Prayer of the Senses

colour faceYou may be tired of how much I talk about the importance of feelings in Ignatian spirituality. We have internal feelings that can indicate God’s pull—these can be strongly tied to emotions. Ignatius asks us our feelings each day and when we contemplate a Gospel passage. But our five senses give us external information that can be helpful in seeing God outside our interior.

One of the most popular clicks on the Prayer Resources page is the link to centring prayer. Why? Probably because it’s outside the norm of prayer we’re used to. For me, centering prayer does not involve a mantra or scripture text. It simply is sitting and being in the presence of God, and noticing God’s presence within me. But I like to take it a step further by being aware of three important senses: touch, hearing, and seeing. In the spectrum of audio and visual stimuli around you, the diversity of God’s world comes to the fore. Here is some guidance on sensual centring prayer.

Touch
Find a comfortable place to sit upright, feet on the ground. Take three slow breaths and close your eyes. Notice your feeling of touch. Feel the pressure of the seat against your bottom, the pressure of your feet against the ground, the weight of your shirt on your shoulders. These small things help hone your focus.

Hearing
colour audioKeep your eyes closed and now change your focus to your hearing. I like to visualise a spectrum of audio from the left of my hearing range, in front of me, and then ending at the far right of my hearing range, like a rainbow of audio. I begin noticing all the sounds coming from the left side of the spectrum, sounds close by and those distant. I hear them without judging them and then slowly move my attention more and more right, just noticing the richness and depth of all the sounds coming to my ears from that direction. You’ll begin to notice that there are a lot more sounds than you realise. There’s not just the sound of a passing car but chatter from people, a baby crying, footsteps, the woosh of the breeze. Again, no judging or explaining or labelling, but just hearing. Continue your focus all the way to right side of your hearing spectrum and then pause.

Seeing
colourful leavesNow open your eyes. Like with the audio spectrum, there is a visual one that goes all the way from the left hand side of your field of vision to your right. No need to move your head; just see what you see. From the left to the right, let your eyes soak in the multitude of colours and shades and shapes. You may notice movement of people or flowers swaying in the breeze. Again, don’t try to explain or label or figure out. Just see, from left to right all that is going on in the visual spectrum.

How is this prayer? Because it puts you in touch with something so real and sacramental that God cannot not be a part of it. This is your chance to really notice the amazing sensual beauty God has given us. As the psalm says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

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Music by Kevin MacLeod

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1 reply

  1. As I am traveling the 31 day journey to the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola with you and the others (http://tinyurl.com/7ndmhrh), I am reminded of how much of a genius St. Ignatius was and how relevant he is today. Ignatian Spirituality focuses on using all of the gifts that God has given us: senses, emotions, intellect and imagination to draw closer to Him. It is perhaps because of this wholeness of prayer that I have always been attracted to Jesuits and others who are deep into Ignatian Spirituality; they seem to have a peacefulness about them that can only come from a deep relationship with God.

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