In yesterday’s blog, I promised to relieve you of some of the obstacles to beginning and maintaining a spiritual practice. Today’s blog reveals tools for sound spiritual practice that come to us through the Judeo-Christian contemplative (mystical) traditions.
Lucas and Spielberg had it right
Remember that scene from the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they show a custodian wheeling the Ark of the Covenant, now locked up and crated deep into the bowels of the Smithsonian Institute’s basement? The very Ark that Indiana Jones worked so hard to find and rescue from the clutches of the Nazi’s? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6-rQ6Jay6w Well, that scene is exactly how I imagine the rich tradition of Mystical (aka Magdalene) Christianity…..locked up in a steel vault somewhere deep in the bowels of the Vatican. Some pope, a long time ago, gathered up the richness of these traditions and locked them up….far away from the reaching arms of the hungry laity. The good news is that the monastic communities of the Christian tradition also had knowledge of the tools and practices of the mystical church and preserved them, keeping them safe and waiting for the days that someone would blow the doors off the Vatican vault, unleashing these tools for the benefit of all….and perhaps for the salvation of “Mother Church.” (another topic for another day.) Well, here I am…..the uppity Lay Minister, Lauri Ann Lumby. I’ve got the keys to the vault and I’m not afraid to use them. 🙂
Dun Da Dun Dun Dun Da Dun (Sung to the opening theme from Raider’s of the Lost Ark) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg7C9qwLoqE
So, without further ado……below you will find a resource that I developed for the students and facilitators who have crossed the threshold of Authentic Freedom Ministries. Tools for sound spiritual practice from the Judeo-Christian mystical/contemplative tradition. Make a copy of this and keep it as instructional material as you begin to develop or deepen your spiritual practice. And because I’m a huge brat…..a few words to the pope and his cronies in Rome right out of this morning’s scripture:
“Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit”
Matthew 21: 45
I’m just sayin’!
So….here are the tools we have all been waiting for:
I. Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights.
A. Lectio – Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.
B. Meditatio – Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one’s own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application. Asking the question, how is God speaking to me personally through this passage?
C. Oratio – Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God. This stage can be accomplished through journaling, or offering a silent or spoken prayer to God.
D. Contemplatio – Listening to God. This is a freeing of oneself from one’s own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.
II. Centering Prayer/Silent Contemplation
Silent Contemplation is allowing oneself to simply rest in God. The goal of contemplation is “no goal.” The practitioner is to simply be. Repeated practice opens the contemplative to the fruits of contemplation – deepening peace, insight, creativity, guidance, consolation and compassion.
A. Practitioner finds a comfortable place where they can sit in silence.
B. Practitioner chooses a focal point – the breath, a sacred word or phrase (love, peace, Jesus,Om, etc.)
C. Practitioner sits in silence. When they find their mind wandering, they return their attention to their focal point.
D. Practitioner continues in this manner for the period of time pre-determined for contemplation.
III. Love Letter from God
This type of practice works best with scripture passages that seem to be God addressing us.
A. Read through the passage slowly and meditatively.
B. Re-read the passage as if it is a letter written to us directly from God.
C. Practitioner allows themselves to receive the words into their heart.
D. The remainder of the practice follows a similar pattern to Lectio-Divina.
Read, receive, respond, contemplate
IV. Free-Form Journaling/Automatic Writing
Through this approach, the practitioner brings a question or a thought to the meditation session. The practitioner offers the question/thought to God, then allows God to speak to them through their pen as they write in their journal. Through this method, the practitioner allows their own thoughts, etc. to step aside to make room for the words of God.
V. Mantra Meditation
A. Practitioner chooses a favorite sacred phrase/mantra. (Om Mani Padme Om; Hail Mary Full of Grace; Om Shanti; Give us this day our daily bread; Abwoon d’bwashmaya; etc.)
B. Practitioner repeats mantra silently or aloud, over and over, allowing the mantra to draw them into a place of peaceful calm.
C. Practitioner continues with mantra until they find it no longer necessary and are able to enter into silent contemplation.
D. Practitioner returns to mantra when they find their mind wandering.
VI. Prayer Beads
Practitioner engages in practice above, using prayer beads/rosary to “count” mantra repetitions. The benefit of using prayer beads is that is adds another sense to the process – tactile touch. This is especially helpful for those with a restless mind.
VII. Imagination-Contemplation/Daydreaming Meditation
A. Practitioner chooses a narrative story from scripture.
B. Practitioner reads through the story slowly and meditatively
C. Practitioner chooses a character from the story (named, or unnamed).
D. Practitioner re-reads the story from the vantage point of their chosen character.
E. Practitioner enters into their creative imagination, placing themselves as their chosen character in the midst of the story. They allow the story to unfold in their imagination in great detail, being mindful of thoughts, reflections, emotions that may surface through the process.
F. Practitioner writes what they witnessed through their imagination, allowing additional details to surface as they write.
G. Practitioner reflects on two questions:
1. How is God speaking to me through what was revealed in this daydreaming?
2. How is the revealed story reflective of something going on in my current life journey?
VIII. Art as Prayer
Practitioner is given the task of creating a visual representative of their prayer/reflection.
IX. Music Meditation
Music is used as a vehicle through which the practitioner can find that place of peaceful calm within.
A. Choose the musical selection (chant, classical music, instrumental music works well here)
B. Practitioner listens to musical selection with rapt attention, allowing the movement of the music to draw them into peaceful calm.
C. Practitioner rests in silent contemplation once music is finished.
X. Mindful Meditation/Theological Reflection
A. Practitioner chooses an ordinary activity or object as the focal point of their meditation.
B. Practitioner observes the object or engages in the activity with rapt attention.
C. Practitioner becomes aware of the object or the activity in a way that transcends their typical experience of this object/activity.
D. Practitioner records what they observe in the object or activity, asking what how God is being revealed through the object or activity.
Authentic Freedom Ministries