Spiritual Reading

Practice of the Week
Spiritual Reading

For a somewhat different approach, see "Sacred Reading"

Sacred reading is a very different way of reading than you are probably used to. It's a very slow approach to about one or two paragraphs a day -- reading not so much for what the text means, in the usual way, as for what it suggests for your life, right where you are, at that particular moment.

Begin by choosing a text for the day. The Bible's book of Psalms, the verses of the Dao De Jing or the Bhagavad Gita are wonderful. You might want to utilize the poems of Mary Oliver, or Walt Whitman, or the poems from such anthologies as The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy (Bly) or A Book of Luminous Things (Milosz) -- or just google "spiritual poetry anthology" for titles. You might want to use the prose essays of a favorite wisdom writer -- progressing through the essay one or two paragraphs at a time.

These instructions are adapted from those at onespiritinterfaith.org.

1. Enter into Sacred Time
Take a few minutes to quiet and center yourself. You may want to mark the beginning of your practice as sacred time by lighting a candle, ringing a meditation chime, taking a few deep mindful breaths, or offering a simple gesture of reverence such as placing your hand gently on your heart and bowing your head. Take a moment to recognize that this time of practice is not only for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of those whose lives you touch, directly or indirectly – even for the benefit, in some way you may never know, of the whole of life itself.

2. Read
Read the day’s passage slowly and receptively several times, silently or, if possible, aloud.

3. Reflect
Notice which word or phrase captures your attention. Take some time to reflect on the meaning that word or phrase has for you at this particular time, what it evokes in you, what questions or challenges or insights it raises for your life right now. You may want to jot the word or phrase down in a journal or on a card to carry with you as a reminder through your day.

4. Respond
Once you have reflected deeply on what Spirit, or life, or your intuition is saying to you today through this word or phrase, allow yourself to respond. This may be as simple as an inner “thank you” or an intention to express the wisdom you have gleaned in your life today. Or you may feel a need to pour out feelings that have been stirred in your time of reflection. Do not censor yourself but, like the psalmists of old, let yourself express whatever has arisen in you – whether gratitude, wonder, hope, joy, or anger, grief, shame or fear. Express your response however you are moved to: speak it, write it, pray it, dance it, draw it, sing it. Ask yourself (Spirit/life/the universe), for further illumination or guidance, for strength or courage to translate what you have discovered into action in your life. Open yourself to feeling fully listened to and heard by yourself/Spirit/life/the universe.

5. Rest and Receive
Now allow yourself to enter a time of stillness and silence – a time of letting go, of releasing agendas and control, and of simply resting in and with Spirit. Don’t look for any particular kind of experience during this time; simply surrender and offer yourself to life, trusting that whatever transformation and healing you need is being done in and for and through you as you rest and allow. Try to spend at least 5 minutes in this receptive silence, more if possible.

6. Return and Re-enter
Gently return your awareness to your physical surroundings and prepare to re-enter your daily life in the world. Spend a moment in gratitude for whatever you have received in this time of practice, and for the blessings in your life. You may want to end your time of practice with this affirmation and breath-prayer, based on words of Dag Hammarkjöld.
“For all that has been – thanks! For all that will be – yes!”
Breathing in: “Thanks”
Breathing out: “Yes”

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