Often when we sit down to read we engage our “thinking mind” gathering tidbits of knowledge like we do fruit at the market. Tossing them in the basket of our mind we continue through the chapters perhaps thinking, “I already know this; tell me something I don’t know.” While this kind of reading serves most uses it does not lead to wisdom.
“Reading with Soul in Mind” engages all of you in the process of reading. It is a slow and disciplined process of engaging with the text like you would that ideal peach in the market. You pick it up and squeeze it ever so softly twirling it in your hand admiring its peachy color wondering if it had been bruised. Next you lift it towards your nose and sniff hoping to whiff that ever so sweet peachy smell. And if it passes this final test your mouth is watering in desire for this unique soured-covered sweetness to glide down your throat.
Now, I am not suggesting we eat the text. However, I am suggesting we engage our mind, heart, body and soul in the process of digesting the text. So, how do you do this?
First, hold the text in your hands as if you are holding a sacred object (or a peach). Let your hands feel it; and let it feel you. You can sniff it if you want to but I doubt it will make your mouth water. Most importantly prepare your mind, heart and body to be in a place of wonder and openness to gifts of knowledge before you.
Secondly, read sitting at a desk with your favorite writing instruments, a dictionary and journal nearby. Read slowly and deliberately making sure each word is understood looking up the words you do not understand immediately. Also, reading slow allows the ear to bounce along with the rhythm of the text. I like to breathe in through my nose and read out loud the sentences that inspire me letting the words vibrate through my entire body as if I was chanting a Hindu mantra.
Thirdly, check in with your body often. Does your heart and chest feel open or closed, relaxed or tense? Does the perimeter of your body feel hard like a melon or soft like a peach? Is your mind in a state of judgment or in wonderment?
Fourthly, underline whatever inspires you, touches you, and challenges you. Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Underlining is my meditation.”
Fifthly and most importantly, stop to inquire when you misread something, when you feel an emotion arising and especially when you find yourself confused or distracted. This is soul trying to interrupt the linear flow of reading with wisdom for your self realization.
Finally, go back to where soul interrupted and begin the inquiry process.
- If it was something you read then ask, “what is it about what I just read that stirs me?”
- If it was an emotion then ask, “What is this emotion? What color is this emotion? How does it feel? What is this emotion attached to?”
- If you find yourself confused or distracted then ask, “What am I resisting? What am I denying? Where have I closed down and why?”
Journal, draw or tape record your questions and the spontaneously arising answers. Continue to inquire into each image, concept, body sensation or emotion that arises. It is critical to stay in inquiry mode as long as you can, hopefully exhausting your mind’s habit of shutting soul out of the co-creative process of self-realization.
By taking the time to read with soul in mind as suggested here the focus moves from tossing the fruits of knowledge into your mind basket to focusing on what your soul deems nutritional for your journey towards wholeness.