I will be the first to tell you that of all the prayer practices I have learned about, this one is still often the most difficult for this seldom quiet pastor to hold on to. That being said, we shouldn’t let the idea of meditation scare us either. There are many different practices that include meditation in different ways. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have wait for everything around me to align, for the perfect moment of quiet bliss to practice some form of meditation. I actually think that being able to take a moment in the midst of chaos to center ourselves can be a real gift if we allow ourselves the freedom to do it. I have a note on my phone that I open to every now and again that simply says, “If you’re reading this, release your shoulders from your ears, unclench your jaw, and remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth. We physically tend to hold onto stress in the least noticeable ways. Relax.” When I remind myself of those things it gives me a chance to catch my breath, to center myself and to reengage in the present moment. That act of bringing ourselves back to the present, having a sense of self-awareness and clarity in moment often brings me to a place of gratitude. It often doesn’t then come as a spoken prayer, but a recognition of something greater than myself who leads me to a place of centering, mindfulness and gratitude.
Of course there are many ways to practice mindfulness and meditation which are more focused too. One of the practices that I have experienced in many different settings is an exercise called Lectio Divina. I will share the most basic understanding of this practice and suggest a text to focus on this week.
Before you begin find yourself a comfortable space and bring your bible with the scripture marked. Take a moment to invite the Spirit into this time and space with you and to guide you. Read the passage once to get familiar with it and then reread the passage more slowly. As you are reading the second time listen for a word of phrase that stands out to you or lingers with you, you might want to mark that word or phrase. Then spend some time being quiet, listen for what it is that you think you’re hearing in that word or phrase. Does it call to mind anything particular about your life or life circumstances? Read the passage again and pay attention to how your word or phrase ties into it, notice if it leads you to any other words that stand out and how they might tie together. I like to ask myself the questions “I wonder…or I notice…” to help lead me in the passage. What other life experiences might tie into the words or phrases you’ve identified as meaningful? Images or pictures, specific people or places? Remember in this that you are not alone, that in all of those experiences God was with you. Read the passage for a last time, and let it guide you in conversation with the Lord. Tell God what you have noticed, listen for God to help you understand that which you might not. Ask what you should take away from this time together with God.
Finally, a book that I have been spending time with in the last week or so is titled “just this” by Father Richard Rohr. The book is labeled as “prompts and practices for contemplation.” This book is described as being “a collection of brief and evocative meditations and practices.” It
offers many opportunities to experience the ordinary around us in ways that can be eye-opening to beauty unseen and foist us into the mystical experiences of God and faith that we otherwise might not see. Some may find that Rohr is a bit too into the mysticism side of things (I know that I often do) but this book has many practices that allow for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. You might give it a try. I hope you all can find some peace in your prayer life this week. I continue to hold you all in prayer.