Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Meditation and Mindfulness for Lent: An Emerging and Evolving Practice

Since Ash Wednesday, I have been clinging to weekly phrases as exercises of mindfulness and meditation. Each Sunday I mark a sacred phrase of meaning that integrates a call to life in the midst of a liturgical season of darkness and despair, which is very much a pattern of reality as a whole. This discipline is a hybrid of the contemporary practice of “loving-kindness” meditation modeled by Sharon Salzberg and the Ignatian discipline of centering prayer (more here, too). The essential aim is to latch onto a holy collection of words to slow down the mind, cultivate a non-anxious presence, and stimulate life-giving meaning:

"Loving-kindness is meant to be done in the easiest way possible so that the experience springs forth most gently, most naturally. To do it in the most easiest way possible means first to use phrases that are personally meaningful...Let your mind rest in the phrases. You can be aware of the phrases either with the breath or just in themselves—the focus of the attention is the phrases. Let your mind rest within them. The feelings will come and go."

There are a variety of phrases Salzberg recommends. Check them out here and on a recent podcast with The Liturgists here. For Lent, this is what has been emerging for me, somewhat based on lectionary scripture texts. I will post the final collection during Holy Week. Until then, maybe discern and discover your own phrases for the remainder of the forty-day pilgrimage from cross to empty tomb. May God’s Spirit meet you in the mindful meditations as you dwell in the love of God, neighbor, and self, the essence of what the Hebrew Scriptures call chesed or loving-kindness. 
From the goodness of dust you came[breathe] to goodness of dust you will return. (Ash Wednesday)
The way things are[breathe]will not always be. (First Sunday of Lent)
Lament but do not linger.[breathe] Look for hope on the horizon. (Second Sunday of Lent)
Repent; [breathe] turn towards what cultivates life. (Third Sunday of Lent)