18 March 2014 a post by Bruce Stanley

Sensio Divina

The contemplative exercise of Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading, has been practiced from the earliest times of monastic discipleship – the act of sitting prayerfully with a short piece of sacred text and allowing it to speak and inhabit our minds and hearts. How does it work when reading the Book of Creation?

Two participants doing the Sit Spot experience

Reading, contemplatively and prayerfully, God’s presence in the Book of Creation has been practiced informally for as long as we’ve walked on the earth. Many of the psalms, for example, come from someone deeply connected with God in creation. Here is a first version of a more structured way of connecting to and then possibly participating with God’s presence and Spirit in nature.

If you use this, I’d be very interested to hear your response when using it and suggestions for improvement in the comments below to better shape the exercise for future versions.

Download and print pocket size instructions. For double sided notes, print this page on both sides of the paper and cut into four.

For Groups

If you’re using this exercise for groups it is wise to give some brief instructions first. The most important to get across is that this requires some practice so don’t expect to carry out all the sub-stages the first time – let the notes get you going in the right direction and refer to them only if you need a pointer.

If time allows it may be worth trying the exercise more than once using the first time as a learning process rather than fully engaging at a deeper level. Bring the group together and talk about the process rather than the content of their individual exercises.

Sensio Divina

Literally ‘Divine sensing’, a contemplative meditation to connect and dialogue with Divine presence in a place, object or natural phenomenon (Jer 23:24) and come to a deeper understanding of God through nature (Rom 1:20).

Preparation Stage.
Take a number of mindful breaths and come to the present moment.
Let unnecessary tension leave the body.
During what follows, allow distractions to arise and fall.
Carry out the exercise with lightness and wonder and move at your own pace through the stages.
Approach and begin with humility ...

Sensing Stage
Sense the overview (rather than the detail) to begin with. Be inquisitive, use all your senses not your thinking.
Notice first impressions.
Sense the present state, get the big picture objectively with no analysis.
Begin to sense more carefully from the overview to the detail.
Take more time, allow attention and fascination to rest where it wants, savour the detail.
Using deeper senses, allow intuition and consciousness of any detectable energy to arise.
Notice any feelings and emotions that are evoked, but don’t fall into analysis.

Imagination Stage
Return to the overview and this time use your imagination, creativity, analysis and narrative skills.
Image the process and succession that led to this point in time. Project into the future.
Imagine the wider ecosystem and the interactions between the elements.
Bring your focus from overview to detail.
Imagine yourself not as observer but as participant.
Take a feeling or thought or idea into contemplation.
Listen with patience and open receptivity – still your thinking.
Be aware of any dialogue that may be initiated. What is being said to you?

Spiritual Stage
Allow God to speak and / or experience God’s presence.
What is being said to you?
Let your heart speak in response.
Rest in God’s presence and embrace.
Return to earlier stages if you feel so led.

Version 1. 16 March 2014

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Your comments:

Insightful and very useful. Thank you for sharing it.

#1. By George Polley on March 18, 2014

Oh! This is almost identical to a practice I use with groups I myself lead (thewildways.co.uk).

The difference is that I come from a more pagan and Zen background - Dharmic Druidry! - and where you use a ‘spiritual stage’ I do too but I think of it more in terms of group-soul/intuitive awareness of the Whole rather than naming it by relationship with ‘God’. But we’re all taking similar paths up the Sacred Mountain, are we not??

Incidentally, I also use observation and imagination as two separate phases (in addition to the first stage in which my ‘take’ is similar to yours).

I shall be interested to hear more about this from yourself and others. Lovely to know so many of us are now working in similar ways…

#2. By Roselle Angwin on March 19, 2014

Thanks for your comments.

Roselle, there are also overlaps with this and Goethean observation so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that many of us from different paths are dong things similarly. Language is tricky to get right and I think ‘Spiritual’ is a bit clunky but I’m not sure what else to use – perhaps ‘Contemplative’. Thanks for making contact.

#3. By Bruce Stanley on March 19, 2014

Bruce, yes… also there are things that are ripe in the ‘collective’ at a certain time, too, of course.

I agree that ‘spiritual’ is tricky, although I do use it as there really isn’t a substitute. (I like ‘contemplative’, too.) It’s more that for myself – and I was reflecting ‘out loud’ rather than commenting on your practice - the word ‘God’ comes with a lot of baggage for people who consider themselves to be on a spiritual path, but not necessarily a monotheistic one.

#4. By Roselle Angwin on March 19, 2014

Yes, that’s good feedback. I rarely use the word ‘God’, preferring more creative and expansive language for the reasons you’ve given. The real strength of exercises like this is that they allow the participant to select their own level of involvement – but I think its often the case that we need to be reminded, pushed even, into allowing ourselves to feel loved and embraced by … The Source of All.

#5. By Bruce Stanley on March 19, 2014

I suggest that you explore www.quietgarden.org ! Jane

#6. By jane knight on May 27, 2014

I have just come across your site having been re-directed here from a site in Denmark which also uses the expression “Sensio divina”. I like very much your approach, and it corresponds fairly closely to what I do in practising contemplative photography.  However, your “imagination phase” is something I prefer to leave out because it so easily goes from the sensory-visual contemplation to the thinking-reflective, and this may (I don’t say “must”) block the practice of resting in God’s presence which I regard as the heart of contemplation.  I prefer to place the reflective mode outside the time of contemplation.

#7. By John Nicholson on February 01, 2017

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