Posts Tagged ‘Lectio Divina’

For me prayer is when we talk to God or a higher power and meditation is when we shut up and listen!

There are all kinds of prayers and ways to meditate that are available to us. Below is a simple list of some of the most common ones:

Affirmation/affirmative: A good example of this is to recite “I am open and receptive to receive my good in health, wealth, and happiness today and every day to do the work I have come here to do.” This type of “prayer/affirmation” can help your conscious mind direct to you all the good that the universe has in store for you.
Centering: Silent prayer that helps us open ourselves to receive by quieting our minds, body, and spirits.
Contemplative: Focusing on an idea, scripture, quotation, sutra, poem or words of wisdom.
Intercession: Praying for help for others i.e. healing or prosperity for a friend in need.
Lectio Divina: reading, reflecting, responding, and resting on a sutra, scripture, or spiritual reading.
Meditation/sitting: Sitting quietly while focusing on your breath, a word, or counting 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out breath to quiet and center your rambling/monkey mind and become one with all that is.
Thanksgiving: A simple prayer of giving thanks often done before a meal or after a challenge has been overcome such as an illness, accident, or having passed your final exam in school.

Today I want to focus on the affirmation since I have had several requests from friends and students for prayers of prosperity, jobs, healing, and more. Affirmative prayers keep us in a positive mood with a wonderful outlook for the future. They help to keep us from ruminating on the negative, fearful, or harmful thoughts that seem to invade our minds in times of need.

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, said that prayers have weight and measure and ultimately energy. All words are prayers in some way. In Genesis 1:3 we read: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” The first demonstration of the power of the word! What words are you saying from the time you awake to the time you go to sleep? Are they words of illness, lack, limitation, frustration, and fear? Or are they words of affirmation, health, healing, prosperity, opportunity, love, and compassion. The universe does not care which you choose it will bring you whatever you think and pray for!

When times are tough, and they will be in life, center your prayers on positive affirmations and your mediation times on sitting in the silence to help quiet down that monkey mind and allow your body, mind, and spirit to rest. Give yourself a “meditation break” instead of a “coffee break” which just fills you with caffeine and sugar and calories!

Each day it would be helpful to end it with this Buddhist prayer/chant:

Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost
Each of us should strive to awaken
Awaken, take heed do not squander your life.

In gassho,



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There are hundreds of ways a person can begin to open to the spirit within them. In every religion there are prayers, and songs, and dances, and poems, and liturgies that have been created to help their followers find the divinity within them. We have been practicing out loud by chanting and singing, and creating music with percussion, string, and wind instruments or silently, through contemplation, meditation, zazen, introspection, lectio divina, dance, and more. Others have used sweat lodges, art, mind altering drugs, and ancient rituals. But all have been designed to help the individual find that mystical, untouchable, elusive thing within them called life.

Two extraordinary women have recently gifted me two things—one was a book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary by Kazuaki Tanahashi, and the other a journal article from Innovation Educativa which she is a co-author of entitled “The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education (Hall, O’Hare, Santavicca & Jones, 2015).” I have been moving between these pieces of writing with joy each presenting me with some fantastic ways to bring my practice into alignment with my life.

Thus I have decided to use these as a jumping off place for creating another workbook for the prison ministry in Florida of which I am one of their volunteers. The prison outreach ministry is sponsored by the Southern Palm Zen Group (Southern Palm Zen Group).

My first thought was what good I could get from the use of these techniques in my life, what I could discover about myself, and how I might even find my “true-self.” And then I read the paragraph below from Kaz’s book and discovered that what I really wanted to do was “understand” what he describes below and thus the workbook was born.

The “Four All-Embracing Vows” expresses the bodhisattva’s attitude. The first of the four vows—‘Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken them’—appears to be an overly idealistic and unrealistic promise. But if we look at it closely, we will notice that it doesn’t simply say, ‘I vow to awaken all sentient beings.’ It begins by acknowledging just how many living beings there are who need to be awakened. Thus, being kind to a neighbor, a stranger, or an animal can create rippling effects of kindness. A simple action may cause infinite results. If the ‘I’ who vows is separate from other people, what ‘I’ can achieve is quite limited. But if ‘I’ is not separate from all others throughout space and time, it may be possible to awaken all beings. This understanding is an essential ground for socially engaged Buddhism (Page 9).

