In the psalms the writers speak of meditating – chewing on the cud – of the word of God. Regurgitating it and chewing it some more and really ruminating on the meaning and substance.
I might be alone in this, but I struggle to find the time necessary for such reading of anything. The ability to patiently look through text and pray through text is something that is allusive as well. Neither the time nor the skill to read in a patient and open way are readily accessible.
But when you can find a way to connect to God in a text, in a simple reading, or in time spent working through a challenging passage of scripture – the pay off is…. What I want to say here is “it’s great! Do it!”, but that gives the wrong impression. It can be a great emotional/spiritual rush that inspires. More often than not, it’s time spent well producing only the satisfaction of a task done well.
Either way I think it’s worth it. There’s a grounding and a rooting that nourishes our souls, our minds, our hearts, and our bodies within this type of meditative work.
Here are a few things that I have found that help:
1) Pick the text carefully – Know yourself. Sometimes what you need is a text that forces you beyond where you are at. Sometimes you need scripture – raw and daunting. Other times call for something comfortable and refreshing. It’s easy to say that either of these approaches is wrong for such and such reason, but that’s lies to our nature – we need both. In fact we could probably add multiple categories of places where we must strike a balance or incorporate perspectives that seem like dichotomies.
2) A Notepad – Ever get to the point when you are reading and the to do list simmering in the back of your brain starts going off like a mad man with an airhorn? Yeah, me too. Keep a notepad and pen to write down to do list items. Again we find a certain type of paradox that distractions can be the promptings of the Holy Spirit or the temptings of the devil. Writing down those to do list items will get you back to your reading and listening faster than trying to fight away the distractions more directly
3) Silence – When I read a novel, I love to put a song on repeat or a have a playlist in the back ground. To this day I cannot hear dulcimer music without thinking of “Kid Midas’ Eyes” even though it has been nearly 20 years since I’ve read the book. But this isn’t that time. Finding a silent or quiet place to listen while you read is both challenge and heart of this practice. The purpose of the practice is to listen with all parts of you. However, this is your practice, if you get more out of having a little Explosions in the Sky or Helen Jane Long in the back ground or something even more out there – Good! Go for it!
4) Preparation – Remove the things that you know will get in your way before hand. Schedule time, pick the text, get a notepad and pen, go buy some Bose noise canceling head phones. Know that you will face distractions. Go into that time of reading knowing what will happen or prepared to learn from the experience for next time. Prayerfully, think through and prepare what you are getting ready to read and listen to.
There are probably many other bits of advice – stretch or something before you begin, pray before you start, sing a german song before you pick up the book. It’s all up to the way you encounter the practice of reading scripture or other books. There’s a certain vagueness too this whole sort of idea because those who have encountered it cannot perfectly describe it but value it. That’s the important bit – it’s worthwhile, it’s worth the time and effort to seek this sort of reading out.