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“If we hope to move beyond the superficialities of our culture — including our religious culture — we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation” (Richard J. Foster).
MANY OF US SUFFER FROM AN INSUFFICIENT AMOUNT OF SELF-EXAMINATION. We don’t engage in “introspection” often enough; that is, we don’t “look within” ourselves — or if we do, we don’t consider very carefully what we see there. It’s an amazing fact, actually, that we can not only think, but we can think about our thinking. We can stand at a distance and observe our own thought processes. And that’s a wonderful ability which we ought to use more often. So today, let’s turn our thoughts inward and “introspect.”
Paying attention. The first way we can be introspective is simply to pay attention to what we’re thinking. That sounds simple and it is, but we don’t often do it. We plow through our daily agendas so furiously that our thoughts run here and there without our giving them any more than passing notice. And as a result, all manner of unhelpful and unworthy “stuff” sneaks in and takes up residence in our minds.
Listening. It’s a rare moment that we’re not talking, either verbally to someone else or inwardly to ourselves. But great good comes from learning how to turn off the chatter and just listen. In particular, we need to listen to our consciences. Often, our consciences have crucial things to say to us, but we can’t hear them because there’s too much noise. We desperately need to acquire the habit of listening.
Correcting. Paying attention to our thoughts and feelings, and even listening to our conscience, is not enough, however, if we don’t make the corrections in our thinking that these exercises indicate need to be made. One of our greatest endowments is the freedom we have to make deliberate adjustments in the way we think. This freedom is a marvelous gift, and we ought not to waste it or lose its benefit.
In truth, there’s no substitute for introspection. Without it, we’re lost. And mark it well: if we’re not examining ourselves inwardly, being busy is no excuse. That just means we need to do it all the more.
“Half an hour’s listening is essential except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed” (Francis de Sales).