Believers from every spiritual tradition have their favorite practices for understanding more about God, the world and their own places within it. Some people learn by sharing stories or by acting on the convictions of their beliefs. Others learn through meditation or some other type of reflection. Deep reading can incorporate many different ways of learning and growing a stronger faith.
Understanding Deep Reading
The concept of deep reading is similar to the practice of Lectio Divina for understanding scripture. Whether it is done individually or in a group setting, there are four essential parts to Lectio Divina:
- Read the passage
- Meditate on its meaning
- Pray for divine guidance
- Contemplate the implications for action
The same basic process can be applied to reading other texts, such as social justice or personal-growth books. Rather than rushing through the materials, take the time to understand the points the authors are trying to make and reflect on how they apply to your own life or faith community.
There are so many good books to read, and you may not have a lot of free time to read them. Therefore, it may seem smart to get through each book as quickly as you can so that you can move on to the next one. More information is not necessarily better, though. To really come away with a deeper understanding than just the main gist, it helps to intentionally slow your reading speed. One way to get into the habit of doing this is to read aloud or listen to the audio version of the book. A slower pace gives your brain more time to process what you are learning.
Pausing to Ponder
For deep reading to occur, you need to take regular breaks for reflection. It's a good idea to have a journal or a notes app handy so that you can jot down the parts that leave a strong impression. You can go back and read those specific passages again, or you can write down the feelings or questions that come up as you go. A purposeful pause helps you build on the information you are taking in.
Praying for Revelation
Making your reading part of your spiritual practice is likely to include some divine guidance. Prayer is an opportunity to listen to what God has to say on the subject you're exploring. In a group study setting, members may pray before the discussion begins to ask God to guide their conversation. You can do this on your own, too. Pray for wisdom as you read. Embracing the mindset of prayerful contemplation can help you remember the parts of the book that are likely the most useful for your current growth.
Moving to Action
Out of every spiritual practice there typically comes a response. If you are reading to learn or grow, the end goal is probably a particular action or new habit. For example, if you are reading a book on combatting heterosexism in the church, it logically follows that you will learn specific ways to do so, such as talking to church leaders about updating policies that may be exclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community. Before you move on to your next reading adventure, make a list of the ways the book challenged your perspective and the things you are going to do differently as a result.
One of the ways that many people learn is through reading about topics that concern them. Adopting deep reading as one of your regular spiritual practices can help you get more out of the books you choose to inform your growth. By increasing your focus on the materials you select and contemplating how they pertain to your life, you can benefit from the time you spend reading.