Perhaps the most challenging thing we will ever do in our lives is to be open and obedient to Divine guidance. When we open ourselves to God’s direction in our lives, we are led to the path of our highest good and the outcome far exceeds anything we could ever have imagined for ourselves. In order to do so, however, we first have to give up our pride – our desire for perceived security and perceived surety, and the need to be in control and in charge. Surrendering our pride and accepting God’s will takes great courage and often requires great risk, but in the end, it is always worth it. Just ask Mother Mary who agreed to birth God’s love into the world through her son Jesus.
Agape’ Meditation Practices Newsletter
Supplement to the Authentic Freedom Virtual Church Service for Sunday, December 21, 2014. Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Please note that beginning, January 1, 2015, the meditation newsletter, Virtual Church and Superhero Reports will be available by subscription only. To continue to receive these life-giving resources, subscribe HERE for a very reasonable monthly fee (about the price of one large cappuccino a week).
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Lk 1: 26-38
2 Sam 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 14A, 16
Ps 89: 2-5, 27-29
ROM 16: 25-27
Honoring the Divine Mother
It is appropriate in this Sunday before we commemorate the birth of Jesus, to give honor to Mary, the woman who agreed to birth God’s love into the world through Christ. In honoring Mary, it is important to understand the great risk she took in accepting her call. Scholars surmise that Mary was somewhere between the ages of 13 and 16 when God’s herald, Gabriel appeared to her. In saying yes to God’s call, Mary placed herself in grave danger. Agreeing to become pregnant when she was unwed made her a “sinner” in the eyes of the Hebraic law. Also by law, her betrothed, Joseph, and her father Joachim, had the right to stone her to death for committing adultery. Through God’s intervention, neither her husband nor her father chose this path. Instead, Joseph agreed to take Mary into his home and fulfill their original betrothal contract by making her his wife.
Mary’s journey invites us all to take a look at the way in which we respond to God’s call. God’s call is rarely easy, and often comes with great risk – if nothing else than to risk the change that comes in obeying God’s will. Let Mary’s response be our prayer as we ponder the way in which God is calling us to birth God’s love into the world:
May it be done to me according to your word.
Spiritual Practices – Mantra Meditation
Mantra is a spiritual practice in which we repeat a word or a phrase over and over and over – either silently or aloud. In repeating the phrase and reflecting on its meaning, we are drawn into a deeper state of relaxation. Also in repeating the phrase, we are allowing its meaning to sink deeply into us where it can facilitate great healing and transformation. In the simple repetition and reflection on the phrase, we are transformed.
Set aside 15-30 minutes. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and in that silence, repeat the following phrase over and over in your mind (or say it aloud):
May it be done to me according to your word.
After the meditation period, record your thoughts and feelings in a notebook or journal.
In Authentic Freedom, pride is the compulsion we indulge when we have forgotten our Oneness with God in love. Pride keeps us from being open to God’s guidance and direction in our lives and makes us believe we are alone and that we have to do it on our own. When we set aside our pride and connect with God, we are once again able to receive God’s guidance and direction for our lives, along with the ability to surrender to this call and accept it through spiritual obedience. Humility is the virtue that arises when we are able to set aside our pride, our fears, our need to be in control and in charge. Exercising humility and spiritual obedience we find a place of contentment and ease in our lives as we allow God to lead while we obediently follow, trusting that while God’s ways may not be our own, the outcome is always far greater than what we could ever have imagined for ourselves.
Where are you aware of the compulsion of pride as active in your life – in your need to control, to have the answers, to know the answers, thinking you are alone and have to do it yourself?
How are you being invited to more fully surrender your life to God as Mother Mary so boldly did?
Please find below meditation supplement for the Authentic Freedom Virtual Church for this coming Sunday, September 14, 2014. In this week’s issue, we explore the topics of humility and spiritual obedience. God alone knows that path that is in our highest good. Are we willing to do the hard work of surrendering our own will to that which is promised to be in our highest good?
Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Phil 2: 6-11
Nm 21: 4b-9
Ps 78: 1-2, 34-38
Jn 3: 13-17
Humility and Obedience
In the spiritual world, humility and obedience go hand-in-hand. In the Christian tradition, Jesus provides the model for pure humility and true obedience that we are called to follow. Jesus surrendered his own will to Divine guidance, which meant following the course of his truth, even when it meant likely death. (It is not that God sent Jesus to his death, or that God desired that Jesus die for his truth. Instead, Jesus lived the truth that God revealed to him, which threatened the political and religious institutions of his time.) Even when faced with suffering and sure death, Jesus did not give into the temptations of his ego, instead, he turned to God in prayer, asked for guidance, pleaded for support, and then continued along his path. This is the process we are invited to follow as Christians – to turn to God for guidance, surrendering our own will, transcending the temptations of the ego, and follow God’s guidance, trusting it will lead us along the path of our highest good.
How are you taking time to listen and receive Divine guidance?
How are you following that guidance?
Spiritual Practices – Surrendering our Will to God
What we think we want or need is not always in our highest good. Only God knows our highest good. Embarking on the path of humility and obedience, we first need to understand this truth. One way to facilitate this knowing is through a mantra practice. Mantra is the practice of repeating the same word or phrase over and over (aloud or silently). In mantra practice, two things happen. 1) We are drawn into a relaxed and meditative state. 2) The intention of the words becomes embedded in our consciousness and beliefs. You are invited to engage in your own mantra practice, with one of the three following quotes from scripture:
Let it be done to me according to your word.
Thy will be done.
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
During your chosen prayer period, repeat your chosen phrase over and over in your mind, allowing it to draw you into a meditative and relaxed state. Return to this mantra frequently throughout the week as you move about your daily activities.
In a notebook or journal, record any thoughts, feelings, experiences while participating in this practice.
In Authentic Freedom, we acknowledge the crown chakra as our intimate connection with God. It is through the crown that we are able to surrender our own will to that of God’s. It is here that we cultivate humility and overcome the temptations of the ego. It is also through the crown chakra that we know our Oneness with God – not equal, but One as Paul describes in this week’s scripture. In remembering this Oneness with God, we feel content, peaceful, joyful, loving and fulfilled. When we have experiences of peace, joy and love, we are remembering our Oneness with God spontaneously.
Where are you remembering your Oneness with God?
Here is part two of yesterday’s Superhero Report. A selection of spiritual practices you can try. Keep trying until you find one that resonates with you….and if none of these do, then you might already be doing your spiritual practice, you just might not be calling it that: knitting, running, dancing, singing, listening to music, cooking, gardening, being in nature, drawing, painting, etc. etc. etc. Remember….anything that helps you connect with love, peace, joy, and leads you to your truth. 🙂
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. Traditionally, Lectio-Divina is practiced with sacred scripture, but can be applied to any inspirational or meaningful written text. Lectio Divina is accomplished in four steps, with the fourth step – contemplation – continuing beyond our practice time and flowing out into our day.
Lectio – Choose a scripture passage or inspirational written text. Read the passage gently and slowly several times, savoring each portion of the reading. As you are reading, look for a word or phrase that seems to jump out at you. Receive this word or phrase as God’s nourishment for you.
Meditatio – Reflect on the text of the passage and think about how it applies to one’s own life. Specifically, ruminate, ponder, meditate on the word or phrase that jumped out at you. Ask the question, “How is God speaking to me personally through this passage?”
Oratio – Respond to the passage by opening your heart to God. Allow yourself to have a conversation with God. Offer a silent or spoken prayer in response to God, or write your thoughts in a notebook or journal.
Contemplatio – Listening to God. This is a freeing of yourself from your own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God speak to you. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God. Contemplatio is often done in silence or carried with you as you go about your day. Observe how your meditation period continues to influence your thoughts, behaviors, attitudes and feelings.
Centering Prayer/Silent Contemplation
Silent Contemplation is allowing yourself to simply rest in God. The goal of contemplation is “no goal.” Your job is to simply be. Repeated practice opens you to the fruits of contemplation – deepening peace, insight, creativity, guidance, consolation and compassion.
1)Find a comfortable place where you can sit in silence.
2)Choose a focal point – the breath, a sacred word or phrase (love, peace, Jesus, Om, etc.)
3)Now, sit in silence. When you find your mind wandering (which it will), simply return your attention to your chosen focal point.
4)Continue in this manner until your meditation period is finished.
Free-Form Journaling/Automatic Writing
Through this approach, you bring a question or a thought to your meditation session. Offer the question/thought to God. Then allow God to speak to you through your pen as you write in their journal.
1)Write your question in your journal.
2)Sit quietly to allow your own mind to step aside and invited God to step in.
