The Universe is in Us

The spiritual practice of lectio universum speaks to our first and fifth sources.  The first source is Wonder: direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder…. and the fifth is Reason: humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science….  This video by Max Schlickenmeyer captures the deep wonder that can be found in scientific knowledge.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist who speaks eloquently on science, the universe, and everything. His words frame this beautiful video meditation about our connection to the greater whole.

Please find a quiet place to watch and take some time to sit afterwards in contemplation.

 

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Dwell on the Beauty

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Awe awakens us to the world. It heightens our sensitivity to the greater whole which encompasses all life. In November, our spiritual practice is lectio universum, or contemplating the universe. The universe we live in is an ever unfolding mystery, staggeringly beautiful and astonishingly large. To look at the night sky and understand that each tiny point of light is a blazing sun humbles and amazes me, I am struck by wonder every time.

This month, I will be posting videos and readings about the glory of the universe. This week’s offering is The Known Universe, from the American Museum of Natural History. Created from a four dimensional atlas of the observable universe, its perspective moves out from the Himalayas to the edge of the universe.

I suggest the following steps in watching will help shape this as a spiritual practice; please adapt to your own needs.

Watch the video in a quiet place with no distractions. Sit for a moment and breathe deeply before starting the video.

Sit and consider your response to the video. Go for a walk, wash the dishes, fold the laundry – do something with your body and let your mind sift through images and feelings.  You may also sit in silence, eyes closed, for a minute or two.

Journal your reflections, noting feelings as well as thoughts.  Or, if you watched with someone else, share your responses.

Open Your Whole Self

Our final lectio divina comes from the poet Joy Harjo. Drawing on her Native American heritage, Harjo’s poem brings to life our connection to the larger whole. One critic noted that “to read the poetry of Joy Harjo is to hear the voice of the earth…”

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Soul Food

This week’s lectio divina comes from the Dao De Jing, a wisdom text of Daoism, an ancient tradition in China which focuses on living in harmony with the Way. The oldest known version was written down in the fourth century BCE. The words are attributed to Lao Zi, possibly a contemporary of Confucious, and a court philosopher. A text of images and ideas, the Daode Jing arises out of an oral tradition, with additions and alterations occurring over several centuries. There are many translations available, this version is by Ursula K. Le Guin,

She calls the text refreshing to the soul, a drink of pure water from a deep spring.

Remember to find a quiet place to read the text aloud, slowly and attentively.  Take time to reflect on the words that resonate, consider writing your response in a journal to help deepen your understanding.

Chapter 2 of the Daode Jing:  Soul Food

Everybody on earth knowing
that beauty is beautiful
makes ugliness.

Everybody knowing
that goodness is good
makes wickedness.

For being and non-being
arise together;
hard and easy
complete each other;
long and short
shape each other;
high and low
depend on each other;
note and voice
make the music together;
before and after
follow each other.

That’s why the wise soul
does without doing
teaches without talking.

The things of this world
exist, they are;
you can’t refuse them.

To bear and not to own;
to act and not lay claim;
to do the work and let it go;
for just letting it go
is what makes it stay.

Starting Here

This week’s text for Lectio Divina is by American poet William Stafford (1914-1993). In reading this poem, remember to read slowly, reflect on the text, respond from your own experience, and contemplate any connections or insights that may arise.

Find a quiet space to practice, as lectio divina calls for careful attention to the text and your own response.  The detailed instructions are here.

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

William Stafford

Consider the words…

For the month of October we will be practicing an old Christian practice known as lectio divina – sacred reading. Lectio divina is a way to cultivate the ability to listen deeply, to hear, as St. Benedict wrote, “with the ear of our hearts”.  It is a another way to develop our ability to pay attention – this time to the written word. By reading a text slowly, contemplatively, we become more open to the meaning behind the words. When you find a word or a passage that speaks to you, sit with it, ruminate on it, see where it takes you. What does it evoke for you, what connections do you find with your experiences? Please remember that contemplation is not another goal to be achieved, but a chance to rest in the grace of the world.

Lectio Divina as a Personal Practice
Use this week’s offering or choose a poem or a short passage from a sacred text, book of philosophy or book of meditations.

Find a quiet place that allows you to focus.
Sit in silence for a few moments, breathing deeply, letting your body relax.
Read the text carefully and slowly.
Repeat words or phrases that resonate for you.
Read the text aloud.
Reflect on why those words or phrases resonate, what meaning or understanding you are drawing from them.This may be done through quiet contemplation or journalling. Consider how this insight might nourish you in the coming days.
Read the text once more.
Sit in silence for a few moments more.

For families, you might choose a simple poem with strong images.

This poem is by American poet Mary Oliver.

What I Have Learned So Far
Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

Deep like the Rivers

My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Langston Hughes.

In this final week of water practices, we will be using water as a meditation guide.

The sight and sound of water is highly evocative – the roar of a waterfall, the chatter of a creek, the soothing rush of low waves. The rich sensory offerings of water helps us to move into a meditative state, in which we can ground and center ourselves. Regular meditation refreshes our spirits, helps us meet the challenges of the day. Take ten minutes each day this week to meditate to the sights and sounds of water, the elixir of life, which sustains us all.  You can either play the video, or read the words before sitting in meditation.

Video Meditation
Play the video below, let your eyes go soft as you watch the water.  If it is easier, close your eyes and simply listen to the flowing water. It`s okay if your mind wanders; the point is not to empty your mind, but to not get caught up in your thoughts, to let them flow by you as the water flows. Gently remind yourself to come back to the water. Let your emotions – boredom, discomfort, sadness, joy – flow by as well.  Breathe in, breathe out, watch the water.  Video by Johnnie Lawson, Meditative Artist. (Warning: this video begins with ad).

Guided Meditation
The words below offer a guided meditation.  If you are using it for yourself, read a sentence out loud or silently, then close your eyes and image the scene.  To read aloud for others, invite them into a quiet time.  Ask them to settle into a comfortable sitting down or lying down position and close their eyes.  You might ask kids to wiggle their legs and arms and relax.  Wait for calm, then read the meditation out loud, pausing between sentences. Let there be silence when needed.

The Pool in the Forest
Breathe deeply, picture yourself walking along a path in a maple- pine forest. Breathe in that sharp pine scent.  Maple leaves crunch under your feet as you soak in the warm sunshine. Mushrooms poke out of the ground, moss hangs off branches. As you walk, the path begins to slope down toward a creek. You pass by limestone outcroppings, pale and solid and beautiful. You come to the creek and wander alongside, stepping from stone to stone.

Breathe deeply. You find yourself walking up to the source of the creek, a clear spring-fed pool. Dip into the water.  It is cold and refreshing. Cup your hands and take a drink. The water tastes sweet. It feels bracingly alive as it drips off your fingers. The water is so inviting, you decide to swim. As you dive in, feel the rush of energy as your body is immersed in the cool water. Every cell of your body feels completely alive. The water swirls and encircles you.

Relax into the soft embrace of the pool, let go of tension and breathe. Float quietly, supported by the gently moving water. Let your worries go like leaves floating downstream. Stay floating and drifting in the water. Let your thoughts dance along in the silence. Relax into the sunlit pool.

Breathe deeply. Feel the water in your blood and in your cells. The water within you,the water surrounding you. It is all one. One element. One whole.

Remember this as you climb out of the pool, reinvigorated. Remember this sense of belonging as you leave the pool, walking back along the stream.  Remember the wholeness as you walk back out of the pine forest and into your ordinary, extraordinary life.