One hallmark of an Ignatian approach to prayer is the way in which engages all the senses, both in its composition of place and as a way of deepening and sharpening the focus of a contemplation. Smell the dust, says Ignatius. Hear the raucous crowd. Stop analyzing and feel. This isn't about God, or even about talking with God, this is an encounter with God.
Though my recent retreat was not formally Ignatian — no spiritual director, and four hours a day spent in the liturgy — it retained a distinctly Ignatian flavor in the ways in which my senses were drawn into times of prayer, pulling particular strands from the external into the interior space of my meditations.
The turquoise of the small bay far below against the yellow hills and dark rocks boasting their lacy ruffs of surf is stunning, but the smells were as intriguing as the view is breathtaking. Something smelled of licorice [note: it turned out to be licorice, which grows wild in the area] which reminded me of Menotti's opera about the Magi. The smell of the fox's den announced itself brightly as the drive began to descend in earnest, marking off the beginning and ends of walks more sharply than the cross embedded in the rock face. And at the very end of a hot afternoon's walk, I looked down to see a single tiny wild strawberry, then realized I could smell the scent of warm strawberry sifting up from a small patch in the sun. The cold damp on my skin as I walked early one morning through the bits of mist that still clung to the canyon walls like lint left from the bank of fog that lingers off shore.
After I posted this, I read this post by Jim Manney on how the physical gets all too easily neglected in our prayer....