Although lectio divina (sacred reading) is usually a personal contemplative practice, a kind of conversation with God, it has been used by groups seeking a deeper connection to each other and to God through their joint experience of a text. It is that quality of the practice — the ability to help you move beyond a mind-only understanding of a sacred text to a heart-centered experience with it that makes lectio divina a good vehicle for healing interpersonal conflicts. Here are step-by-step instructions for this use of the practice:
1. Identify someone with whom you feel conflict.
2. Ask that person to give you a favorite passage from a text that is sacred to him/her. (This can be any text that expresses an ideal or value — it does not have to be scripture, but if you happen to share a tradition with the other, that belief might provide a powerful common language for healing.)
3. Settle into the practice with the text. Have two notecards and a pen or pencil handy.
4. Call into your spirit a few phrases, images, or feelings that represent the conflict. To “set them aside,” write them on one of the notecards and place it just beyond your reach.
5. If it feels helpful, set the intention to hear the text in the voice of the other, addressing you or with a sense of you as audience.
6. Read the text the other gave you slowly and with curiosity as if every word were unfamiliar, introducing you to the other’s heart.
7. Pay attention to where you feel resonance and where you feel resistance. What phrases and feelings come forward?
8. Read the text a second time, allowing these phrases and feelings to guide you into deeper contemplation.
9. What do these phrases/feelings teach you about the other person and about yourself in this relationship?
10. Read the text a final time, asking God for the openness to accept the voice of the text as an expression of the other’s values, heart, and best intentions.
11. On your second scrap of paper, write down 2 - 3 phrases that characterize your appreciation for the passage — for example, “unconditional love” or “passion for justice.” Use these phrases like photo frames; find memories of the other and place them in these frames.
12. Bring the practice to a close by reuniting the two sheets of paper. Compare them and note the contrasts. What do you think accounts for any changes?— Julia Davis