by Christine Sine
Over the last few days I have been listening to an inspiring series of meditations by Barbara Brown Taylor on the app Ritual. They are adapted from her book An Altar in the World which motivated me immensely several years ago when I was searching for a more embodied approach to prayer and spiritual practice. I have only listened to the first two mediations so far, but a lot of what was said really resonated with me. Here are a few of my thoughts.
- Disembodied virtues like generosity, love, compassion are rooted in physical practice. If these virtues remain a disembodied, feel good experience then they are not really virtues at all. Ii was good to reflect on the question “what virtues have you learned through physical activity? When I thought about this the words of 1 John 3:16-18 came to mind. I love the way it is expressed in The New Living Translation: “ We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister[a] in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. “Let us show the truth by our actions. ” It is my experience that when we move virtues from feeling to actions that the truth of God becomes more deeply rooted in our souls.
- Our imaginations are the key to reality. Have you ever thought of what a rock is really like? When we get down to its molecular structure it is more empty space than solid particles yet to us it looks solid. Can you imagine how it was birthed, what it has experienced over the millennia of its existence. was it reshaped by glacial action, flowing water, intense heat? It is awe inspiring to imagine the life of a rock.
- Slow time ends in spiritual practice. When we deliberately slow down and pay attention to what is around us, when we zoom in on a single face or flower we no longer see everything around us as scenery, a blur around us that we hardly notice. Slow time makes us aware that we are but a small part of God’s incredible creation.
- When we pay attention we cannot help but feel reverence. When we give something our full attention we realize that something or someone greater than ourselves created it. We recognize the sacredness of what or who it is and in the process we catch a glimpse of the sacredness of everything that surrounds us. This paying attention creates both reverence and awe and as Barbara Brown Taylor comments “in the process we create an altar in the world”
The meditation ended with an exercise that I adapted and used this morning. I thought you would all appreciate. You might like to have your journal with you to record what you experience.
Create An Altar in Front of You
Sit on the ground and look around.
Outline an area in front of you with a piece of chalk, a stick or your finger that encloses an area of about 3 square feet. That would be an oblong 3’x1′,a square of about 1.5’x1.5′ or a circle of approximately 2′ diameter.
Take a few deep breaths in and out to relax yourself.
Now give the area you marked out your full attention. What catches your eye? Is it a mark in the pavement. a rock, a flower.? Give that object your full attention. How do you think it came into being? What can you imagine of it’s life history?
Is there something in your space you want to pick up? Hold it in your hands and examine it closely. Feel its texture. Smell it. Are there memories that come to mind as you give it your full attention?
Now practice reverence and experience the awe of what you meditated on. Offer a prayer to God.
You have just created an altar in the world.
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