Ignatian Exercises: An Interview with Karen Block
I recently had the opportunity to chat with spiritual director, Karen Block, about her experience going through the Ignatian Exercises. The Exercises were developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and model a way of living in intimate relationship with God. They introduce spiritual practices that anyone can engage in order to grow closer to God. They’re not magical, but they are incredibly transforming because of how deeply grounded they are in the love of God!
Listen in to my conversation with Karen….
Emma – What was your experience like when you went through the Ignatian Exercises as a nine-month course?
Karen – My experience with the Exercises was life changing! As time went on, I noticed I was becoming a close friend to the Trinity, sharing more of my heart and receiving more and more love, mercy, and grace. One of the shifts in my life involved gratitude. I moved from “note five things I am grateful for” to a heart-felt realization of the abundant gifts I have been given.
Emma – How did your mindset change throughout the process?
Karen – Prior to making the Exercises, I operated out of a scarcity mentality. Thinking that God was going to take things away, especially something I enjoyed doing. I now live with an abundance mentality. I don’t fear God; I notice and enjoy His gifts to me, and I live with hope.
Emma – Other than the change in your mindset, what has been the biggest change in you since making the Ignatian Exercises?
Karen – The biggest change in me that I have become aware of is that through the process of the Exercises, my definition of love was deconstructed and reconstructed. I limited love (the scarcity mentality) to what I wanted. I decided if I would receive love, or give love, and if the love offered to me was good enough.
Emma – Share more about that. How do you view love and life now?
Karen – As I experienced God’s agape love, the unconditional kind of love, I noticed what felt like a generating force – a life-giving force within me. I became grateful, I became hopeful, I began to offer compassion to others, and I began to let God and others show love to me.
Even though I completed the exercises a few years ago, I continue to harvest fruit from them. I continue to grow in self-awareness and am leaning into the abundant life Jesus promised.
Emma – What is one example of how you apply what you learned through the Exercises to your daily life?
Karen – This is a way of living. In Ignatian Spirituality you find God in all things. Take for instance your pen. How do you find God in your pen? As you consider it, it becomes a prompt for prayer. It provides jobs for people; it records poems, love letters, doodles, and meaningful words. Perhaps even just staring at it you might see the beauty of the colors in the pen, which reminds you of God’s beauty. He is present in all things and all we need to do is notice.
Emma – I understand that you will be working with Fall Creek Abbey to offer the Ignatian experience to others. When will that take place?
Karen – On Saturday, September 12, I will host a group of retreatants (that’s what we call folks who go through the Exercises) at Fall Creek Abbey for the first day-long retreat. Retreatants will come together four times over the course of nine months.
Emma – If someone is interested in knowing more about this experience or would like to have a conversation with you, what might they do?
Karen – You can read more about participating in the Ignatian exercises here. In addition, we are hosting an Ignatian Exercises Informational Meeting on Wednesday, June 17th at 7:30 pm at Fall Creek Abbey. To RSVP, please email me.
And if you are a trained spiritual director who has gone through the exercises, you can also read about Becoming an Ignatian Guide. This training begins August 21-22, 2020.
Karen and I will continue our conversation about Ignatian Spirituality. Stay tuned for a follow-up article about the structure of the Ignatian Exercises and the way Ignatian Spirituality differs from other spiritual disciplines.