I’m not feeling very creative today. I don’t feel full of passion or positive motivation. Most of what I feel is fear – fear that I’m behind in the work I’m supposed to be accomplishing, fear of future decisions, fear that my housemates and I won’t be able to find a place to live by September 1st.
“But I have to write a CreativiTea blog entry today,” I thought as I walked to the kitchen to refill on tortilla chips. “Well, I can write about how I’m trying to cope with all these things. That may not be about creativity, but it is surely about faith.” So here it is.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a prayer retreat led by Susan Phillips where we explored the examen, a practice of Ignatian spirituality. Broadly speaking, the examen is a method of examining your life and seeking the truth that it reveals; more specifically, a common way of practicing the examen is to sit down at the end of the day and ask yourself what you are most and least grateful for in that day. Susan recommended a book called “Sleeping With Bread” as a good introduction to the practice, and I’ve bought it, read it, and am trying to do the examen every day now.
The title “Sleeping with Bread” comes from a story of children orphaned in World War 2; the children were having trouble sleeping until someone hit on the idea of giving them a piece of bread to hold as they slept, a reassurance that there would be food and shelter for them when they woke. And I have found the examen to be that in my life so far. Doing it as a ritual every night has provided a safe place to decompress at the end of long, busy days. It has also helped me stay balanced between despair and denial by forcing me to confront what was hard about the day, but also by reminding me what was good and joyful.
Besides being a helpful practice on its own, doing the examen has shown me the importance of having daily (and weekly and yearly) rituals, not only for their inherent stability, but their ability to sustain us in all aspects of our lives – spiritual, mental, physical, and definitely our creative lives.
What rituals do you have that support and sustain your (creative – spiritual – emotional – etc.) life?