Saturday, August 30, 2014

Challenge Yourself

In my last post I mentioned a contemplative practice based on Lectio Divina, the meditative practice of “divine reading.”  It can yield creative insight into challenges that confront us, and help us work out where we sit in relation to key questions or ideas that influence our lives.  I’d like to present it here.

To begin, you’ll need something written down that inspires or challenges you, or something that may make you question ideas you are sure of.  This could be something from a spiritual tract, a line or stanza from a poem or a couple of sentences from a novel, piece of a political speech, or part of a business plan.  Anything that gives you pause, makes you think, is difficult for you to consider, or inspires you will work. 

Then you’ll want to read the words you’ve chosen over and over, to yourself, for several minutes.  Focus intensely on the words as expressed.  Let the idea presented sink in.  Investigate the thoughts that pull you away from your words, and feel into your body how you fully experience this sentiment.  Return to the words over and over again as you become distracted.  Allow your focus to draw into a shorter part of the writing that jumps out at you, most moves you, and seems to encapsulate your feelings about the idea.  Find the essence of the idea you ponder.

Continue to focus on this shorter phrase for several more minutes.  Let it become a mantra for your meditation.  When your mind wanders come back to this phrase that speaks to you.  Allow it to sink in and fill your consciousness.  Don’t be discouraged about how far away your mind pulls you from this phrase, but always come back, repeating it to yourself, over and over.  Don’t ignore your body, either.  Are you comfortable or uncomfortable?  Tense or relaxed?  What does this contemplation feel like?

Then, after several minutes, stop repeating the phrase.  Let the mind open up, and accept whatever comes to you.  You may find a new idea arising, your may gain insight into something confronting you, you may think about total nonsense.  Just let your mind go to freely associate, and accept without judgment anything that comes into your attention.  Do this for several minutes and when your time is up pick up a pen and write down whatever is preeminent in your mind.

Return to the original sentiment, in its entirety, and see how you feel about it now.  Journal whatever comes to you. Have you been presented by your subconscious with insight?  Do you have some creative ideas you hadn’t considered before?  Possibly.  Possibly not.  But you have taken a significant period of time to sit with an idea and see where you stand regarding it.  That’s pretty rare in this world.  You have challenged yourself, and that leads to depth.  Our opportunities to reconsider and improve upon our thinking are limited as the algorithms in our apps and search engines present us with stories we may be interested in based on our past readings.  We self-select a sometimes unipolar way of thinking, losing the contrast of competing ideas.

To enable our minds to work out ideas that challenge us, setting aside time for contemplation and introspection, will make us more insightful, more well-rounded, and either more or less certain of what we know to be true.  From there we grow.

1 comment:

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