Tag: lectio

Spiritual Reflection: Delight, and Meditate

Spiritual Reflection: Delight, and Meditate

 

Learning to read in a meditative way is a skill, an art, and a way of spiritual growth.

It used to be called “Lectio Divina” – a way of pondering a short text to allow all of its secrets to be open gently to the meditating mind.

We are so used to skim reading today – news, images, websites, emails – that there is a great danger we skim read life

We can skim and skate on the surface and never get to the heart of things.  We can completely miss the depths.

But blessed are those who delight and meditate.

Gerard Hughes in “God of Surprises” says meditative reading is like sucking a sweet. Let the tastes go round your mouth. Don’t rush it, crunch the sweet and swallow it quickly.  Take your time.  Let your mind dream and spin out ideas starting from the phrase.  If it goes too far away, bring it back to the phrase.  Start by making yourself do it for 30 seconds, then a minute, then maybe a bit more.

Start with some favourite or well known phrases:

“Our Father”

“The Lord is my shepherd”

“God is love”

You could try meditating on a short phrase in the morning, and sometimes one in the evening, too.  You may find that the phrase comes back to you during the day, or during the next day, and then you find yourself thinking some more, and seeing still further depths you had not noticed before…

If you try meditative reading, I hope that you will find delight, you will be able to meditate, and that you will learn about the depths that our lives and this universe has to offer.

 

“The Lord is My Shepherd”, and Lectio Divina

Most people know the words – “The Lord is my shepherd” – but lectio divina helps us go deeper into them.  It is a way of dwelling thoughtfully, meditatively and prayerfully on a word or two at a time.

What image do you have of a “shepherd”, for example?

It’s not an easy job, I imagine.  It must take great perseverance to shepherd sheep in all weathers and to look after newborn lambs at all times of night.  A shepherd is a carer.  A shepherd is determined.  A shepherd must have great love for his flock.

The first words are even more challenging.  Who is “The Lord”?  God, obviously!  But do you think of God as a “Lord”?  And what would that mean for how God relates to people?  If he is our “lord”, then what are we?  Perhaps the image is like the shepherd image – it is an image of care.  It’s also an image of authority – like the shepherd, of course – which is more challenging, especially to some cultural beliefs about human autonomy and freedom.

Is “The Lord” my shepherd?  Is he mine?  That’s the word – “my”.

The meditation has taken us deeper into the first five words of the psalm.

Have you ever tried lectio divina? It is an amazing method of reading and praying, and you may, like me, find you start seeing and learning things you never dreamed possible!

You can read the whole of Psalm 23 here.

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The Spiritualities of Christianity – Psalm 1…continued

The practice of Lectio Divina (prayerful reading) encourages us to dwell on individual phrases and words.

I have found this such a revolutionary way to read, because it opens up meaning in totally new ways.

Psalm 1 begins like this:

“Blessed are they who have not walked

in the counsel of the wicked, 

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.”

It’s a powerful start, with that shocking word “wicked”.

It reminds me that evil exists, that people are not always just “ill” or “misinformed”. 

It reminds me that we can find destructiveness even in ourselves.

And it reminds me that in each of our journeys, every day, we have to face dilemmas about where we “walk”.  Will we walk in the way of the wicked, or will we walk another way?  And what is that other way?  How do we know it?  Where does it lead us to?

“Blessed are they who have not walked

In the counsel of the wicked.”

Which “counsel” do I listen to?  There are voices in the world, voices in the media, voices inside me sometimes urging me one way or another.

How can I resist “the counsel of the wicked”?  How will I find the strength? What will motivate me to persevere on a different path?

Perhaps sometimes it is just laziness:

“nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.”

It is easy to linger over things we shouldn’t linger over…Especially if no-one is looking!

It is easy to sit back…Especially if we are in an “assembly” of others being scornful and critical!

And yet there is something positive in these words.

“Blessed…”

That word “Blessed”.

What does it mean to you?  What does it mean to me, to be, and to feel “blessed”?

There is something about how we choose to live our lives, something about how we choose to walk, how we choose not to linger, how we choose not to scorn.  There is something about avoiding all these pitfalls, that leads somehow to blessedness.

How can we discover that blessedness?

What journey will we take?

And can reading The Psalms help us on our journey?

The Spiritualities of Christianity – Lectio Divina – An Example


As an example of Lectio Divina (see previous post), let’s take six words, which come from the beginning of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word”.

Using lectio, we don’t just read the phrase and then move immediately on.

We read, and pause.

Then we read again, and we start to think.

For example – what do you think about when you read that phrase “In the beginning”?  

I start to think things like – “What is the beginning?”  “What was in the beginning?”  I think about the “Big Bang”, the idea of the whole universe beginning from nothing.  I think about the idea of creation, of God creating the universe from nothing.

And that’s just the first three words.

What happens when you do something similar with the last three words (“was the Word”), and then put them all together as a phrase of six words?

“In the beginning was the Word”

This is the start of your journey using lectio divina.

