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Lectio Divina

Posted by Betsy McCall from Art Monastery Project


Group size

1 – 500

Is participant experience relevant?

It's okay if participants haven't seen the inside of a classroom in years.

Physical trust needed

Mental trust needed


Material Description

--Printouts of the text (I find it works best if each participant has their own printout so that they can refer to it throughout the exercise. You can either print the text on a full sheet of paper, leaving lots of blank space for them to write in, or ask them to bring their own journals or sketchbooks.)
Writing & drawing materials.
--A timer
--A bell

Create materials quick and dirty

20 min

Create materials with love and care

60 min



30 minutes – 60 minutes

Experience level of the facilitator

taken part OR some facilitation experience

Number of facilitators


Location requirements

Tables & chairs in a quiet space


Level of activation


Woo-Woo Level – How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist “No feelings here, folks.” to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

3 Fostering New Perspectives & Ways of Thinking

Method Category:

Idea generator


A step-by-step creative process adapted from ancient monastic practices for deepening your relationship with a particular text.


Sacred Writing, Sacred Listening, Sacred Reading



"Lectio Divina" is Latin and translated as "sacred reading". Lectio Divina is an ancient monastic practice originating from Benedictine monasteries. It can be done with any meaningful poem, inspirational or sacred text.
St. Benedict, author of one of the first monastic rules, required a significant portion of the day be devoted to Lectio. Monks would follow this process as a way of studying the sacred texts of the Bible. This version is adapted for creative pursuits by Christine Paintner from Abbey of the Arts.


St. Benedict, adapted by Christine Paintner, Abbey of the Arts



PREPARATION (excluding materials)

It's important to release the thinking mind in this process.
St. Benedict began his Rule with "Listen with the ear of your heart."
Using Lectio Divina with a sacred text means that the text will meet you wherever you are today, right now. If you use the same text on a different day, it will hold something different for you.
There are four primary movements of this contemplative practice.

First prepare: take time to become present, have your tools ready, connect with your breath, draw your awareness down from your head into your heart.

1 Lectio (Reading, Listening) ~ 5 minutes

Read the text slowly -- really slowly. Way more slowly than you usually read. Listen for a word or phrase that calls you, lights up for you, disturbs or resonates or beckons. Don't read with your mind. Read with your heart. Listen with the ear of your heart.

2 Meditatio (Reflecting, Receiving) ~ 10 minutes

Savor the word. Allow it to unfold for you. Sit with it. Repeat it. Don't THINK about it, just be with it and let it do whatever it is going to do with your subconscious. Allow images, memories, feelings to emerge. Notice them. Keep coming back to the word or phrase. 

3 Oratio (Responding) ~ 20 minutes

Listen for the invitation. This is the phase where the monks would pray, but here we ask participants to free write or to draw (or if the space allows, to dance in free movement). Imagine the possibility of a creative source moving through you.

4 Contemplatio (Resting) ~ 10 minutes

Come back to silence and stillness and let the experience reverberate. Feel your body. Breathe.

5 Operatio (Realizing)

Taken as a call to action, this lesser known fifth phase continues until the next time you initiate the Lectio phase! So for some, this could be a long time! Listen for divine messages in every action and every experience of your day.

6 Reflections ~ 10 minutes

Allow time for sharing. Invite anyone who would like to share what they created or reflect on their experience to do so (extend if you have a larger group or people seem to want to share a lot).



Texts that we have used for Lectio Divina in the past have been the following:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.
― Mary Oliver

This is what you shall do;
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to every one that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons
and with the young and with the mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency
not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face
and between the lashes of your eyes
and in every motion and joint of your body.
― Walt Whitman

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
― Rumi


Use whatever sacred or meaningful text is significant or interesting for your participants. The text should be short. One verse or a few lines.


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