February 21, 2013

Knitting, Lectio Divina, and the Holy Spirit

The knitting and spirituality class that I taught at my church ended a few weeks ago, and I've been thinking a lot about the group since then.  Although by the end of the six weeks, there were only four or five women coming regularly, I really feel that those six weeks were well spent, and that *something* was accomplished. It is that *something* that I have been thinking about most.

In the third week, once the women felt comfortable knitting and talking at the same time (no small task), I decided to try something new.  Instead of just asking questions like "What is spirituality?" or "How are you spiritual?", I began using Lectio Divina during the second half of the class.  I love Lectio Divina - it is a wonderful and useful practice.  If you aren't familiar with it, you might want to check out the Wikipedia page, which is decently informative.  The version that I typically use is taken largely from Rethinking Youth Ministry.  Even though their version is meant for kids and youth, I find it works really well with adults.

Here is my version.  It is designed to be done in a group setting, but could easily be adapted as a personal practice.

1. Read the passage aloud.
--Meditate on the passage as a whole.
2. Read the passage aloud.
--Meditate on a word or phrase that stands out to you.
3. Read the passage aloud.
--Meditate on how the passage is relevant in your life.

Typically the meditations last for 2-3 minutes, or until people start moving and looking uncomfortable in the silence.  The first week I tried this with the knitting group, I decided to read Genesis 1.  (Fun thing I discovered -  the "Genesis 1" story that everyone talks about actually goes through Genesis 2:4.  Weird!)  It's a long passage - an entire chapter! - but a good one, and relevant to our knitting.  I was worried people would get bored with such a long passage, especially since I was reading through it three times, but something amazing happened - they listened.  They sat happily knitting (and crocheting) as I read the passage three times, pausing each time to meditate.  No one complained about the length.  No one sighed loudly when I read the passage yet again.

When we talked about the experience later, several of the women told me that they were able to sit through such a long reading because they were knitting.  Because their hands were busy and a piece of their minds were already distracted, they were able to listen to the entire passage without becoming bored.

I think that this is why I love knitting, and why silent sitting-type meditations just don't work for me.  When my body is still, my mind cannot help but race 100 miles an hour.  But when my body is moving, just a little bit, my mind is free and able to concentrate better.  I've knit in classes, movies, Bible study, and even worship.  I used to visit coffee shops with my drop spindle and spend time watching people while my hands were busy making yarn.  In each of these experiences, I've found that my mind is more connected with the world around me when my hands are busy knitting, or spinning.

I asked myself after that first week of trying lectio divina, "Where is the spirituality in this?" I can't quote a Bible passage, or explain this to you theologically, but I can say this: Those moments when the restlessness of the human body is quieted, and the mind is able to fully engage in the surrounding world?  Those are moments full of the Holy Spirit.

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