3)If you find silence to be a struggle, listen to music first – preferably something that helps to relax your mind – chant, classical music, even some heavy metal music can be helpful. (I recommend Hildegard of Bingen, Bach and Disturbed or Tool as music for relaxing the mind.)
4)Then just write. Let your pen respond to your question. Or, begin a dialogue between yourself and God through your pen.
1)Choose 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.)
2)Repeat the mantra silently or aloud, over and over, allowing the mantra to draw you into a place of peaceful calm.
3)Continue repeating the mantra until you find it no longer necessary as you have entered into silence.
4)Return to the mantra if you find your mind becoming active.
Prayer beads and rosaries provide a tactile sensation to mantra meditation, and have been shown to help facilitate relaxation. Simply use the beads to count your mantra repetitions. This is especially helpful if you have a creative or restless mind.
1)Choose a narrative story from scripture, a favorite myth or fairytale.
2)Read through the story slowly and meditatively.
3)Choose a character from the story (named, or unnamed).
4)Re-read the story from the vantage point of your chosen character.
5)Enter into your creative imagination, placing yourself in the story as your chosen character. Allow the story to unfold in your imagination in great detail, being mindful of thoughts, reflections, emotions that may surface through the process.
6)After your story has come to a natural conclusion, write what your witnessed through your imagination, allowing additional details to surface as you write. Do not censor or second-guess what shows up for you. Write it all down.
7)Go back and read your written story.
8)As you are reading, reflect on the following two questions:
– How is God speaking to me through what was revealed in this daydreaming?
– How is the revealed story reflective of something going on in my current life journey?
Music is used as a vehicle through which you can find that place of peaceful calm within.
1)Choose a musical selection (chant, classical music, instrumental music work well here.)
2)Listens to musical selection with rapt attention, allowing the movement of the music to draw you into peaceful calm or to stir other emotions that may need to be released (anger, sorrow, frustration, grief, etc.)
3)Rest in silent contemplation once music is finished.
Mindful Meditation/Theological Reflection
1)Choose an ordinary activity or object as the focal point of your meditation – it can be anything – a paper cup, a paperclip, a candle, a pen, a stick, eating an orange, chopping onions, etc.
2)Observe the object or engage in the activity with rapt attention.
3)Become aware of the object or the activity in a way that transcends your typical experience of this object/activity.
4)Reflect on how God is present or revealed through the object or activity.
Twenty-some years ago, I embraced a daily spiritual practice. Having an active and creative brain, I often found sitting in silence to be difficult, as such, I found myself gravitating toward practices, from the Christian tradition in which I was raised, which first engaged my mind while leading me to peace. Lectio-Divina and Imagination/contemplation became the foundations of my daily meditation. That was until I discovered Kirtan. Kirtan is a chanting practice that comes out of the Bhakti branch of yoga. Bhakti is also known as the yoga of devotion. In the practice of Kirtan, one uses mantra and chant to facilitate inner peace and relaxation. While I have retained the sacred reading of scripture as part of my daily practice, I have found nothing more effective than chant to bring me into the place where I am remembering my Oneness with God and experiencing the depths of Divine love.
In Sacred Sound – discovering the myth and meaning of mantra and kirtan, by Alanna Kaivalya, I have found a fabulous supplement to my kirtan practice. In this book, Alanna fleshes out the transliterations, translations and spiritual meanings of many of the most honored sacred mantras. Alanna then provides the Hindu and Buddhist myths that provide the sacred stories out of which the power of these mantras first emerged. If you have found yourself drawn to chant or have already incorporated mantra into your daily spiritual practice, you will find Sacred Sound to be a great supplement to your practice and a fantastic resource for your spiritual library.
Yesterday, I responded to the current political debacle (the government shutdown) and complete failure of our government to do what WE hired them to do, by issuing an invitation, “If we want the world to change, WE need to change ourselves.” In today’s blog, I remind us of how we can change ourselves so that we can see real and enduring change in the world.
Not Just Some Pie in the Sky Idealism!
The tools for personal change that I will share with you today are NOT just some pie in the sky idealism preached by vagrant prophets from far-off lands. While the following tools have been tried, tested and proven to be effective by thousands of years of yoga practitioners, mystics and ascetics, we NOW have the proof of science to verify what contemplative men and women have known all along, mindfulness based practices:
- decrease anxiety, fear and stress
- increase physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing
- decrease violent behaviors
- help us to cultivate empathy and compassion – the building blocks of healthy communication and harmonious interpersonal relationships, and communities.
