The Kingdom of Heaven is within you" -The Gospel of Mary
Take your mind and place it in your heart. -St. Dionysus the Areopagite/Pseudo-Dionysus
Yesterday was the first meeting of the Beehive. I was moved as we began our opening circle with the palpable sense of yearning- a longing to find a deeper connection to the sacred and also the hunger to reclaim Mary as a spiritual center for the Christian story- the place she rightly deserves as the most faithful of all Jesus's disciples and according to the so-called Gnostic texts, the one who best understood his message.
Over the next nine months, we will be exploring the texts, both Canonical and non-Canonical, through an ancient prayer practice called Lectio Divina. It is a spiritual tool used to illuminate scripture and to help find the light within. It has been a cornerstone of Benedictine prayer practice for centuries, and it is one of the most powerful tools I know for gaining insight, both into scripture and into yourself.
"Lectio Divina" translates roughly to "Holy Reading" or "Holy Listening". So often in our culture, we read for speed, as fast and as much as we can. This ancient practice of reading is very counter-cultural: we are to read slowly the same passage aloud several times, savoring each word and letting it swell within us, awakening our imagination . Deep, reflective reading was one of the tools that monastics used to draw closer to the Divine, to open up the imagination to something larger than the little self (ego) we mistake for our true beings.
You can try a version of Lectio Divina at home this way. Imagine that the text is an encoded love letter written to you from God or the universe. Read the passage above aloud slowly twice. Reading aloud affects the brain in a different way to hear things rather than to see them. This is encapsulated in the Medieval phrase, "From the eye to the mind, from the ear to the heart". The attempt here is to place the mind in the heart, so reading aloud is important. After you read it aloud a second time, notice what word or phrase most calls your attention. Write that down. Read it a third time, and as you are saying the words, notice what images arise within you. What do you taste, see, hear, feel, sense, even smell? If you wanted to go deeper, you could journal about what you are encountering, write a poem, or improvise music, draw a picture or create a collage in response. Now take these pieces- a word or phrase and the image/creative response and ask yourself what it is saying to you about your own life and the challenges you face right now on your spiritual path. What is the message to you about what choices to make, or the way to approach a situation now. In the language of Christianity, where is God calling you through these words?