FIRST THINGS FIRST
Just smile. It sounds like some new wave “positive vibes only” head trip but it’s not. Your body releases three different hormones when you smile- dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. You don’t need a PhD to know that these chemicals send signals to your body that you’re happy which, in fact makes you feel happier.
So, a great way to start your days during Lent is to wake up and smile. Why not work smiling into your morning prayer and meditation. By releasing hormones early in your day you’re setting yourself up for success and making the process more enjoyable. What follows is a simple morning meditation based on the practice of Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina is a form of scripture reading, contemplative meditation and prayer all wrapped into one. For the sake of simplicity let’s pick a known verse and put it into a basic meditative formula.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”-John 1:1
Say something in this passage calls to you and you feel the desire to contemplate on it. You’d simply breathe in and recite the first part that called to you in your mind and exhale reciting the second mentally as well.
Breathe in: “And the Word was with God.”
Exhale: “And the Word was God.”
Of course there are vastly more complicated versions of Lectio Divina that have helped train priests for hundreds of years but that’s not what we’re going for here. We’re looking to develop a way to internalize our go to scriptures. Just breathing in and consciously repeating scriptures over and over help them take on the form of a mantra- they become the object of our concentration and allow layers of understanding to pour into us.
Now, the way I recommend using this formula with your morning meditation is simple. Sit in a meditative posture and breathe deeply for a few rounds. Then recite these words in your mind. Follow the inhale for the first sentence, the exhale for the second, etc:
“Breathing life into my body,
Exhaling I smile.
Gods loving presence,
Fills my being with light.
In this moment I am here,
I am alive.
The Father and I,
Are One.”-repeat as much as you’d like
Obviously, I’d never recommend that anyone leaves their meditative practice on the mat. Lectio Divina is perfect because you can definitely take it with you and use it throughout the day.
Say you’re working on being more compassionate and kind. Someone who really digs under your skin comes along and rattles your cage. You can do what you’d normally do and allow them to upset you or turn to your practice and incorporate that smile from the morning. “Breathing life in my body, exhaling I smile.” Maybe work in a Proverb. “Let us love one another, for love is from God.” The possibilities are endless.
With this concept in mind let’s do a quick checklist:
- What am I fasting from during Lent?
- What scriptures deal with the thing I’m turning over to God?
- What’s something I enjoy that I can replace my vice with?
Say you’re taking a break from social media right. A simple solution would be to take the time you’d usually devote to scrolling through your feed to praying over your online friends and reading scripture.
The point is, fasting doesn’t have to feel like this all out war with yourself. A solid fast should be one that deepens your connection to God and brings you closer to lasting peace. Lectio Divina is a great starting point to internalize the scriptures that will aid you in doing this.
Lastly, find something you enjoy doing that really makes you smile. Maybe you enjoy painting or taking walks. Whatever it is make sure you incorporate it into your fast. For every successful day in your fast try rewarding yourself with that thing you enjoy. The reasoning is simple, habit forming involves dopamine and dopamine is one of those feel good hormones. Our chances of making lasting changes are greatly improved by bringing joy into the equation.
Then smile again. You got this.