Naming Your Sensations

“Vanity of vanities” (Eccl. 1:2). That’s what I call it. I don’t want to simply call it a feeling. That word seems too limited to describe the whole experience. Often, this vanity of vanities moment involves a series of thoughts and feelings. However, there is also a kind of primal sensation; a sinking feeling in my gut that prompts an almost visceral response.

While learning how to name it, I have also learned how to resist it. Sure, it is a desolation, but it is also a kind of desolation. Learning to see the sensation, describe it, and gently resist it is incredibly helpful in ultimately learning to look past it.

We all have a whole gamut of experiences which pass through our awareness. Learning to taste grace means that we have to a develop a way of connecting with our experience and gently trying to discover the authentic work of the Holy Spirit. Such intuitive awareness of the cycles of our interior life is not as simple as it may sound.

It takes time, practice, and guidance. In terms of time, we must give ourselves the opportunity to listen to what is going on. In learning to listen, we have to try out different forms of responding. Sometimes, we have to sit and suffer the moment, In other situations, we have to arouse our will to fight the thought traps which keep us ensnared in unhealthy ruminations. And all of this must take place in a whole network of friendships and relationships because discernment is not an isolated activity.

That is why meditation is so vital to the spiritual life. Unscripted time with Jesus leads us to explore our experience and connect it with his gentle presence.