The following is some suggestions for how to structure a 20 minute meditation period. Keep in mind, any structures for meditation are simply a guideline to get a started. If and when we want to relate to the Lord more spontaneously and without a definitive plan, we should give it a try. In addition, you can take different elements that are suggested here and combine them with other suggestions that work well for you. In the end, the goal is not to follow a structure, but intimacy with Jesus Christ.
1) Breathing/ Connect with the Heart
I suggest beginning by using the breath to cultivate stillness and to transition into prayer. Almost without exception, I am finding that most people who come to me are dealing with stressful lives that seem filled to the brim with activity and stimulation. By beginning in this way, we don’t try to simply make those tensions go away with some technique, but rather give ourselves the opportunity to feel and process what we are experiencing.
In this way, we begin by observing our body and what is taking place. In particular, paying attention to tensions and our heart beat can help us to begin to cultivate stillness. As we become aware of our breathing and the state of interior life, we can gently begin to use our breathing to massage areas of tension and fatigue.
By being attentive to our heart, we can also gently seek to bring our heart rhythms to a place of relaxed steadiness.
2) Connect with Jesus Christ/ Process Your Day
At some point, we need to invite Jesus into our interior life and begin our conversation with him. While familiar conversation with Christ is vital, we should also be aware that communication is much richer than merely words and images. In this way, we should learn to relate to the Lord in whatever way makes the most sense.
Instead of trying to chase away our problems and the demands of the day, we can take time in our meditation to process it with Jesus. If our emotions are high, we need not move beyond this step. In time, as our interior life begins to settle, then we can consider meditating on the Word of God or giving ourselves the opportunity to reflect on the deeper mysteries of life.
3) Discursive Meditation/ Lectio Divina
As we learn to observe and process our interior life with Jesus, we should come to a place of greater freedom where the mind is now able to be nourished by the Word of God. We can also use different guides to discursive meditation (such as devotional books) as a means of nourishing our intellect.
Everyone must be nourished daily by the Word of God and the truths of the Church. In this way, if we find ourselves needing to dedicate a lot of time to dealing with stress, we should be mindful to have at least 5 minutes a day set aside for spiritual reading (with a particular priority being given to the Word of God).
For more information on methods of doing discursive meditation, a quick google search will lead those interested to many good sources.
In writing this article, my goal is to draw our attention to the need to observe and process the many aspects of our life that are causing us stress. Often, I am finding that people have a hard time doing discursive meditation precisely because they are trying to push away all their problems. Instead of fighting with our interior life, I advice that we learn to allow Christ in precisely in those areas of struggle.