It may be a good time to renew your spiritual life and to seek the peace and loving support of God, our Father. As I mentioned in my article on mental health here, God has helped me greatly in the continuing work of improving my life. If you have not yet developed a spiritual life, today may be a good day to start. Keep it simple. Find a quiet place where you are most likely to be free of distractions and interruptions. Try to relax and centre yourself. There are many ways of doing this. You might find it helpful to focus on breathing in and out. As you breathe in, imagine you are filling yourself with God's peace and love. As you breathe out, imagine you are expelling all of the stressful thoughts occupying your mind.
If you desire peace and love in your life, invite God into your heart and see what happens. Some people experience a dramatic change. Others notice subtle responses from God. God meets us wherever we are, in the middle of all our messy and chaotic lives, so do not wait to be perfect and have your life in order before you invite God into your heart and soul. God wants us to receive His infinite love and to love one another, but love is not a virtue that we master through our own will power. It is actually one of the infused graces... It is a gift from God. personal development
Below you can find a few tips that helped me to establish and nourish my relationship with God. They have been well tested through the centuries...
God communicates with us in many ways. Few people hear God talking to them with an audible voice. This is partly because God usually communicates with us through our feelings. Do you sometimes feel peace even though something is falling apart? It is likely that it is God telling you that all will be well. God is gentle and quiet and His communication with us is like that too. You can only receive God's communication if you are quiet and spend time within... the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola offer one of the best sets of practices to follow for those who want to learn how to experience God in daily life. When I discovered these spiritual exercises it was a complete revelation to me. I felt that I had not even known what I had been missing all these years. I had never conceived that it would be possible for me to have a deep, intimate, relationship with God, each day of my life. Nobody, not even the nuns, had ever taught me how to develop it. It was as if a secret had been kept from me all those years.
I like psychology, and it has helped me in the past, but my spiritual life is a much better source of inspiration and transformation for me. For me, the difference between the progress I have made through psychology and that of my spiritual life is like the difference between inching along at a snail's pace and travelling at the speed of light. God intervenes to save me when I am drowning in my emotions. These experiences are very tangible and often daily. I suspect that we all experience them but we just attribute them to our own efforts. With a little of insight, and some self-observation, you may quickly learn to notice and become aware of God communicating with you.
One of the rules of St. Ignatius of Loyola describes well how God communicates with us: "In persons who are going on intensely purifying their sins and rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord, (...) it is proper to the evil spirit to bite, sadden and place obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, so that the person may not go forward. And it is proper to the good spirit to give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations, and quiet, easing and taking away all obstacles, so that the person may go forward in doing good.”
(...) I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy that calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one's soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord".
On one occasion, a few years ago, I felt very sad for no obvious reason. After a few days it suddenly occurred to me, could this be a desolation or a temptation? As soon as I asked myself that question, the feeling vanished and I felt normal again. "Wow!", I thought. As St. Ignatius explains, we are influenced by good and evil spirits, so not all of our feelings are our own. Discern what is happening within you. Reject and disown thoughts and feelings that you do not like especially when it becomes obvious that it is a temptation.
Spiritual awareness and a relationship with God will not prevent us from suffering or give us permanent bliss but it will give us a deep peace and joy that the world cannot give, and which will sustain us and definitely help us in a very significant way, through all the trials of our lives. I feel I have made great progress in my life since I discovered Fr Timothy Gallagher, OMV's, teachings on St. Ignatius' rules of discernment. I would call it a "game changer". You can access Fr Timothy Gallagher's podcasts here.
I especially love his lectures on the discernment of God's will and I have applied it many times in my life, with amazing results. I used to think that God always wanted me to deny myself what I desired... but what I have learned from St. Ignatius is that some of my desires actually come from God! What a transforming surprise. I remember discerning whether I should marry my now husband. I was torturing God for a month and then I felt God asking me: "What do YOU want?" I was shocked. I was not used to thinking of what I wanted.
God also told me, in a powerful experience, what my vocation is and then also showed me how it would look, in practice. I realised that the dreams I had been having, for years, were coming from God and not just me. That made me very happy. Also when I have my moments of doubt, I remind myself that this is God's mission and I am just His disciple, so all will be well. It is definitely out of my character to have this kind of confidence and not to worry about the million things that can go wrong. I could not recommend more highly the learning of St. Ignatius' rules for discerning God's will. You can find them here. Fr Timothy Gallagher often refers to, "setting the captives free". This well describes my experience. In the case of both my marriage and my vocation, I felt free to follow my desires. This is because, after a process of discernment, I felt it was God's will also. This gave me the permission to go ahead, even if my choices were far from easy, or risk-free.
I remember, some time ago, I was on a train on my way home from work, when I could sense a wave of anxiety approaching. It was nearly as strong as a panic attack. I had just quit my job so I had reason to worry. I thought, "there is no way I can face this", so I prayed to Our Lady. Instantly I felt this wave of fear "missed me" like a bullet. It passed me by.
I learned something important after my conversion to faith. Whenever I ask for Our Lady's intercession, my prayers are granted very quickly. I do not know why this happens more than when I pray directly to God. Perhaps I trust in God too little and I do not have enough faith... or perhaps, as the Church teaches, God chooses to grant us many graces through Jesus' Mother. After all She was His most faithful companion here on Earth. After Jesus, She was the only human being who resisted all sin. I find God intimidating sometimes but Mary is truly my refuge and She is truly my most loving Mother. All that started when, after my New Age experience, I found demons were tormenting me and I was afraid to sleep. I was scared to death and exhausted after several sleepless nights. One night, when I felt I could not take it anymore, I took a picture of Our Lady off the wall and hugged it. I fell asleep instantly and started recovering right then.
I know that some Christians have a problem with Catholic devotion to Mary. If that is your obstacle, reflect on the wedding feast of Cana. Would Jesus have performed His miracle if His Mother had not asked? He did not want to be involved but He helped, just because She asked. Can you refuse your Mother's request? I love to think that Mary is God's "soft spot". She is so loving and sweet that She is irresistible. Jesus must find it hard to refuse His Mother's requests.