STEP ONE – Seek out a mindfulness practice that works for you!
There are as many forms of mindfulness based practices as there are fish in the sea! A Zen-inspired sit works for some, but not for all. Mantra or Kirtan brings some to a state of inner quiet…but it isn’t for everyone. A rosary or string of meditation beads may help some to focus, but others will need something more engaging. Take comfort in knowing that if you haven’t yet found your meditation style, keep looking, there is sure to be one out there perfect for you. Maybe it is something as simple as gardening, cooking or being in nature. Some find running and aerobic exercise mindful. And please disregard the ridiculous Western notion that mindfulness has a goal and that if you don’t experience a complete state of bliss any or every time you failed. Your job is to simply SHOW UP. And, the key to cultivating and maintaining a mindfulness practice is to find one that WORKS FOR YOU! (For a wide variety of mindfulness based exercises, check out my book, Authentic Freedom – claiming a life of contentment and joy. While the context is Christian Contemplative Prayer, the exercises are universal.)
STEP TWO-Identify and root out your fears
In conjunction with cultivating peace and love within us through mindfulness practices, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves in our journey toward change is to OVERCOME OUR FEARS! FEAR is the number one obstacle to peace, contentment, love and joy! Fear creates all the perceived separations favored by our wounded world: prejudice, discrimination, racism, sexism, nationalism, etc. Fear is also the root of all of our non-loving and self-centered behaviors – gluttony, lust, wrath, envy, greed, sloth and pride. Fear causes us to seek outside of us for its remedy and makes us believe that happiness will be found in things, money, power, fame, status, power, control, other people, etc. etc. etc. Fear also keeps us silent and ignorant of the truth that seeks to be known within us and that seeks to be expressed in the world.
In my book, Authentic Freedom, I reveal what I have come to know as the seven core fears that plague humanity, along with their resulting compulsions:
FEAR: “There is not enough”
FEAR: “I have nothing to contribute to the betterment of the world”
FEAR: “I can’t” (be my most authentic self)
FEAR: “I am not loved”
FEAR: “I am not able to express my truth”
FEAR: “I do not know” (my truth, my path)
FEAR: “I am alone/have to do it alone”
You can start your journey of overcoming fear by NAMING the fears that are currently at work in your mind. I have found that naming the fear is 99% of the journey…..like they say in classic horror books and movies, “Once you name the demon, it no longer has power over you.” 😉 Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog where I will explore in more detail how we might move through the fears once they are named.
Lauri Ann Lumby
Let’s talk about forgiveness.
The theme for December, according to the Powerpath School of Shamanism is FORGIVENESS. Whether it is truly through astrological influences or simply through the power of suggestion, I have a hard time denying that this may indeed be the spiritual lesson we are being given an opportunity to practice this month. As all my old demons come home to roost, I am forced to acknowledge that my own forgiveness work is not done yet…..and as my friend Derek reminded me yesterday, “Jesus did tell us to forgive seventy times seven times.” I’m not sure Jesus was as much teaching us to keep on forgiving as he was acknowledging how dang hard forgiveness can be for us! So…..let’s talk about forgiveness.
Forgive and Forget?
Forgive? YES. Forget? NOT! What happens when we forget history? IT REPEATS ITSELF. So….set aside your grandmother’s burdensome mantra about forgetting…..Instead……..forgive….and set new boundaries. Don’t step back into the hornet’s nest knowing that you will only get stung once again. And if you need to….shake the dust off your feet and walk away.
YOU have the Power to Forgive.
Yes and no….but mostly NO! Yes, we have a task in the process of forgiveness. Our job is to intend to forgive, to be present to the process, to own our stuff in whatever the conflict was, to accept responsibility and to apologize and make amends where necessary. The true moment of forgiveness, however, is not ours to ordain. True forgiveness happens in a moment of GRACE and we will recognize it when we are FREE of the inner burdens wrapped around the issue: resentment, anger, sorrow, obsessive thoughts, harbored or cultivated resentment, the need to seek vengeance or to wish harm (or KARMA) on the other person. FORGIVENESS is about your own inner freedom….nothing more. And….forgiveness has NOTHING to do with the other person’s participation or even awareness. They can remain mad as hell at us or ignorant of the hurt we are experiencing and we can still experience the freedom of forgiveness. Which brings me to another point…
Obstacles to Forgiveness
These are the things that stand in the way of our ability to receive the Grace of forgiveness:
- RESENTMENT: Resentment is the armour we gather around ourselves to protect us from the pain of hurt, harm, disappointment, betrayal. Resentment gives us a false sense of strength and allows us to HATE the other person for what they have done to us.
- SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS: I’m right….they are wrong. Again…..provides us with a false sense of strength….armouring us from the hurt.
- ATTACHMENT to THEIR APOLOGY: May or may not happen. As long as we are waiting for the other party to apologize for their role in the conflict, the Grace of forgiveness will not be received. Some will never be able to set down their shield of pride long enough to say, “I’m sorry for having hurt you.” Even if the hurting was unintentional. And some….just don’t know they hurt you in the first place.
- ATTACHMENT to THEM ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY: This kind of goes along with the apology thing. Some will never accept responsibility for their part in the conflict. Some are not interested or capable of doing the deep inner work that is necessary in owning their part in a conflict…..even if the hurt was unintentional.
Forgiveness – Best Practices
At the end of the day….forgiveness is a spiritual thing. It is something that is accomplished beyond us, through us and often in spite of us. To put it in theistic language: The Grace of forgiveness belongs to God. As such, it is ultimately through our spiritual practice that we open to the Grace of forgiveness. I have found two simple practices that make us available to receiving forgiveness:
- Tonglen – I address Tonglen in detail in my blog about TRUTH. (click link to read directions on Tonglen)
- Mantra – Mantra is a form of meditation/prayer by which we repeat a phrase over and over and over, allowing it to bring us to a peaceful and relaxed state. The added benefit to mantra is that it has the power to change us by the sounds and meanings of the sacred phrase we are repeating. My favorite mantra for forgiveness is from the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer: (to hear the whole Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, click HERE.)
Washboqlan khaubayn (wakhtahayn) aykanna daph khnan shbwoqan l’khayyabayn
Which translated means: Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
The Final Word
At the end of the day, forgiveness is about releasing our judgment of another person’s actions……hence the difficulty of forgiveness. It is our judgment of other’s actions that causes the separation that makes forgiveness necessary in the first place. And…it is through forgiveness that we are re-conciled……restored to our original nature as ONE with each other, with ourselves, with God and with all creation. And it is here that we shall once again know peace.
How are you being invited to enter into a process of forgiveness?
This morning’s blog reminds us of the value of rote repetition and mantra prayer, especially during times when all else seems to fail us. (also explored in this week’s issue of The Agape’ Project)
Over the Top Stress
I’m not sure if it is the universe, earth changes, hormones, perimenopause, or just “stuff happens,” but on Thursday of this week I found myself in the biggest ball of stress I have experienced in a LONG TIME! Rampant anxiety, worry, obsessive thoughts, out of nowhere tears. In a nutshell….I was a mess. Such a mess in fact, that no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not fall asleep. It reminded me of the times in my childhood and even into adulthood when I found myself sleepless due to the marathon being run in my over-active brain. It was a feeling I had not experienced in a very long time.
I tried EVERYTHING
As I struggled with whatever that energy was on Thursday, I employed all the tactics I know for relaxation, returning to rational thought, restoring peace. NOTHING worked. I went for a walk. I meditated. I listened to music. I journalled. I allowed myself to be present to my tears, etc. I even added some magnesium to my evening nutrition. NOTHING WORKED. Then, when I thought the repose of sleep would help, I found it only got worse. Tossing and turning in bed, restless and stupid thoughts in my head, worry, anxiousness, feelings of being emotionally bereft. Again I tried everything….breathing exercises, thinking “happy” thoughts. Again NOTHING! In a fit of desperation, I pulled open the drawer in my bedside table and rummaged around for my rosary. Perhaps the only tool that helped me during my childhood would provide relief for 47 year old Lauri. At the bottom of the drawer, shoved into the back corner, buried under lotion, chapstick, incense sticks and a bag of rocks I found it. Running my fingers over the beads, I began to pray: Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee….. I’m not sure how many decades I ended up praying, but my thoughts must have finally cleared for when my alarm sounded in the morning, I awoke with the rosary still clutched in my fist, the red crystal beads wrapped around my fingers.
