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.