This post is part of the Advent retreat, “Small Simple Ways to Open Mind, Heart, and Spirit.” Watch the retreat introduction video here.
The posts for previous weeks of this Advent retreat have addressed opening mind, heart, and spirit to God. As we continue through the final week of Advent, we might consider some keys to what I call an open soul—the whole person.
Certain keys are nearly universal; they work for just about everybody.
Gratitude. Noticing and expressing thanks for what is good in us and in life generally will make it easier to open ourselves to God’s gifts in this moment. “Thank you” accompanies receiving, and receiving happens only when we are open.
Remembered history. One of the greatest enemies of openness is fear. We fear that God will not help us, hear us, provide what we need, rescue us from pain. However, if we are careful to keep records of what God has already done through the years, we can counteract today’s fears.
Faithful company. We cannot overestimate the powerful effects of the company we keep. If we spend time with people who stir us to faith, hope, and love, our own progress in those qualities will benefit. If we want to be hopeful and open toward God, we can dwell with family members, church members, friends, and neighbors who practice hope and receptivity.
Other keys to an open soul are personal, and you must identify them for yourself. But here are a few examples.
Healthy emotional stimulation. What fuels your feelings of hope and expectation this time of year? I have a collection of Christmas music that plays throughout this season; the carols, hymns, and instrumentals stir me and trigger the emotional aspects of openness to God’s gifts.
Sacred stories and poems. By “sacred” I mean not only Scripture stories but also any stories—poems, essays, and reflections—that appeal to your intuitive sense of God’s presence. They reawaken your deeply held beliefs about holiness and love.
The natural world. Try some deep breathing outdoors when snow is falling or when sun is slanting over your yard or street near day’s beginning or end. Nature reminds our bodies that we are involved in existence that reaches far beyond our own blood and bones. We are held in a larger, more glorious creation, and anything is possible.
Loved ones. During this final week of Advent, meditate on the people in your life: parents, spouse, children, grandchildren, friends. Make a point to talk with loved ones, hug them, smile at them, and listen to them. For those of us whose loved ones include pets, the same applies. My daily prayer is helped greatly by a cat in my lap, purring and demanding “lovies” from me. How can I not be open to life when people and creatures around me offer such bliss?
God has created a world that provides so many wonderful triggers for happiness, hopefulness, and openness. Take advantage of them all!
This retreat is inspired by Vinita’s new book Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living. Purchase your copy at the special retreat price of $10 by using the code 5175 at loyolapress.com.*
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