The Spiritualities of Christianity – Lectio Divina

“Lectio Divina” is a method of transcending “paralysis by analysis”, and it can be very exciting for people today to discover a totally new way of reading a spiritual text.

“Lectio” used to be practised by monks hundreds of years ago, and was a method of prayerfully reading the Bible.

It is not skimming, or scanning, the way we often read email and websites.

It is deals with text in short “bite-sized chunks”.

But the real genius of lectio is that we are advised and guided to focus our minds on a short piece of text in a kind of meditation.

A section in “God of Surprises” by Gerard Hughes, explains it:

The process is analogous to sucking a boiled sweet…Often a phrase will catch the attention of the subconscious mind’s needs long before our conscious mind is aware of the reason for the attraction…remain with the phrase for as long as possible without trying to analyse it.”

Practically speaking, I have found that a good way of doing this is to try to “learn” a phrase that I have come across, by repeating it several times.

I then let my mind freely associate, play with, and wonder about the phrase.

I will try to give an example in my next post…

The Spirituality of Leadership

Recent posts have started to explore “the spiritualities of Christianity”, and have looked at what, to me, have been some foundational issues: the place of the four Gospels, “lectio divina” as a liberating way of reading the Gospels, creation spirituality, and the spirituality of Jesus.

And already there is enough material to start applying knowledge of spiritualities to life.  This post will look at applying spirituality to something that I am very interested in: leadership.

A simple way to understand leadership is through the word “influence”.  A mother or father feeds, loves and teaches their baby – that is a kind of leadership.  A teacher helps a group of children to learn more and more complex knowledge and skills – leadership, again.  In any human relationship there is the potential for leadership, as one person influences another.

Many of us, therefore, are involved in leadership, whether our context is home, a place of work, or in voluntary activity.  And I am interested in the ways that our spirituality can underpin our leadership relationships in two ways: through establishing values and perspective, and by energising and motivating us.

Establishing Values and Perspective

Spirituality can help us establish values and develop perspective on life.  For example, reading of the Four Gospels could help us understand the importance of love in the way we think about other people (our children, our co-workers, the people we help in voluntary work).  It could also help us think through very difficult issues such as helping someone with illness  or bereavement (the Gospels are full of interactions between Jesus and the sick and even the dead).   

Many people have found it helpful to begin each day with some reading, perhaps using lectio divina, as way of reminding themselves daily about what is of ultimate importance. 

Establishing values and perspective on issues of ultimate significance is particularly important in leadership, as anyone engaged in relationships and leadership constantly faces complexity, ambiguity and dilemmas on a daily basis, and we need to find a way to make decisions.  The values and perspective which our spirituality has developed help underpin sensible, calm and wise (we hope!) decision-making.

Energising and Motivating

Spirituality can also help energise and motivate us.  For some people, silence is very important, and this is a topic that I plan to say more about in a future post.  People also find daily prayer a helpful way to start each day.  For others, it might be listening to music or songs on spiritual issues. 

Spirituality provides depth to our life.  There is a foundation we can build upon and live from.  We have a framework by which we can make sense of all that life throws at us.

As well as being highly complex, leadership can also be highly draining.  So we need to have a way of “refuelling”.   Relaxation and leisure are, of course, part of the answer.  But pleasure itself has only a limited power to re-energise us for leadership tasks.  For deeper recovery, I believe that spiritual answers are required.

For example, I find that I am faced with questions of depth in my own exercise of leadership: What is the purpose of what I am doing today?  What is the right thing to do in this messy, painful and morally ambiguous situation?  How can I face and conduct successfully this difficult meeting today? 

In each case, spiritual preparation helps to remind me of my ultimate purposes. I am more than just the functional “leader” that others see. Life will go on regardless of whatever mistakes or sound decisions I make today. The quality of my relationships with others around me is paramount. And most important of all is my relationship with my God.

Spiritual Reflection: Delight, and Meditate

 

Learning to read in a meditative way is a skill, an art, and a way of spiritual growth.

It used to be called “Lectio Divina” – a way of pondering a short text to allow all of its secrets to be opened…

delightand meditate

We are so used to skim reading today – news, images, websites, emails – that there is a great danger we skim read life.  We can skim and skate on the surface and never get to the heart of things.  We can completely miss the depths.

But blessed are those who delight and meditate.

Gerard Hughes in “God of Surprises” says it’s like sucking a sweet!  Let the tastes go round your mouth. Don’t rush it, crunch the sweet and swallow it quickly.  Take your time.  Let your mind dream and spin out ideas starting from the phrase.  If it goes too far away, bring it back to the phrase.  Start by making yourself do it for 30 seconds, then a minute, then maybe a bit more.

Start with some favourite or well known phrases:

“Our Father”

“The Lord is my shepherd”

“God is love”

At the moment, I use a short verse in the morning, and sometimes one in the evening, too.  Then it will come back to me during the day, or during the next day, and I will think about it some more.

If you try lectio divina, I hope that you will find delight, you will be able to meditate, and that you will learn.