When All Else Fails
Thursdays experience reminded me of the value in the tried and true, specifically in prayers of rote repetition and mantra. As a child, the Hail Mary was always my go-to prayer. When I was frightened, feeling alone or sleepless, I turned to our Divine Mother for intercession and comfort by invoking this prayer. As an adult, I turned to this prayer during times of crisis like the day I was held up at gun point outside my downtown Minneapolis apartment, or when I found myself caught in a wind and hailstorm with my two babies in the car. Perhaps it is the familiarity of the prayer, nostalgia, or the rhythm that is created by rote repetition, but for whatever reason, these are the kinds of prayers that seem to be of greatest assistance when it seems all other methods of stress-relief, meditation or prayer just don’t seem to work.
As an exercise today, I would invite you to explore your own repetoire of spiritual tools in search of “the tried and true.” What is it that you can turn to when all else fails? Maybe it is the rosary, the Hail Mary, the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps it is a Sanskrit mantra or the Hebrew Kaddish. Or maybe it is just a single word – love, peace, Jesus. Whatever that “tried and true” might be, I invite you to acknowledge it and put it in your hip pocket (or the drawer of your bedside table) so it is ready to use when all else seems to fail.
Authentic Freedom Ministries
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
Today’s blog revisits the topic of forgiveness and offers tools when even the desire to forgive feels outside of our grasp.
This weekend, grief decided to make a reappearance. The grief that paid me a visit is the grief of loss as is related to perceived betrayal. On the highest and most profound level, I know that betrayal is not really possible. Another person does not have the power to betray me, hurt me or deprive me of love. But, since I have not yet achieved the fullness of enlightenment, Buddhahood, or Christhood, it often feels as if they do. So when I was reminded of what I might perceive as betrayal or harm to me at the hands of another, I found myself wrapped in the cloak of my inner victim, seething with hurt, rage, even hatred. I wanted to lash out in revenge. Scream my rage. “Make them pay.” Fortunately I think I know better…..maybe.
Setting Aside Old Behaviors
In the past, if I felt hurt or betrayed by another, I simply wrapped a cloak of resentment and hatred around me so that I would not have to feel the pain of loss. My first inclination when grief decided to pay me a visit this weekend was to indulge this impulse. But now after 20+ years of inner work, I have come to understand how unproductive and potentially hurtful these defense mechanisms of hatred and resentment have been to me and to my ability to be open to healthy intimate relationships. I knew I needed to set aside my defense mechanisms of hatred and resentment, be present to the pain, grieve the loss and be open to another layer of forgiveness. Ha….my defense mechanisms had other plans it seems.
Calling in Reinforcements
I tried, I really did. I tried to be understanding. I tried to be hospitable. I tried to stand in compassion. I tried to allow myself to grieve. I tried to be forgiving and let go. But when Tuesday came around and I was still being chased by my demons of resentment and hatred I knew I needed to call in some reinforcements. So while being attentive to my yoga practice Tuesday night, seething in anger, I prayed. First I tried a mantra. Then I tried to engage the practice of Tonglen. Then I tried breathing. Then I tried visualization. I tried everything in my arsenal of spiritual practices, but instead of relief, all I felt was more rage. Then somewhere between the in and out breath, in the middle of Sun Salutation A, I heard a tiny voice in my head that said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” I immediately recognized this as Jesus’ words on the cross. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, being spit at, harassed, tortured, these were his words for his tormentors. Did Jesus feel betrayed, angry, hurt, disappointed, despairing….YOU BET…..and in the face of this, when he was perhaps incapable of offering forgiveness himself, he asked it of God. I heard these words and realized the powerful healing balm inherent in these words. I immediately embraced these words as my mantra and in doing so, I felt an enormous amount of relief. My hatred and anger subsided and I began to find peace.
Outside our Reach
What I realized is that sometimes (ok, maybe often), forgiveness is totally out of our reach. I wanted to be compassionate, loving, forgiving….but found I could not. I guess I’m still human. And, when forgiveness is outside of my reach, there is a source that I can turn to that can accomplish the forgiveness for me. And, in turning that which needs forgiveness over to this loving Source that I call “God” and Jesus called “Abwoon”, there is relief. So today, I continue to offer these words in regards to the perceived betrayal, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing,” and enjoy the relief of knowing that God is taking care of it.
What hurts, losses, betrayals are you still grieving?
Where are you struggling to forgive these losses?
How might Jesus’ words help you to surrender this forgiveness to God, inviting God to help you through that pain?
Authentic Freedom Ministries