Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Praying with Julian’s Hazelnut

I invite you to try this prayer experiment based on Julian of Norwich's hazelnut vision:

  • Get a 'hazelnut'. This can be a real hazelnut or anything similar in size and roundness, e.g., a marble, a small stone, a balled-up half sheet of paper, etc.

  • Intentionally set aside a period of time - 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or more if you can. And a place where you can be alone and quiet. If you have a timer set it for the amount of time you have set aside so you won't be watching the clock.

  • Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, let yourself relax. Rest your hands open on your lap holding the hazelnut.

  • Breath in slowly through your nose and out though your mouth. Pay attention to the breath.

  • Imagine the small thing in your hands as representing all that it is created. Imagine it representing your own life. Or the life of someone else on your heart. Give thanks to God for making it, for loving it, and for keeping it.

  • Begin repeating 'made, loved, kept' quietly or silently forming the words with your mouth.

  • When other thoughts arise, do not fight them. Rather, gently let go of them, turn your heart back towards God and the small thing and resume repeating, 'made, loved, kept'.
  • At the end of the prayer period, return your attention to your breath and remain in silence with eyes closed for a while.

  • End by again giving thanks to God for making it all, for loving it all, and for keeping it all.

  • If you like, carry your hazelnut in your pocket or place it where you will see it throughout the day as a token of remembrance.

I have found that doing this daily can serve to settle my heart into the heart of God where my own life, the lives around me, and the larger world gain a different perspective. I begin to share some of the hope and joy that was characteristic of Julian of Norwich.

That is not to say that it always feels that way or that the prayer automatically engenders warm and pleasant feelings. Julian knew better:

Our Lord is most glad and joyful because of our prayer; and he expects it, and he wants to have it, for with his grace it makes us like to himself in condition as we are in nature, and such is his blessed will. For he says: Pray wholeheartedly, though it seems to you that this has no savour to you; still it is profitable enough, though you may not feel that. Pray wholeheartedly, though you may feel nothing, though you may see nothing, yes, though you think that you could not, for in dryness and ib barrenness, in sickness and in weakness, then is your prayer most pleasing to me, though you think it almost tasteless to you. And so is all you living prayer in my sight. (14th Revelation, p. 249)

Still, Julian was undaunted and encourages us to persevere because:

Prayer unites the soul to God, for though the soul may always be like God in nature and in substance restored by grace, it is often unlike him in condition, through sin on our part. Then prayer is a witness that the soul wills as God wills, and it eases the conscience and fits us for grace. And so he teaches us to pray and to have firm trust that we shall have it; for he beholds us in love, and wants to make us partners in his good will and work. (14th Revelation, p. 253)


Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and of these two things comes a third, and that is a marvelous delight in God, which is love. (14th Revelation, p. 256)
The Julian quotes are from Julian of Norwich: Showings (Classics of Western Spirituality).

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