Over the last 20 years I have been on a spiritual journey of sorts. Over the years I have picked up a few things along the way. And have even tried to create my own unique practices as well that I would like to share with you.
It’s a spiritual practice whose roots are inspired by the art of chewing gum and the practice of lectio divinia. Some might say it’s a blend of sensory and spiritual learning.
I am hoping that it’s safe for me to assume you know how to chew gum. But on the off-chance that you were deprived of this concept, here is what you do. Get some gum. Remove it from its packaging. Open mouth. Insert gum. And chew. It really is that simple.
Lectio divinia might sound more complex, but it’s really not. Here’s what you need to know. In Latin, it means “holy reading” but I see it more as a slow, meditative way to connect with the Spirit through scripture or other contemplative text.
To practice it all you need to do is read and reread a passage until a word or a phrase speaks to your heart. When it does, focus on that word or phrase allowing your heart to lead the way. Since its conception 1,500 years ago, this has been a highly effective way to pray or meditate.
Let’s start with probably the most familiar one, Psalm 23. It begins “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” You can choose to read further or just simply stop here and slowly repeat this one statement over and over in your head until something is placed on your heart. It might be a problem you’re facing, a person you need to connect with, or just a vision that you didn’t know you needed to see. Once you see it, hold it in your heart.
At this point, I invite you to put a stick of chewing gum in your mouth. But instead of placing your attention on that word or phrase from your reading, focus instead on your chewing. Think about the up and down movement of your jaw, the texture against your teeth, the sound the gum makes in between bites. Find your rhythm; breathing slowly and calmly.
Once this is established, slowly and calmly return your focus on that which is on your heart. If it’s a vision, invite it into your chewing. If it’s a phrase or word, repeat it with each chew you make. Do this for as long as you can until your heart and head become one simple movement together. Like chewing and walking, or faith and action.
The Apostle Paul once wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). He is encouraging his readers to feast on the words of Christ until they become one with us; connecting his words in our head to his love that God has placed in our hearts. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he spoke the words of ancient scripture to avoid temptation, “One does not live by bread alone, but by the very words that come from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4).
While I don’t have a fancy Latin name for this practice, nor have I trademarked it in any way, I do offer it to you. I hope that you will give it a shot knowing that it will help you reshape and reform your own likeness to that of Christ, the divine revelation and visible presence of God’s love in the world.
To borrow from Henri Nouwen, may this practice become like wings that carry you above the moods and turbulences that we all are face in this pandemic called life.