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  • evansph2

St. Ignatius of Loyola was a Catholic Saint from the 1500s who founded the Jesuit order of priests. He also developed a daily practice called an “examen” which the priests used to assess each day. It isn’t so much as “assessment” or an "exam"as in did I accomplish great things etc. But it is an opportunity to look back over each day to see how you spent it and what you might learn from it. It has been rewritten in several different fashions and is used outside the Catholic world as well. The practice is meant to take 10 minutes or less at the end of the day. This is a version that I learned of from the Irish poet and theologian Padraig O’Tuama.

Consider these questions each evening with an open heart.

1. Tell the story of the day – just recall how you spent the day – what activities were you engaged in?

2. What moments stick out? Either because they were pleasant or unpleasant, surprising or especially meaningful.

3. What led to life – in the broadest sense? What part of your day was most life-giving?

4. What wisdom do you want to take from today?

5. Think about tomorrow.

And here is a related poem for you by Rosemary Wahtola Trommer

So sweepingly pink

the sunset over the city

that it pours

into the emptiness—

not to fix it, no,

more as if to show

what a little splendor can do

when given a place

to enter.

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  • evansph2

My friend, Phyllis Bertke, wrote this reflection after reading last week's post about being in nature. With her permission I share it here and thank you Phyllis!

I want to tell you that, after many years of seeking, I have found a mindfulness practice that I look forward to almost every day. It’s a 10- to 20-minute walking meditation outside. The tricks that keep me engaged are that I do it very slowly and in a different place every time.

It’s not every day because I only do it when I go someplace else first. I stop somewhere … anywhere … on my way home. And suddenly I’m seeing stuff I never would have seen if I had been walking with a friend or walking to get somewhere.

It doesn’t seem to matter where I am: residential area, shopping center, construction zone, nature trail …. and one day I even stumbled upon a woodsy area in the middle of a built-up commercial area and found a plaque saying it is a cemetery for African American members of a church dating from 1858 to 1926. There is no church any more, and no grave markers were to be seen, but soft spots in the carpet of leaves I was walking on indicated where the graves were. That sort of discovery is unusual of course, but so far no place I’ve been has been boring.

And I take pictures. I’ve been amazed at the wonderful ones I’ve been able to find…. so amazed that I started a journal with photos from the walk, a screenshot of an All Trails map showing where I was, and sometimes some words. I even have a new printer that happens to print excellent photos without a lot of tweaking, and every time a new page comes out of my printer, it’s like a chocolate truffle --- such a gift!

The whole experience is both calming and stimulating, and it’s helping me feel more connected to my world. I hope I will stay enthusiastic enough to keep it up for a long time.

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  • evansph2

A friend of mine told me that she has an intention to be outdoors for at least 23 minutes every day in 2023. What a lovely aspiration! It is way too easy for me to hole up inside where it is warm – even in California! – in the winter. How hard it is to convince myself to “endure” even the mildest bit of discomfort. The Buddhists talk about how we are mostly on a constant path of seeking something different than what is. Even sitting in our easy chair, we shift our weight, cross and uncross our legs – all in a more or less constant attempt to be comfortable. There is nothing wrong with seeking comfort, but there is value in also learning to accept, abide, “endure” mild discomfort. It is good practice for the times when we absolutely must abide discomfort. The constant pursuit of something different from what is, is a habit I am trying to look at.

I also heard of another friend who spends a few minutes outdoors each night at sunset. She quietly observes the sunset and reminds herself each evening that “time is passing”. Of course it is, but we so often forget to notice! I love the moments of sunset – it’s usually quiet outdoors as the world settles in for the night. It’s a lovely thing to notice.

So, I am going to attempt to observe both of these habits by combining them. My plan will be to sit outdoors each evening at sunset and enjoy the truth of whatever temperature or weather condition is present. (though I will be sitting under the roof of our balcony!) I love to listen to a quiet piece of music as the sun sets. I have been good about doing that in the summer, but it never occurred to me to do it in winter too. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Here is a poem I wrote last summer about twilight. I will attempt to enjoy it this way in winter too!!


I love dusk…

how the evening takes the hand

of afternoon and they saunter,

watching the fireflies along the side of the road –

How they listen for the quieting of the birds,

the waking of the cicadas.

How the stars begin their slow appearance,

though, of course, they’ve been there all along.

Day and night hand in hand

walking toward the horizon…

How day softens her grip

and slips off toward tomorrow,

darkness waving until she is out of sight.

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