Personal Symbols, Prayer and Meditation
The biblical writers always take it for granted that dreams and visionary events are significant and one of the main ways God communicates with human beings. The writers assumed that through such experiences the past is given significance, the present can be coped with and the future can be opened up. Entrenched attitudes are often challenged and people are enabled to change direction in their lives in a creative manner. A good example of this is found in Peter's dream recorded in Acts 10. Through this dream Peter discovers the false nature of a narrow interpretation of the significance of Jesus, i.e. salvation is only for the Jews. He thus becomes instrumental in opening the doors of the church to non-Jews.
This exercise is in two parts. The first part is undertaken in solitude the second in a small group of people who trust one another. The aim of the exercise is to provide the individual with space and a way of recognising their personal symbols. The sharing with the group provides a means of interpreting the symbols and discovering where common symbols occur.
Discover a place where you can be alone and undisturbed for half an hour.
Sit in a comfortable chair in an upright position with feet flat on the floor and hands resting in your lap. Acknowledge the sounds around you so that they do not intrude.
Breathe deeply, repeating in rhythm with your breathing some chosen words, e.g. 'Be still and know that I am God' or perhaps, 'Jesus, Son of Mary, Son of God, have mercy.' Continue this for as long as it takes for you to become physically and mentally relaxed.
Concentrate on the images which enter your mind. If a vivid mental picture unfolds itself remember it in detail.
At the end of half an hour write down your mental picture. (This method is also a very helpful way of working with dreams.)
On a separate occasion reflect further on the contents of these meditation images (and dream images). This can be undertaken alone but it can also be done with great profit in a small group.
When the group meets share your images with each other. See where common symbols occur. If you have only very vague impressions don’t worry since these can be equally valuable to you.
Reflect on the possible relevance of these to our shared human existence.
Help each other to explore the personal pictures. Try to help one another to relate the personal images to the pressures, problems, decisions and events of life. They may have a lot to tell you about your hopes and fears, your hurts and emotional scars, your perception of God and how God relates to you.