My desire is to be a “socially engaged Buddhist.” My writing this workbook will help me discover new things about myself as I practice the techniques I am sharing, and hopefully, helping others do the same as they use the techniques in their own lives.

So let’s begin this adventure as Kaz did by reciting the four vows for a week as often as possible and wherever we can. Whether we’re sitting in meditation, contemplating the words, or writing them in our journal, whether we’re riding the train, or driving our cars, or making our beds–let’s chant. Chant aloud or silently as the environment allows. Let us not be separate from the words, the thoughts that follow, the sounds of the words, or the feelings and emotions that we feel as we chant. Let’s be one with everything. Let’s be accepting of what comes or does not come, no judgements or criticisms of ourselves, we’re simply chanting! The words are below as we chant them at the Southern Palm Zen Group. You are welcome to use them or use ones that you are familiar with.

The Four Vows
Creations are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.
The Enlightened Way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

In gassho,


[1]Hall, M.P., O’Hare, A., Jones L.F., Santavicca, N. (2015) The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education. Innovacion Educative, ISSN: 1665-2673 vol. 15, numero 67

[2]Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA

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A crazy thing happened to me today.  I caught myself reading mindlessly this morning as I picked up a new book that I bought the other day that was recommended by one of the groups that I belong to (The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society www.contemplativemind.org) it is entitled Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning by Daniel Barbezat and Mirabai Bush.

Now imagine picking up a book about contemplative practices and be reading mindlessly!  Well believe it or not, I did!  Partly because my mind was distracted from the reading and my thoughts and feelings were placed upon the e-mail I had just received about one of our Sangha members, Sid Bolotin, having passed away peacefully in the night.  My mind wandered to his statuesque physical presence and his peaceful countenance that permeated the air and the room each time I was in his presence.  It did not matter whether we met in the Zendo or we met in the library he was always present, smiling, and kind.

I cried a little as I remembered our last meeting how frail Sid had appeared and how slowly he walked into the library yet with great determination to keep living and loving with each moment he was given upon this earth.  That memory led me to pick up my book and begin reading again.  This time I caught the idea that was being shared in this chapter about contemplative reading in the classroom or anywhere—Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina has “four levels of meaning: literal, metaphorical or symbolic, moral, and mystical. Through the process, the simple words on the page become integrated into the moral and spiritual life of the reader (page 111).”[1]  Just imagine what our lives would be like if we lived our lives with these four levels in mind.  If each day we looked at life from the literal meaning it has for us as we went through the practical tasks of our lives.  This morning I did a load of wash, threw it into the dryer, took it out, folded it and then put it away.  Done!

If I then looked at that task in a metaphorical way and compared that to my life in general how would it look?  I always say to my teams when we are working on an initiative on the adventure training course that whatever you do here is exactly what you’d do or how you’d act on the job!  So if you are controlling and always taking charge you’ll do that here.  If you are shy and quiet you will be that way here as well.

So washing my clothes might be something I could think about doing with my mind and/or thoughts.  I could look at the symbolic way that enfolds my life.  I might even want to wash my mind of some negative thoughts. For some of those thoughts I might have to add bleach or a stain remover because they are so embedded in me and not helpful when trying to live a peaceful life of contemplation and compassion.  But like the spot remover once I recognized them and their effect on my life I could change them and therefore change my life. I could visualize it like some nice clean clothes that might be hanging on the clothes line on a beautiful spring day blowing in the breeze, clothes filled with vibrant colors, smelling of the fresh air, and moving without resistance to the wind.

From there I can view my life through the moral lens of compassion and peace that is a part of my studies and through the Buddhist vows I have taken. Finally, I can bring those actions and thoughts through this spiritual lens and hopefully make a difference in someone’s life today.

So I encourage you today to not only read through Lectio Divina but live through Lectio Divina: literally, metaphorically or symbolically, morally, and mystically—then  watch your life transform.

So long Sid…

[1] Barezat, D.P. & Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative Practices in Higher Education Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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