As I approach the day of my ordination, many people have been asking some variation of the same question (not that I mind). They ask, “Are you feeling nervous? Are you excited?” I am not always sure what to say because, naturally, there is a whole host of experiences that have been taking place the past several days, and true to form, I have been reflecting a lot on my experience, particularly within the context of my holy hour.

I do not normally give personal testimonies of my prayer life, but I have decided to break from that pattern and to write a little about the experience of “nervousness” and “excitement.” As I have mentioned before, I have found time and time again that the key to harnessing the potential of our emotions lies in the ability to move beyond labels and to look at the experience itself. So often when we say that we are nervous or we say that we are excited, we are making a judgment about a whole host of physical sensations.

What I have been playing with in my holy hour is allowing the sensation of excitement to arise without seeking to control it or explain it away. I have been focusing on gently experiencing my heart rhythms, the sensations in my gut, and the many different biological markers that correspond with what’s going on. I have found a few interesting tidbits. First, I have found that the sensation of nervousness is not really that different from excitement, and for that matter not too distinct from fear. As I have sat with the experience, I have been able to notice how my heart beats faster and a kind of ball of energy seems to sit in my gut.

I have also found that this intense energy welling up inside also brings along with it a certain amount of suffering. This does not mean that I am in a “bad” mood or that I am anxious about the upcoming ordination, but rather I am finding that the flowing adrenaline of excitement really clouds that gift of inner stillness. I am realizing more and more how problems arise when such interior movements go unchecked or remain unconscious. Instead of them giving us a boost of energy in order to do God’s will, they can really reek havoc in our lives. I imagine when people are constantly in this heightened state, it really does a number on the body in terms of stress.

Hopefully this post has not been too confessional in nature. My hope is to provide a little window into what I mean by the power of observation. What I have found in the past, and what I recommend, is learning to look at these different movements of the heart without fear or rash labels. Of course, I am not suggesting that I have it all figured out. Like everyone else, I am prone to patterns of disordered thinking, feeling, and desiring, but hopefully these little insights prove helpful.