This is the introduction to 6 Visio Divina Meditations, as an alternative to New Years Resolutions.
Visio Divina (Divine Seeing) as an Alternative to New Years Resolutions
Benedictine Spirituality is not a self-improvement project, rather, because it is rooted in humility and relies on the gracious love of a divine power greater than ourselves, the Benedictine way of life is the opposite of self-improvement. As a practical guide to authentic gospel living, The Rule of Benedict calls us to ever deeper and more loving relationships–with God, with ourselves, with the people and communities surrounding us, and with all things. By seeking the God who loves us, we are nurtured by loving kindness and growth is not something we control; by incorporating Benedictine practices in our lives, growth happens organically, naturally.
An acorn does not make a resolution to fall from the tree, go underground, wait through the winter and come spring, to sprout. A tree does not resolve to bud and blossom, shed its leaves and go dormant. Growth occurs because seeds and trees are immersed in their ecosystem, where they naturally respond to elements and conditions–soil, precipitation, sunlight, temperature and interactions with plants and animals surrounding them. Benedictine Spirituality makes the making of resolutions entirely beside the point.
In a compelling poem-in-progress, “New Year’s Anti-Resolution,” Caitlin Brutger asks us to “realize how very little you needed resolutions.”
Behavioral science backs up the principles of Benedictine spirituality, which are founded in the story of Benedict of Nursia and made present in the world today through the stories of individuals who practice this way of life. In an online article for Psychology Today, Susan Weinschenk explains “The Science of why New Year’s resolutions don’t work.” She suggests that instead of making resolutions, the “best (and some would say the only) way to get a large and long-term behavior change, is by changing your self-story.”
And so in this series I offer 6 visual meditations ( also known as visio divina, or “Divine Seeing”) which can help us change our self-story, facilitating organic transformations and happier, more meaningful and peaceful lives by immersing us in the time-tested wisdom found in Benedictine values and commitments.
How to practice Visio Divina
To explore the riches of this practice, it is worth reading Kathryn Shirey’s article, “How to Pray with ‘Eyes of the Heart’ using Visio Divina,” explaining why a multi-sensory connection with the divine enriches our prayer life, and offering more resources to deepen a visio divina practice. To get you started, here is Kathryn Shirey’s Visio Divina in card form:
How to envision a new self-story
I have a self-story, an idea of the kind of person I am, what is important to me, what I’m capable of, what I will and won’t do. Whether or not you know it, you, too, have a self-story. We all do. In her article, Ms. Weinschenk brings together research and personal experience explaining that your self-story drives your behavior, and has
“a powerful influence on decisions and actions . . . [because] . . . When you make a decision or act in a way that fits your self-story, the decision or action will feel right. When you make a decision or act in a way that doesn’t fit your self-story you feel uncomfortable.”
Ms. Weinschenk suggests that to create a new self-story, we can use Timothy Wilson’s story-editing technique from his book Redirect. First, we write out our existing, realistic story about a Benedictine value or commitment we’d like to adopt or deepen. We need to be honest about why it is difficult or why we don’t integrate this value or commitment into our lives. Next, we see ourselves as people who believe in that value or commitment. After asking God help us grow, we relax and let the growth happen organically over time, by the opportunities and graces given to us, trusting that our growing spiritual values and commitments will bring increasing peace into our hearts, our lives, and the world.
6 weeks, 2 artists and 6 visio divina meditations
During the first 6 weeks of the New Year (2019), as an alternative to making New Years resolutions, I will offer you 6 visio divina mediations on 3 sculptures by Joseph O’Connell depicting Benedictine values and 3 Fiber Art wall hangings by Pat Picket, OblSB depicting Benedictine commitments. All artwork is located at Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. If you want to receive email notifications when the posts appear online, click here to contact me.