Background: One of the goals of Lectio Divina is to help us find words or phrases in a text which speak to us.
For this exercise, I am not suggesting a particular text. You might begin with your favorite book of scripture. Or a poem. If there is a passage you particularly struggle with, this might be a powerful exercise to attempt.
Whatever it is you use, you are going to want to have it handy. Having either a physical or electronic copy will work. There are, of course, many websites which feature scripture and poems. It would be wise to have the page, chapter, poem, or website pre-selected and open when you begin.
- Be ready with your reading: have the book or website open and ready for the section you would like to consider.
- Spend a few minutes breathing and releasing your worries.
- As best you can, with your exhalations, let go of your preconceptions and assumptions of what you are about to read. With each out breath, let go of more of the things you think you know about the reading. Do your best to see these assumptions disapating into the air.
- When you feel that you have reached a state of beginners mind, read the passage all the way through. On this first reading, just try and get a sense about the big picture.
- When you finish reading through, give yourself some time to breathe.
- Reread the passage. Pay attention to the passages which bring about a reaction in you. Where do you feel stirred?
- Read the passage at least one more time. This time, try and find a specific phrase. Ideally, it should not be more than 5 words long. At most, it should not be more than 10 words long. If you get to the end of the passage and have not found anything, that is ok. Read the passage– or at least a portion of the passage– one last time to select your sacred words.
- Say your words out loud. You might wish to assign one half of the phrase to your inhale, and one half of the phrase to your exhale.
- Spend a good portion of the time repeating your sacred phrase. Leave yourself access to the source material, so you can remind yourself of the wording if you get off track.
- When you are ready, release your sacred words. Sit in wordless union.
In the exercise above, we are working at not shifting the practice toward our conscious agenda. This does not mean our agenda won’t slip in, though.
This form of Lectio can also be practiced with a more intentional agenda. Here, we might actively be looking for insight in one aspect of our life.
As with the prior practice, it is wise to have your reading pre-selected: have the website opened or the book ready, turned to the appropriate page.
- Place your feet flat on the ground.
- Breathe calmly.
- Speak to God about the things that are on your mind. Ask God any questions you have. Identify and verbalize for help in any specific area.
- Take a few more cleansing breaths.
- Read the passage that you have selected all the way through.
- Read the passage again. This time, be on the look out for words, phrases, and sentences that connect with you. Perhaps it relates to the thoughts and feelings you expressed to God a few minutes ago.
- Read the passage a third time. This time through, try to hone in on the sentence you will be using in your practice.
- If you are not yet committed to a certain phrase, read the passage one more time.
- Choose a phrase of 2-10 words.
- Repeat your phrase with each breath. You might assign the first half of the phrase to the inhale, and the second half of the phrase to an exhalation.
- Let this breathing and recitation occupy at least a third of the time you have set aside for your practice today.
- When you are ready, release this phrase.
- Discuss the things you experienced today with God.