The Transforming Power of Sacred Words
By: Karen Blessen
Eleven and a half years ago, after a number of disruptive events in my life, I needed a tool to tame my unruly mind and renew my ability to concentrate deeply. A friend told me about passage meditation – a form of meditation in which you memorize sacred passages, and commit to saying them to yourself slowly and silently for 30 minutes first thing each morning. It’s a systematic method for engaging the transforming power of sacred words.
After the first night with the passage meditation group, I drove away feeling like a duck who’d finally found a lake.
I began to slow down internally. I found a connection with energy and the divine. My habits changed – I used to watch Law and Order before going to bed. But now, the notion of violence as entertainment is abhorrent to me.
The meditation practice inspired what I now call a period of grace in my life, in which 29 Pieces of sculpture were envisioned and created. You can read more about this body of work at www.29Pieces.org.
Here is a brief description of the practice that I’ve committed to. It has brought many gifts to my life: a way to start the day with a deep connection to the divine words of the world’s mystics and visionaries, a spiritual community, practical tools for slowing down, putting others first, and the ability to give full attention to one thing at a time.
The Practice of Passage Meditation
Passage meditation was developed by Eknath Easwaran at the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in Tomales, California. When Easwaran taught meditation at University of California Berkeley, he was the first person to teach a meditation course at a university in the United States. Here is how it works:
- Choose a time for meditation when you can sit for half an hour in uninterrupted quiet. Early morning is best, before the activities of the day begin. If you want to meditate more, add half an hour in the evening, but please do not meditate for longer periods without guidance from an experienced teacher. Select a place that is cool, clean, and quiet. Sit with your back and head erect.
- Close your eyes and begin to go slowly, in your mind, through the words of a simple, positive, inspirational passage from one of the world’s great spiritual traditions. (Remember, you become what you meditate on.) You may want to begin with the Prayer of St. Francis.
- You will find it helpful to keep adding to your repertoire so that the passages you meditate on do not grow stale. Eknath’s Easwaran’s book God Makes the Rivers to Flow contains many other passages that are recommended, drawn from many traditions.
- While you are meditating, do not follow any association of ideas or allow your mind to reflect on the meaning of the words. If you are giving your full attention to each word, the meaning cannot help sinking in.
- When distractions come, do not resist them, but give more attention to the words of the passage. If your mind strays from the passage entirely, bring it back gently to the beginning and start again.
- Resolve to have your meditation every day – however full your schedule, whatever interruptions threaten, whether you are sick or well.
Let me walk in beauty
O Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world,
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty
and let my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears grow sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things
you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength not to be greater than my brother or sister
but to fight my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me always ready
to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes
So when life fades as the fading sunset
my spirit may come to you without shame.
- Please visit www.bmcm.org for resources on passage meditation. On this website, you can download the entire book on Passage Meditation. You can also order God Makes the Rivers to Flow and other books by Eknath Easwaran.
- To find out about a meditation group in your area, go to www.bmcm.org, or write [email protected]
- To learn more about Karen Blessen’s work, please go to www.29Pieces.org and www.karenblessen.com.