Monday, October 20, 2008

Sleeping with Bread

I literally stumbled across this last week. Can't even remember what I was actually looking for, but it took my breath away. From the website:

What is Sleeping with Bread?

"During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, "Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow." (Linn, Dennis et al, Sleeping With Bread, p.l)

These are the beginning words of a book that introduced me to a practice called the examen. The orphans held on to what nourished them and were thus able to sleep peacefully at night. The examen, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, helps a person hold onto what spiritually nourishes him by looking at what is giving him consolation in his life or causing him desolation. It allows someone to express his gratitude to God for the good stuff and turn to him for solace for the bad stuff. It is quite simple. You simply ask yourself, in the last day/week/month what gave me consolation and what caused me desolation."

It's just that simple - taking time to reflect on the things that lift your spirit, and the things that dampen it. I love this idea, and plan to participate each week.

So what has brought me consolation? And what has brought me desolation? This week - really, this whole month - it's been all about people. Aching over people I love who are hurting, while I sit in my house unable to help. Burning about people who can't take the time to see past their own noses to the trouble they spew into the world. Rejoicing with people who finally get a break, after months and years of struggle. Smiling at new people who have entered my life, who will clearly make it a better place to be. Grateful for the people who I can count on, who listen and show they care, who care for me even though they don't know me.

Because my job is out in the public, I see the best and the worst of people every day. My nature is to expect the worst - assume every interaction will be a negative one. I'm making an effort to change that attitude. I'm trying to meet each person with a blank slate - give them the benefit of the doubt - allow for the possibility of a positive moment - see the hurting, hopeful humanity in each of them. We'll see how my experiment goes. Perhaps it's a step in the right direction to simply choose to make the attempt.

If you are interested in participating along with me, stop by Sleeping With Bread and leave a link to your post.


Mary-LUE said...

Elizabeth... It is totally fine to quote as much as you need to explain it.

I'm so glad you found SWB and I look forward to reading more of your "bread." I've been doing SWB in some form or another for about 10 years. It takes you right down to the quick.

I've always volunteered a lot and it seems like both the best and worst part of working with people is working with people.

Thanks again for sharing. I'll look forward to reading next week.

(My bread is late. Mondays are crazy school days for me this semester. Hopefully, I'll still have it up before midnight Pacific time!)

Mel said...

Oh, how well I know that 'getting the best and worst' part.
And for me, it was that concerted effort to challenge my own thinking/attitude.

LOTS of practice, lemme assure you.....but it did pay off.
And my relationship with the whole world is different because of it.

Keep choosing! :-)
And thanks for being a part of SWB--I'll look forward to more slices!

Dawn said...

This is very powerful.