A Spiritual Practice
can be anything that helps you live your unique life to the fullest.
Pic by Andreas Krappweis
A Body Prayer: Murmuring & Mumbling
Eugene Peterson writes:
"To meditate (hagah) is a bodily action; it involves murmuring and mumbling words, taking a kind of physical pleasure in making the sounds of the words, getting the feel of the meaning as the syllables are shaped by larynx and tongue and lips... This is quite different from merely reading God’s word, or thinking about it.”
Peterson, Eugene H. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. San Francisco: Harper One, 1989. p. 26.
Let's do this.
Read Psalm 1 aloud three times softly. The first time, allow your voice to adjust its pace to dwell on any words and phrases you wish. Pause whenever you want. Repeat any words or phrases you desire. Take your time and relish the words.
The second time, do the same thing, this time inviting your body to move, sway or stretch as you read. There are no rules to this, so allow your body to take the lead and explore your instincts to embody this reading.
The third time, read silently and slowly, keeping any body movements you like. As you do, try adding resonant sounds that feel good. If your body wants to hum, moan or mumble to accompany the words you read, you are doing hagah.
What did you notice you body wanted to do?
What words or phrases had significance?
Where is the most potent moment of the psalm for you?
Pic by Griszka Niewiadomski
Everybody does not see alike.
The tree which moves some to tears of joy
is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing that
stands in the way.
- William Blake
What Time is it?
Psalm 1 sings of seasons changing. We are trees growing by a stream of water, thriving through every season. Each season is different, complete with its own weather and tone.
Imagine a tree in the Midwestern USA. Springtime thriving looks very different than winter thriving. Summer and autumn have their places, too.
Spring: preparing, initiating, taking risks
Summer: nurturing, tending, working, allowing
Autumn: culminating, gathering, celebrating, sharing
Winter: resting, clearing, opening, waiting
Consider: what season are you in right now?
Regardless of our age, we continually experience cycling seasons of creativity, ripening, completion and rest.
What are the gifts and challenges of where you are?
Pic by shapelessmass.com
Tending the Tree
Keeping with the image of the thriving tree, consider what season you are in right now. What does it feel like to be you?
What changes are happening with you?
What soil and rain are needed for Springtime cultivation?
What sunshine for Summer ripening?
Is there anything ready to finish and celebrate as harvest time?
What company or solitude is needed through the quiet Winter?
Write down an honest prayer for this season: Include laments and gratitudes, wonderings and desires.
Pic by gogoloopie (creative commons)
Pic by Jesse Therrien
A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God's] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
From season to season, the tree thrives, bearing fruit when the time is ripe. Like the famous passage from Ecclesiastes ("Turn, turn, turn"), the Psalms affirm what's evident in life: everything changes.
In the Psalms, change is normal. In fact, it's a natural, good part of life.
What if we understood we are always beginning one movement and ending another, one faithful season giving way to another in good time?
And what if we trusted that, come what may, our tree would thrive?
After all, we're still anchored in good soil, connected to the source of
life. Our interests and passions have evolved over the years and will
continue to through creative, flourishing years.
Listen: a tree that stops changing is the definition of dead.
So here's to our roots stretching deeper and our branches reacher
higher and wider over the years.
How do you feel about change?
If your life were a book, what title would you give to
this current chapter? Imagine you are in the
sweetest spot of it all, about to breakthrough to
Here's Susan Werner with a suggestion:
Pic by Andrzej Pobiedziski
The Ways We "Way"
Eugene Peterson writes:
Way: a simple noun designating a road that leads to a destination, but then opening up as a metaphor that ramifies into many and various “ways”-- not only the way we go, as in the route we walk, but the way we go on the way whether by foot or bike or automobile.
The way we talk, the way we use our influence, the way we treat another, the way we raise our children, the way we read, the way we worship, the way we vote, the way we garden, the way we ski, the way we feel, the way we eat.... And on and on, endlessly, the various an accumulated “ways and means” that characterize our way of life.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is the Way. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007. p22-23.
Pic by Bernadette Morris (creative commons)
The Company You Keep
We need to talk about your friends.
And celebrate them!
