February 20, 2015 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Receive, Release: A Simple Spiritual Practice
Christians began celebrating the season of Lent this past Wednesday. Traditionally this has been a time to give something up, but more recently many who observe Lent have focused on taking something on. Taking something on for Lent might include a spiritual practice, a regular act of charity or service to others, a regular discipline of spiritual reading, or a new habit, many of which related to diet or exercise.
For Lent this year I am taking on a renewed commitment to sitting in silence for thirty minutes each day as a way to connect with both the Divine and with a deeper sense of my true self. Because my mind is prone to wander when I sit in silence for an extended period of time, I also engage in a centering practice that I call, “Receive, Release.” I share it with you here in case it might be helpful to you as you engage in the practice of either giving something up or taking something on for Lent or perhaps you might find it helpful for your life in general.
Here is how I do the centering practice “Receive, Release.” First, as a I close my eyes, I find a comfortable sitting position, and then place my hands on my lap with my palms facing up. Next, I begin to take moderately deep breaths and gradually slow down my breathing. As I continue this slower breathing for a short time, I then begin to repeat the word “receive” silently in my mind each time I inhale. After a short time, I begin to repeat the word “release” each time I exhale. So it's “receive” as I inhale, and “release” as I exhale. These two words help me focus my mind whenever it begins to wander. As I repeat the word “receive” I imagine myself receiving exactly what the Divine is offering to me right now. As I repeat the word “release” I imagine myself releasing to the Divine what it is I need to let go of at this time. I find it is helpful to set a timer. Thirty minutes may be a long time to start out with, so feel free to experiment with doing this for shorter periods of time. As you feel more comfortable doing this practice you can extend the time, if you wish.
This version of “receive, release” works well on its own and you may want to leave it at that, but you may find that you want to add another aspect to this practice that is particularly helpful when you are experiencing worry or stress. After you have closed your eyes and have slowed down your breathing, but before you begin repeating “receive, release” in your mind, bring the stressful or worrisome concern to mind. It might be a health concern, a relationship concern, a financial concern, or just a general sense of worry or stress. Begin the mindful repetition of “receive, release” and imagine what it is you need to receive from the Divine to help you with this stress or worry, and what it is you need to release to the Divine to help lighten the burden this stress or worry is causing you. You may even find that you are given a word or phrase to use in place of “receive” or “release.” You might, for example, find yourself mindfully repeating “patience,” “kindness,” or “forgiveness” on your in-breath and perhaps something like “control,” “anger,” or “judgement” on the out-breath.
This practice can be done anytime, anywhere. The beauty of this simple practice is that if you do it with your eyes open no one will know that you are doing it. If you are losing your calm in a meeting you can do it. You can also do it if you are waiting in line or are stuck in traffic. I find that it is very helpful to do this mindfulness practice as preparation for a high stress meeting or situation. When I do this, I find that I enter that meeting or situation with greater calmness and greater clarity.
Whatever you decide to give up or take on for this season of Lent, I wish you well. I'd love to hear what you are doing and welcome you to share your practice on our Facebook page, found at https://www.facebook.com/LivingCompass
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