From my chair: Quality of Looking

“The quality of our looking determines what we can see.” – John O’Donohue

This view greeted me thirty minutes into my morning “looking”:

Seattle Fall Sunrise

I am constantly surprised by joy when I remember to sit in my easy chair and look at the dynamic wonders of nature and man flowing across and around the Puget Sound.

I am constantly surprised by the joy of social media for reconnecting me with the people a lifetime of interactions has passed by.  This week a colleague from thirty five years ago reached out to see what I was up to.  I shared with her that I was reading John O’Donohue’s Beauty: The Invisible Embrace and that I was starting a new series of blog posts “From my chair”.

She followed up with an email from Richard Rohr (one of my favorite Christian authors) suggesting that I was doing something akin to a practice in seeing that Rohr recommends:

Practice: Lectio Divina in Nature

Step out onto the Planet.
Draw a circle a hundred feet round.

Inside the circle are
300 things nobody understands, and, maybe
nobody’s ever really seen

How many can you find?

—Lew Welch [1]

We are created to read the book of creation so that we may know the Author of Life. —Ilia Delio, OSF [2]

Lectio divina (Latin for sacred reading) is a contemplative way of reading and praying with Scripture. Rather than trying to rationally understand a static text, this practice helps us be present to the Living Word of God and allow it to change us. In lectio divina, God teaches us to listen for and seek God’s presence in silence. Although the Bible is most often used, many people practice lectio divina with nature. Franciscans believe that the first act of divine revelation is Creation itself, so it makes sense to “read” or observe God’s presence in Brother Sun and Sister Moon, in animals and plants.

As with other forms of lectio divina, the practice is divided into four steps. Find a place where you are surrounded by the beauty of nature and where you feel safe to be quiet and alone for 20 or more minutes.

1. Lectio/Read

In silence, be attentive to your surroundings, opening to the mystery of these beings’ existence and prayerfully asking them to address you. Simply asking is creating a space in which a response can happen. If you like, use a journal to write down any impressions that arise.

2. Meditatio/Meditate

Ponder what you are observing, being attentive to whatever is in front of you as though you could be in dialogue with it. For example, as you look around, if you see a flower, gaze at it and also consider what it would feel like for the flower to look back at you. What it would be like to be in mutual relationship with all of Creation?

3. Oratio/Pray

Oratio is an opportunity to enter into dialogue with God, offering gratitude as well as lifting up your hopes, fears, and pains. In oratio, you are invited to surrender all of these things and allow God to transform you and the world through this encounter.

4. Contemplatio/Contemplate

Contemplatio is simply abiding in the presence of God. Rest joyfully in Mystery after lifting up your prayers and problems to God, confident that your needs are known.

From my chair, I have the gift of seeing fifty miles into the distance of the Cascade Mountains beyond Seattle, while observing the fall colors fifty inches in front of me.  The oscillations of views “from my chair” remind me to stay with this dance no matter where I am.  Now to add daily conversations with my creator.

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