Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

In my quest to figure out ways to become more "quiet" in my personal prayer time, last night I stumbled upon what seems to be a great idea for me. I found it on this site. It's called Imaginatio Divina. The basic technique is here.

No doubt, I am out of my league with "art." One of my friends, who fancies herself as a "real artist" teases me about being an "art zero," and joshingly razzes me that I consider dogs playing poker and black velvet paintings of Elvis as "art." (Ok, well, I'm not quite THAT bad. But I do consider Ducks Unlimited prints of hunting dogs as art. I confess to being enamored with the difficulties of painting a black Laborador Retriever, how you use all these colors to paint a black dog!)

But I will also say, no doubt my two strongest senses are visual and tactile. What little I've seen of the Holy Spirit, to me, She's visual and felt.

I also know that to some degree I am a "short bus rider" when it comes to apophatic prayer. My mind just does not go to "blank." The best I can do is get the thoughts zipping around in my head to go in a uniform direction, but as I once told my priest, "In my quiet place in my head, there's always SOMETHING moving." I am afraid Thomas Keating and I share relatively few DNA base pairs except the general "human" ones. I think the closest in recent memory I ever had to being even remotely close to "blank" was when I suffered a head injury. That is the closest my mind ever felt to being "emptied."

But on my retreat, one of the monks and I were chatting about cataphatic prayer. Although historically, cataphatic prayer was used through spoken Psalms or other Bible phrases or prayers, but it also uses icons and holy images. In other words, it was the power of prayer through a created image that intrigued me. What if I created an image in my MIND rather than a "pre-fabricated" holy image?

It was suggested to me to think of things like "imagine you and Jesus walking on the beach." Well, me and Jesus walking on the beach didn't work, because he looked like Truck Stop Black Velvet Painting Jesus, and I found that distracting. Actually, I had to remove people entirely from my imagery. But I did find that I could imagine a dense oak-hickory forest, like we have here, with sunlight streaming from the sky in rivets, the heat from the rivets of sunlight being individual connections to God. Hey, I could do THAT and be quiet!

But sometimes, I'm tired, and my imagination is a little dull. Sometimes, I think, I need a picture that will give me a jump start. But typical "holy pictures" don't do it for me, because they have PEOPLE in them, and people distract me, and when I'm being quiet with God, honestly, I don't want anything to do with people.

After reading this last night, it struck me, "Hey...Google Images can drag all kinds of art up to me." So I tried it, using the picture above that was right on the page that discussed this technique--it's the picture above. (Ok, so I was lazy.) I became halfway excited with that, "Hey! I can do this!" feeling. I could feel myself lounging back in this boat, the waves rocking it ever so gently, moving from gentle calm to sort of stormy stuff not dissimilar to how the Disciples must have felt in the boat in the storm. It was the gathering storm of Holy Week, in my mind, as we head into Maundy Thursday. It made me feel the real power of that storm, that dark, that would come before the light.

It sounds silly, but I felt good just that I could do this. I'll be honest. I am crap when it comes to praying. I cannot spontaneously pray worth a hoot. (It's the one thing I am jealous about the Baptists. Good spontaneous pray-ers seem to come from there more than my world, but then again, you've got to wade through a LOT of bad spontaneous praying to get to the good stuff.) I can feel things in the prayers I write myself. I can find zones of prayer within the liturgy and its and then. But I can't pray out loud worth a damn without my frustration showing through, and I can't make my mind a blank in the "classic contemplative/centering prayer" way.

I know, however, I do have to cut myself a little slack. Jane Redmont's book helped me there. It affirmed something I sort of knew intuitively, that a lot of the things I do really ARE "prayer" it's just sort of, um...non-standard prayer by conventional prayer definitions.

But I have to confess this Imaginatio Divina business has some real potential for me in terms of feeling like I CAN have silent prayer time and help me feel like I'm not a "2nd class prayer citizen." If you have some of the same issues I do, you might give it a try.


You know, Clark Berge came and presented at a weekend retreat a few years back and what he taught me about meditation has been so helpful. He says rather than fight the thoughts in your head as you attempt to quiet yourself - name them as they appear by emotion. That's anxiety, that's anger, that's helps you disengage from the thoughts and I have found that it helps and if I lose my focus and they creep back in you just keep naming them.

Jack Kornfield's book "A Path with Heart" talks about "calling our demons by name." It's a Buddhist meditation book, but I have found it very helpful to call things like "bordeom", "confusion", "anger," and "distraction" out when I am trying to quiet myself.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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