August 26, 2018
Contemplative or Sacred Listening is a core to my work as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director. Those of you who regularly attend our Small Group sessions have experienced a form of contemplative listening. A related and equally important skill to have in our growth as Christians is that of Spiritual Reading, a process for reflective reading. I invite you to follow these simple instructions and devote some time this week to some spiritual reading of your own.
Select a biblical or other devotional reading of interest. This can be scripture or a poem or prose, or even your Sunday School lesson. I like the writings of Howard Thurman. Allot ½ hour sittings for spiritual reading at a time and place during which you will not be disturbed. Choose a place that you associate with prayer, rather than study or work. For instance, don’t use your home office if that is generally a stressful place. Go out into the back yard or some place that is generally peaceful.
Begin each reading session by consciously centering yourself and letting go of the events of the day. One way to do this is to sit quietly and first pay attention to your breath and be grateful for it. Pay attention to your body and notice areas that may be uncomfortable. If you can, comfort yourself by shifting your position or otherwise relieving the discomfort. If you can’t shake it, just acknowledge it and then intentionally put aside all the other things on your mind. Imagine putting each thought about everything you need to do in a temporary box.
Read and Write
Now be open to allow the reading to engage aspects of your person different than when you usually read. In other words, prepare yourself for prayer. Read slowly, meditating as you go. This means, when you reach a place that captures your attention, stop and explore it. Write down significant reflections and insights whether positive or negative. If something seems strange or off-putting, try to “get underneath” the literal meaning of the words to the spirit behind them. Write down your reflections to use in your on-going prayer life. If possible, share them with a prayer partner. (process has been adapted from the SFTS Program in Christian Spirituality)
Reverend Ineda Adesanya