The time and attention one gives to pray already indicates a certain victory of the heart over sin and death. As we grow and adapt, we should recognize that the struggle itself is worth our time, and we should never fail to appreciate that by disposing ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit, we have already done the great work of prayer. With that in mind, I want to make some suggestions about praying the rosary that I believe can help, not so much to rid one’s self of the growing pains of spiritual maturation, but rather to help those who might lack the courage to experiment with their relationship.
By experiment, I mean an open disposition that is constantly allowing for the Spirit to move the heart in new ways. John of the Cross often refers to the experiential knowledge that one receives in prayer as a kind of “dark, obscure knowledge.” Thus, he means to highlight that spiritual knowledge of ourselves and how God is working in us is not the fruit of long study, but of patient waiting.
With that in mind, I recommend “playing with your attention” when it comes to your praying of the rosary. By this I mean that you try different ways of mentally engaging the rosary, allowing your attention to move in different ways throughout the rosary itself. I would broadly classify them as follows
1) Active: Pondering of the Mysteries of the Rosary
This way of engaging your attention is simple enough. You actively ponder the contents of the decade (i.e. the mystery), and you let your faculties of analysis actively chew on the material. This way of engaging is active in that it involves a consistent intention to think about the given topic.
2) Passive: Letting Your Mind Wander
Most people have a problem with the idea of letting your mind wander. We want our meditation to produce results, and so we tend to fight our interior dialogue when it does not stay on topic. This can in turn produce stress and make us hesitant to return to praying the rosary. I give you permission to zone-out (see my article on this topic http://www.contemplatio.us/permission-to-zone-out/), or let your mind move to topics not directly related to the rosary itself.
3) Active: Allowing your attention to focus on the rhythm of the words themselves
This form of attention is a means by which we focus our gaze on the words themselves, allowing our interior dialogue freedom while gently engaging our awareness on a rhythmic recitation of the rosary. This can involve praying the rosary fast or slow, but all with a sense of allowing our attention to enter into the words themselves. This can be combined with rhythmic breathing (if that is not too awkward or cumbersome).
These are just a few ideas to chew on. Please let me know if you think of others.
I often pray the rosary while driving. I begin each decade focusing on the mystery, but usually my mind wanders to decisions I’m trying to make, people who are suffering, world problems, or just about anything else. As I get to the end of the decade, I return to the mystery. I believe the Holy Spirit is leading me to ponder these situations in my life in the light of the mystery. In most cases I realize that, by myself I cannot solve anything, but with God all things will end as they are meant to be. On occasion I will find a different way of seeing a situation; I am changed.
What you are saying makes sense, and what you are getting as it part of what inspired the blog post. I like the idea of praying through your life experiences during the rosary. I think the key is to practice discernment and to see how the prayer and your life develops. So the question becomes, what state of mind does such considerations bring, and how does my prayer overflow into my life? Does it bear fruit in the sense of greater stillness and freedom? Or does it produce anxiety and fear?
For me, I choose to look at pictures of the mystery and imagine being there. This definately helps me to focus on the mystery and not get distracted. Also with the sorrowful mystery I try to imagine the pain of the nails in my hands and my arms streched out.