Verse 1 of Psalm 1 hits us right away with a juicy metaphor for the good life: with whom do we walk, stand and sit?
The progression is one of intimacy, from following someone's Twitter feed, to hanging at the water cooler to being thoroughly woven together.
Our best friends influence a lot about our daily lives: how we listen and speak, what we pay attention to, what we complain about and what we enjoy.
Some friendships shape us over a lifetime.
These beloveds are part of the design of our everydays. These patterns lead to habits. Practiced over time, habits forge character.
Psalm 1 invites us to pay attention to the loves in our lives-- the ones who stretch us, hold us and surprise us.
Name your friends, including people in your family that mean the most to you.
Spend a moment remembering who they are and what gifts they bring to your life.
Praying to God begins by looking at a tree.
The deepest relationship of which we are capable has its origin in the everyday experience of taking a good look at what’s in everybody’s backyard. We are not launched into the life of prayer by making ourselves more heavenly, but by immersing ourselves in the earthy: not by formulating abstractions such as goodness, beauty, or even God, but by attending to trees and tree toads, mountain and mosquitos.
Peterson, Eugene H. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. San Francisco: Harper One, 1989. p. 27.
Pic by Rui Caldeira
Where We're Going
Barbara Green writes:
The psalm helps us specify options, pick ourselves out from a lineup... Happy-- blessed, doing well, to be congratulated-- are those who do not do three things: walk with serious evildoers, stand around with smalltime crooks, sit and deliberate with those who have no interest in even trying to be moral.
Walking, standing and sitting... presenting a fairly apt description of how we spend our time... Which of us does not spend a fair amount of time doing just these things with precisely such types? ...[Psalm 1] draws the general picture of us busily filling in our time walking, standing, sitting, leaving us to discover the exact nature of the deeds so done.
What exactly are we undertaking and with what result?
Where is it getting us, all this activity?
Green, Barbara, O.P. Like a Tree Planted: An Exploration of Psalms and Parables Through Metaphor. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1997. p. 29-30.
Take stock of yourself for a moment: physical body, intellectual stimulation, emotional health, social life, vocation and purpose, and work, play and rest.
What dimensions are feeling good right now. Which ones not so much?
Is there anything you'd like to adjust to invite change?
Is there anyone you'd like to tell who might support you?
Sometimes we just don't know
where we're going. That's a fact.
Nothing wrong with that, but it can be uncomfortable.
Trish Bruxvoort Colligan sings of the exquisite ache of such moments, and the gift of trust that surrounds us.
A Guided Imagination Meditation
This meditation is best done in a group with a leader reading the following while others listen with eyes closed. It may also be done in solitude by reading. Leader: Invite silence or have soft music playing. When speaking, add full, generous pauses among the sentences for imaginations to work and play.
Let's begin with relaxing and breathing. Bring your body to a comfortable position and just for a moment notice any parts of your body that want attention.
Breathe deeply and allow your body to relax further.
Generously and slowly imagine the tree of Psalm 1-- thriving, connected to water.
For a moment, allow your attention to explore the geography of this place. This is a creative, safe place. Is it familiar to you or a place of discovery?
Notice the weather, the temperature, the scent in the air. Take in the colors of the sky and the earth. What season is it?
There is a body of water here that smells fresh and clean. What is it like?
This is a creative, safe place, and by your relaxed face and your faint smile, you are enjoying it here.
In the midst of this wonderful place is a tree. What kind of tree is it? It is thriving and healthy, and ready for changes ahead. It is not alone.
Take a generous moment to let your mind drift. Explore however you desire. Enjoy this place.
If you allow a little time to pass, perhaps something will happen. Would you be open to that? Breathe deeply and prepare a space inside you for something new.
After several minutes of silence:
With another deep breath, it's starting to feel like it's time to leave and say goodbye to this wonderful place. Take a moment for a last generous look, a last listen, a breath to smell the air.
When you're ready, you may open your eyes and bring yourself back to this room again.
Discuss your experience together.
Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
for spending some time immersed in Psalm 1.
We'd love to hear from you if you have a story, a comment, or just to say hi.
Pic by Patrick Hajzler