the search for a spiritual practice that works for me
how to put the learning / self discovery of recent weeks into words?
I think it begins with my chiropractor, and his teaching about breathing and the body, and encouraging me not to hate or be angry with my body, but to like it and to care for it. Then there’s the discovery that I am a feeling person – all this time I assumed that because I’m academic and introverted I must be living in my head. I’ve been ignoring the way I actually go about my academic work – I feel my way through. I do the reading, and I let my subconscious sense its way through the argument I want to make. I don’t intellectualise it. This was on the first weekend of the introduction to spiritual formation course I'm enrolled in that this knowledge of myself fell into place. On that weekend I also rediscovered labyrinth and lectio devina. Labyrinth is a bodily meditation. Lectio devina is word / Word based, but is still stillness and reflection. And then last week when Gordon and Stephen were teaching about the centredness of the pastor in the gathered assembly – being centred in the Spirit, ready to lead, being comfortable with your role as leader, as sign, as pastor, knowing the flow of the space / liturgy and thus being able to concentrate your attention on the reader for example, and if people look at you you’re not fumbling around working out what happens next, you’re focussed on the reader and they follow your gaze and it helps their focus. I think that also helps a space to feel organic, not like a series of acts in a show, but elements to the one prayer.
All this is beginning to come together and help me find a spiritual practice that just might work for me. Gary also said something about spiritual practice being a discipline, and though I am generally quite undisciplined, in terms of not liking a rigid routing, I acknowledge that there needs to be enough discipline to make the time for God.
So I am trying this approach – I’ve been reading a psalm a day for some time, French in the morning and English in the evening, bookending the day in the psalm. I figure Jesus knew the psalms pretty well, so it seemed a good thing to do. Now I’m following a lectio devina process in the morning, focussing on a word or phrase from the psalm and meditating, praying and contemplating. As I contemplate, I find my breath beginning to lead me to a centre – then I get up and do the tai chi routine of the 18 steps of chi kung I’ve learnt. I’ve been doing the steps with my eyes closed, which actually helps to become aware of my body and my breath. And it really helps to find a centre, because you need to find your physical centre for balance. I breathe on a word like holy or sacred, which helps also to keep focus and breathe into the centre. Breath has always been a way I’ve felt connected to the Sacred – the Spirit is the breath I breathe. Breath is also important in storytelling – knowing the story deep within so that it comes from the centre with your breath makes it a very embodied experience, and that’s what makes storytelling. If you’re connected to breath and body, you’re connected to emotion, and can communicate the emotion of the story and thus invite the listeners to connect with the emotion and it becomes an embodied experience for them too. Learning is not just a head thing, it is also a heart thing, and if you learn a thing with your whole body you are more likely to remember it – it is more likely to be woven into the story of your life. And this is my passion – communicating the story from my heart to yours – from the depths of me so that it reaches the depths of you and the Sacred Story becomes woven into the story of our own lives. It is my commitment to being a storyteller that is providing the motivation to continue to seek a spiritual practice that works for me – breathing the Sacred and the Story into the very centre of my being so that I can communicate the Story with integrity.