Models for developing a Discerning Heart
Jane Delisle, CSJ

1.  Prayer: daily regular times of prayer or a variety; prayers thinking about the meaning of words; reflective, quiet presence; scripture reading, study prayer; spiritual reading; contemplation (a being with, listening to the God within in love). Remember, the person who does not pray cannot discern at all: the prayerful person is the discerning person.

2.  Review of Prayer: At the end of a period of prayer, spend some time noticing what happened during that prayer experience. Notice the movement within yourself - what did you feel and what were the changes?

3.  Daily Awareness Examen: A prayerful review of the day to see God's presence and my response in the ordinary events, persons and circumstances of the day. Be attentive to the feelings within yourself as you reflect.

4.  Journalling is writing to concretise, symbolise and monitor one's experience. It is not a diary, but rather a flowing onto the page from the heart and feelings. The journal is my feelings, moods and aspirations expressed in imagery strictly for my own eyes. The unconscious breaks through into my awareness. Ask 'what' questions rather than 'why' questions, ie: What is happening? What am I asked? What did I do? What do I feel like? What does this feeling look like or feel like? What was/is my experience? This is a way of monitoring the internal dynamics so we can address ourselves to the blocks which reduce our inner freedom, compassion and attitudes.

5.  Spiritual direction is the process in which an individual is led and encouraged to discover their unique call in life. It is a means by which a person may faithfully correspond to the grace of the Holy Spirit as it is revealed through all situations and events in life. Spiritual direction helps one clarify, objectify and verify one's religious experiences within life experiences.

6.  Dream Work: Dreams are nature's way of expressing freely what is going on in the unconscious, blocked in some way from emerging into the conscious.
A discerning family
     To cultivate an awareness of what is happening in the dream and to be friendly to this material, even without understanding its
     precise significance, is a therapeutic experience. Some work with dreams is even more helpful because one begins to understand its
     message for one's life and well being.

7.  Review of Life is a process of recalling and reflecting on my life story in light of the Gospel and faith with another person or persons. Also in a more personal reflection revisit significant experiences and stay with the feelings which arise knowing that it is okay to feel what you feel. Talk to yourself from a place of new wisdom gained since that event happened, giving the caring presence you needed then but did not receive. You may want to share this experience with a trusted friend or spiritual companion.

8.  Inner healing, or the healing of memories, is the process of recalling past hurts, real or suspected, recognised or still buried in the unconscious, and allowing these to surface in the loving atmosphere of prayer that evokes the presence of God. The healing comes from the conscious acceptance of the hurt or its scars and this is made possible through the loving presence of one who accepts you unconditionally, namely, the Lord who is mediated to you through the praying community or the minister.

9.  Focusing involves learning to hold the body-feel of what lies inside you in a more caring and gentle way. Focusing is a means of becoming aware of and attentive to the feelings within oneself and to recognise how it is carried in the body. It provides a means of listening to the feeling's story expressed through images, words, phrases, symbols which naturally arise from within the person. There is an inner resource within each of us, a body-sense for the next step in life.

10.  Enneagram is an ancient character typology and not a methodology. Enneagram acknowledges that everyone is different and provides a framework, an understanding of one's style of responding to life. A person's style comes out of the interior dynamics of which only the individual is aware. One's dominant strength can also become one's awareness of God's love which is always present. Enneagram offers another way to come to self-knowledge. It helps one identify things that are not conscious and to explore motivation and not just behaviour. It reveals both one's strength and one's compulsions which hinder the authentic self and inner freedom. The Enneagram can be a tool for conversion.

11.  Counselling: When issues, feelings or moods consistently block one's relationships, growth and sense of well-being, counselling may be helpful. Counselling deals primarily with our emotions, whereas guidance is informational in its intent. Counselling presupposes a certain skill in dealing with the dynamics of the psyche and communicating these insights. One works through personal issues which may be inhibiting growth and personal development.

12.  12-Step Programmes: While not a specifically religious programme, the 12-step programme is harmonious with spiritual beliefs and religious affiliation. It is a spiritual program of recovery from addictions, co-dependency etc. It is a program that helps persons to discover the spiritual parts of themselves and recognise their importance in their lives. Individuals learn to live according to the guidance of their Higher Power, whatever that may be. Through mutual support and working through progressive steps one comes to find relief from suffering, emptiness and a help to discover a Power greater than oneself. This helps release quantities of energy, love and joy which are bottled up inside.

"Prayer leads to faith, faith leads to love, love leads to service and service leads to joy."
(Mother Teresa)


This is the case in every vocational life choice.

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