Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lectio Divina

The sleeper in the Mandala Program offering is Lectio Divina. “Divine Reading.” “Holy Reading.” Ho-Hum. Sounds too much like Bible Study. But, read the blurb: “When Lectio Divina is practiced faithfully, it leads to a deeper knowledge of the Divine, ourselves and the world. It also helps us ‘stay on the beam.’” What more could you ask? What more do you need?

Lectio Divina is a projective device like the Animal Projection Exercise. Don’t tell me you haven’t done the Animal Projection Exercise. Where have you been? We’ve only done it about 278 times in the last seven years (We will be starting our 8th year here on November 16). We can’t track you down, bang on your door, insist that you do what’s good for you. As close as we come to that is what I’m doing here with the Lectio Divina. It is a projective device that opens you to you (If you want to check out the Animal Projection Exercise, look up the April 12, 2010 podcast or printed monologue on my blog site:

Projective devices (like dreams) are important because we cannot see ourselves directly, only indirectly, obliquely, askance, out of the corner of our eye. It’s like trying to see a particular star in the night sky. You don’t look directly at it, but off a bit to the side, and there it is. If you look at it, it’s gone. That’s you looking for yourself. Lectio Divina is a tool for looking at yourself sideways.

The folks teaching the class (Helen Wolff and Joyce McKenzie) are going to use scripture passages, not because they are magical, but because they are useful. The most useful thing about them is that they stir up stuff in us. Questions, curiosity, resistance. Resistance is great because it exposes our stuck places. We resist things that “push our buttons.” Mention the Deep South to me and I get all bristly and snarly. Resistance. You pushed one of my buttons.

Our buttons are complexes, like an apartment complex, which consist of a multitude of experiences, ideas, memories which coalesce around an event, or a series of events that is/are/was/were “too hot,” or too traumatic, or too raw and ugly for us to reasonably process at the time. It was a bad time, and we survived it by not looking too closely at the badness of the times. But it remains alive for us, and we still don’t want to look at it. Well, guess what. Spiritual growth requires us to unstick the stuck places by squaring up to them, remembering them, thinking about them, working with them. I do that with you—you play the part of a community of therapists for me—by talking about the Deep South from time to time. Saying the words forces me to face the memories and feel the feelings and come to terms with the badness of the times. We do that over and over until our reactivity diminishes and disappears and that particular word is no longer a button.

So you read a scripture passage. A button is pushed. And you face up to it. What is stirred up? What memories come to life? Or, you read a scripture passage, and certain words or terms catch your attention. You pay attention to what catches your attention and wonder about it, creating a train, or a trail, of associations, and seeing where it leads you, what it brings to mind for you. In all of this, you develop an intense curiosity about your response to the text and go in your mind where your response takes you. This is woolgathering, or taking a walkabout, at its best, and it is a form of meditation, of prayer, that will, over time, lead you to you and to more than you, to more than words can say, more than meets the eye, to the experience of Transcendent Reality we call Divine, or Holy, or God.

Sounds crazy. Sounds wo-oo, wo-oo. Sounds weird. We prefer our religion to be rational, logical, reasonable, left-brained and nicely limited to what words can say and eyes can see. Well, look, listen, then. You come here whining to me about spiritual growth and development and I hand you Lectio Divina, and you say, “Don’t you have a catechism around here somewhere, or a book of doctrine? Something we can argue with, and debate, and dismiss because of its obvious defects and deficiencies? We don’t actually want spiritual growth and development, we just want a really rousing intellectual dispute to get the juices flowing.”

My goodness, I do believe it is the church of your experience that you are looking for! Strange isn’t it, how what we run from is what we seek? Well, now, THAT’S food for thought! Lectio Divina at our service! We start with our resistance to Lectio Divina as a spiritual exercise using scripture and see where it takes us, paying attention to all that stirs within us and where that takes us, and before you know it we are into spiritual growth and development whether we want to be or not.

This is the wonder of spiritual growth. EVERYTHING is a springboard to realization, awareness, enlightenment, understanding, comprehension, seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, being. Everything is a mirror reflecting us to ourselves (A mirror is the best projective device. We project ourselves onto a mirror and are reflected back by it, and see ourselves thereby). We have to stand before the mirror until we see ourselves. Whenever something stirs something within, whenever there is a response, a reaction, either Yes! or No! the rule is to Stop! Look! Listen! What stirred what? We have to listen carefully and see the signs, and read them. Where do our motives come from? Our values? What directs our actions? This is called getting to the heart of the matter, or squaring up to ourselves and how it is with us, or seeing things as they are. Once we square up to who we are and how it is with us, we can take a peek at what needs to be done and what we have that might be helpful. At that point, we are on our way!

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