "How to Set Goals Like a Normal Person." Y'ALL. Life-changing x2 right here.
And let's close with these thoughts again, amen?
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
excerpted from Hearts on Fire
Today will be a quieter day, leaning in to the spaciousness of the weekend as I lean into a space of family and rest.
I'm finding that my energy determines the type of Examen I engage. The guided audio examens work best when I'm energized and leaning into calm. The written examens fit those times when I feel overstimulated, the mind buzzing with thoughts, and I am able to use the questions to organize my thoughts and put the pieces of my day together. I let my energy guide me to the examen I need.
Now, today I want to bring you a few simple thoughts on silence and sheep.
“In the silence of the heart You speak, and it is there that I will know You and You know me.” Words by Audrey Assad, sent to us from my Spiritual Director. This is a beautiful song to hold close this weekend whether our days are filled with activity or quiet and restful. Either way, let our examen time be that moment where we can listen in on the dialog of our souls.
This quiet restful moment brings us to sheep. I recently learned that they can’t digest their food unless they are lying down, but the problem is they don’t seem to have a natural instinct to lie down. They would rather eat all day. So the shepherd has to regularly make them stop and digest. All they want to do is wander through the meadow chewing the next blade of grass, but this isn’t what’s best for them. Their bodies aren't able to process the day's nourishment unless they stop.
It’s the same for us: When we stop to digest our day, our souls are restored. We are nourished by the experiences of our day, given a better understanding of ourselves and others, and can listen to the whispers (or cries) of our soul and Spirit. But if we don't stop we won't be able to take in the nourishment.
So, as you're settling into your examen time tonight, remember that this is a moment of nourishment, of digestion—the pause your soul needs to be refreshed and ready for another day.
Those familiar words from Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
What to do if you're run down or running out of time?
Guided Audio Versions
- Our original guided audio mediation, from day 1.
- Another spacious open examen meditation that I often use.
- The Pray as You Go site's guided examens, including one for kids.
- A long-form examen card from Busted Halo, a Catholic media team.
- Here's the Examen card printout from day 2.
Journals that work well with your daily examen time:
- One Line a Day — five year memory journal, a way to keep track of those things that repeat themselves (Thank you Tonya!!)
- Bullet Journal — another system for journaling/organizing your life. THIS is my sanity.
- The Fresh Outlook Journal for short daily entries using the examen.
And soundtrack options while you journal and reflect, from our community.
Resources mentioned in our journey together, with rich insight on the Examen:
- Podcast on numbing out, and how the examen can help you pay attention and not check out from those things that are bugging you.
- Daniel Wolpert's Creating a Life with God, with chapters on the examen and journaling.
- Sleeping with Bread, by the Linn family. It's not a kids book, and it is packed full of examen tips and experiences!
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
Begin today by remembering what brought you to a place of "YES" to getting a handle on your soul and walking this seven day journey with me. There lies your motivation, there lies your answer to the question of why you're doing this and what you want to get out of it. There lies your reason to maintain curiosity for what works and what doesn't, and increasing your spiritual literacy by listening to your own soul.
There is much richness ahead, y'all.
"If you find yourself thinking “oh there it is again," pay attention. That might as well be that neon light in the sky you’ve been praying for."
RESOURCES: Journals are a great way to pay attention and notice patterns as they emerge!
- One Line a Day — five year memory journal, a way to keep track of those things that repeat themselves (Thank you Tonya!!)
- Bullet Journal — a customizable system for journaling/organizing your life. I now use this and I could spend another week talking about how it’s changed my spiritual life.
- And the Fresh Outlook Journal was created for short daily entries using the examen, with easy to remember steps (relish, request, review, repent, resolve)! Seriously: I love this idea. (Thanks, Claudia!)
"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates
Which Examen do you use? By now y'all are discovering that there are multiple formats/versions of the Examen, all centering around reviewing the day. Some of you might like the guided audio (like me), some might prefer a question/journaling style. Experiment, change it up, and go with what works for you!
- Podcast on numbing out, while using the examen as a way to pay attention and not check out, *ESPECIALLY* in times where things are bugging you and you just want to forget about it. This podcast talks more about why it's important to lean in to those moments.
- For other audio versions, the Pray as You Go site has a number of guided examens, including one for kids. Find what works for you and run with it! (Thank you for pointing this out, Dianne!)
Cultivating attention and awareness in an age of distraction.
Quick Poll: Are you getting a daily message from me through your text or email? Holler if you're not and we'll work it out, so you can stay up to date!
- Today's readings are from Daniel Wolpert's Creating a Life with God, with chapters on the examen and journaling.
- More calming soundtrack options from our community, to use as background music for your Examen prayer time if you want to use a written version like the card below. (Big thanks to my friend Fred, a local musician and worship leader, for sharing his creative gifts.)
- Here's the Examen card printout to possibly use with your journal and/or the above worship interludes soundtracks. PDF HERE.(Thank you to Tricia and Tamela for pointing out this resource.)
There are multiple versions of the Examen, so feel free to experiment and find what works for you!
Welcome to Day 1, where we will begin using the spiritual practice of Daily Examen to Cultivate attention and awareness in an age of distraction.
Examen Formats to get us started:
- My favorite guided audio-examen I often just close my eyes and think it through.
- An overview of the examen, explaining the general steps/themes.
How to do this:
- Give yourself 5-20 mins at the start or end of your day, as a time to reflect on the day behind you and turn towards the day ahead.
- Choose an examen format to walk through (see above).
- At the end of your examen meditation (or during) take notes on what stands out; this will increase your awareness and attention to both the happenings of your day and the overall patterns that emerge.
Leave any comments, questions, thoughts here and you'll hear from me again tomorrow!! Love y'all!
I broke up with my kindle around the time I noticed that 1) my eyes were scanning through all text encountered via a screen and 2) smart people were writing about how scrolling has taught our eyes to only scan digital information and 3) other smart people were saying our brains actually retain more of what we read from physical books than from digital.
Yes, the books I don’t want to borrow from the library do add up but it’s far less costly than spending precious time reading/scanning stuff I’m not going to absorb.