As we learn to see and experience the different sensations that make up our physical and interior lives, our gentle observation leads to greater freedom and self-mastery. The acquired skill of observation, mindfulness if you will, allows us to let go of the fear and anxiety that often accompanies uncomfortable aspects of our interior life. Along these lines, it represents a kind of middle ground between repression and immoral license. Thus, instead of fighting temptation with an iron clad will, we walk a path that actually leads to virtuous living.

This does not mean that we give into our temptations nor act upon them. Neither does it mean that all aspects of our interior life are to be cultivated. Rather, observation is a first step in learning to sift through and reject those thoughts, feelings, desires, and sensations which are not accord with God’s design. Observation teaches us that even disordered thoughts, feelings, and desires are not to be feared, but rather allowed to surface in the safety of prayer. It is by these means that will the come to the place of stillness.

In addition, we should not think of this non-judgmental awareness as an isolated activity for self-help, but rather a powerful way of relating our experience to the Lord. By cultivating the ability to experience our physical and interior life with a non-judgmental awareness, we learn to present everything to Jesus Christ with total surrender. Nothing is off limits, and thus our meditation time becomes a powerful vehicle for transformation. Our time with the Lord gives us the space to expose our interior life to the Lord, and so to receive the healing power of the Holy Spirit. In turn, we allow Scripture to awaken in us the response of the Lord, and so to enter into the familiar colloquy of prayer.

This process of experiencing and presenting our interior life to the Lord is the essence of prayer. Receiving and giving, the subtle dance between us and the Lord, is the whole rhythm of both liturgical and private prayer. Sometimes this give and take involves formal aspects of the faith, and other times it involves a more obscure exploration of our experience. Nothing is off limits, and in this context we gain victory over the lies of the Devil. The beginning of sin is the turning away from the Lord, seeking to hide or keep something concealed. This tendency is fundamentally irrational and the result of our egocentric enslavement to sin.

In this way, observation is an integral starting place on the path to spiritual freedom. By learning to observe, we rob the disorders of the heart of their ability to keep us chained to compulsion and fear. We allow the light of Christ to shine in the darkness of our lives, and so to transfigure and sanctify our wounded humanity. Today, let us walk this path of spiritual growth.