“The very moment is the perfect teacher” ~ Pema Chodron
Not long ago, I joined a friend at her home for breakfast. Before we ate, she shared a Psalm which she chose randomly. I felt grateful for its particular words, it was a message I needed in that moment. It was as if the Psalmist had lived my week. She read the short Psalm twice and we reflected on it. I made a note to return to the passage at home and think more about it.
In the quiet of one afternoon, I read the passage again. First silently and then aloud. Though the scripture was the same, it seemed different. It wasn’t as alive as it was a few days earlier. The words hadn’t changed, but the moment had. My needs had.
Sometimes when we select a reading by chance it is more meaningful in the moment than one we would have searched for. Reading a random passage from a sacred or special book for the purpose of spiritual insight is sometimes referred to as bibliomancy. Scripture can be used, as can any book. A devotional or a self-help book or even a favorite novel or travel book would work well.
As I write this I have chosen a book of poetry from my shelf and read the first poem I opened to:
How Would You Live Then?
What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
flew in circles around your head?
What if the mockingbird came into the house with you
and became your advisor?
What if the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
What if the brook slid downhill just past your bedroom window
so you could listen to its slow prayers as you fell asleep?
What if the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds?
What if you painted a picture of a tree,
and the leaves began to rustle, and a bird cheerfully sang
from its painted branches?
What if you suddenly saw that the silver of water
was brighter than the silver of money?
What if you finally saw that the sunflowers,
turning toward the sun all day and every day
--- who knows how, but they do it ---
were more precious, more meaningful than gold?
~Mary Oliver: Devotions
On your first reading, what word, line, phrase, or image pops out for you? What emotion arises in you when you read it? Do any questions stir? Then, read the poem aloud or ask someone to read the poem to you. Reading the words aloud ourselves is a different experience than hearing the words read aloud for us. I recommend you try both. Be attentive to the experience of each reading. Hearing the words spoken by another stirs fresh insight. Different words and phrases come to life.
There is no limit to the number of times we may choose to return to a reading. The words or images may land powerfully in the moment, or they make more sense over time. Let that awareness also be a gift.
I encourage you to try bibliomancy. Read your selection quietly or aloud without expectation. Does it have something to teach you in the moment? If you belong to a small group or circle, try bringing a few books from your shelf and invite random readings as a check in or closing. Then notice the variety of responses to the reading.
Do you have a particular book or genre that has been most powerful or meaningful in the moment? I am interested in hearing about your experiences, please comment or email me as you like.
You may recognize this approach to reading as similar to Lectio Divina. In the coming weeks we will visit both Lectio and Visio Divina as spiritual practices as well.
Pleased to be on the journey with you,