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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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