Tag Archives: Prayer

First Things First

Can you relate to this?

Why is it that when I hit a stressful time in life, the very things – like meditation and exercise – that would help relieve stress, are the very first things to get bumped from the daily routine? It’s like something within me says, “there’s no time for this!” And so, I begin to shave these things from my daily routine. Then over time, I wonder why I am getting more stressed, having difficulty sleeping and focusing!

In reality, these are the most important things NOT to bump from the schedule in the midst of a difficult time. They are the very life-blood that keeps me grounded. Without them, all else begins to suffer – my work, my relationships, even my play time!

I lay awake last night, once again, feeling the pent up energy in my body and my restless spirit as my mind whirled. I have not exercised in a while. No wonder I am having difficulty sleeping. So much pent up energy! I have not really given myself to meditation in a while. No wonder I have difficulty focusing!

The irony is this: when I bump meditation and exercise from the schedule, it seems I don’t have enough time. When I take the time to meditate and exercise, it seems as if I have much more time on my hands, time even to play!

First things first. What are the REALLY important things that I need to maintain in order to live well, even in the midst of a stressful time?


Surrender

This morning I was reading a bit of Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love:  Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, which a friend recently gave me.  I was reading a section on surrender and I came across a teaching on how to pray, how to ask for what we want.  It really struck me.  This is what she says:  “Instead of, ‘Dear God, please let us fall in love, or please give me this job,’ we say ‘Dear God, my desire, my priority is inner peace.  I want the experience of love.  I don’t know what would bring that to me.  I leave the results of this situation in your hands.  I trust your will.  May your will be done.  Amen.’”

Do you feel the sense of surrender in such a prayer?  It’s almost a relief.  Instead of asking for this and that, which entails clinging to this or that, the “desire,” the “priority” is living in peace and love – period.  How it happens is given to the Universe to work out.

What a great teaching to have in our mind when we have a choice to make.  In anything that we do, we could ask the question:  “Is what I’m about to do going to help faciliate living in peace and love?”  Or is it just immediate gratification?


I Surrender!

This morning as I meditated I felt a sense of surrender. My thoughts and my prayer were not centered so much in what I want or need, but in how I could be an expression of the Divine.

So often our prayer can be about what we want or need in life. Ultimately we are an expression of the Eternal or Unmanifested spoken into form. If I am an expression of the Divine, perhaps my emphasis in prayer should be more on how the Divine wants to express itself in my life, rather than how and what I (read – the ego) want the Divine to do in and for me.

It feels good to surrender, to be taken, to allow oneself to enter an adventure – to walk into the unknown, to be lead. There is a sense of ease about surrender. Instead of the work involved in trying to arrange my life as I want it, there is an ease about surrendering and allowing myself to be lead.

The synchronicity of things amazes me sometimes. Just as this sense of surrender was emerging from within, I read this passage in my morning prayer: “We must let ourselves be plowed so that the furrows of our person become deeper and deeper, so that our earth becomes softer and softer” (Jean-Marie Howe, Cistercian Monastic Life/Vows: A Vision, p. 367). Perhaps it is in surrender that I become a softer person and, conversely, perhaps its in running and trying to arrange it all myself that I become hardened.

Perhaps today we could think more about what the Divine wants to do in us, rather than what we want out of the Divine.


Waste Any Time Lately?

Yesterday I spoke of the benefit of religious/spiritual experience and the gratitude I hold in my heart for this gift.  Today I am encouraged to keep at it, to keep doing those things that I need to do to stay centered.

“Whoever puts their hand to the plow and keeps looking back (i.e, keeps getting distracted, or in the mind) is unfit for the reign of God (i.e.,  cannot experience the power of God).” See Luke 9: 57-62

The importance of sticking with my practice, that which keeps me centered, has become obvious to me over the past couple of weeks when I’ve been without electricity and very busy with work.  Actually, the past couple of months I’ve been without a “Sabbath” day, a time of rest, reading, reflection, prayer.  Life has been filled with responding to various needs, people and work situations, which have placed my normal weekly Sabbath on the back burner.  As a result, I have not felt as centered and have begun to rely on my own power instead of that which can carry me through my days.

This experience again reminds me of the importance of building into our lives some “Sabbath” time.  Far from being a waste of time, it can produce within us an energy that can make us much more productive than if we kept running here and there.  I know for myself, without some Sabbath time that keeps me centered in my spiritual practice, I don’t produce good work.  When I take this waste of time, my work is given passion, energy and comes alive.

If, like me, your spiritual practice has been placed on the back burner due to busyness, demands of partners, children, work or the like, perhaps it’s time to “put your hand to the plow” as it were and take even a little “Sabbath” time.  In so doing, we will discover a Power within that can do much more in us than we could by ourselves.


My Spiritual Practice. What Works For Me? Part IV

Chant-Reading-Prayer

After I meditate and lift up needs that I see, I usually chant a hymn and a psalm from the simple and beautiful chant of the Camaldolese Monks in Big Sur CA. I then spend a bit of time in some spiritual reading. I currently read one of the readings from Vigils in the Benedictine Daily Prayer published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN. I also like to do a reading from the Carmelites of Indianapolis’ Companion to the Breviary. I find this book of Morning and Evening Prayer filled with thought provoking readings and prayers and I like their use of inclusive language. Just do a Google search and you’ll be able to find it. There is a one volume version and a two volume version.

Recently I also end my reading with a short passage from Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. I find his insights very, very helpful. I use his book more like a meditation book that daily reminds me of good practice, rather than something that I read at a sitting and then put down. I find myself going back to his book again and again. He also has a nice shorter version out for this pupose called: Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations and Exercises from The Power of Now.

Currently, the reason why I read both ancient and modern texts is that I like to compare the wisdom that comes from both.  I find that there are many similarities.  Good modern sources, like Tolle’s works simply put many much of the wisdom of ancients texts in fresh language and make it accessible to the masses.  Of course, as far as ancient texts go I am most familiar with Judeo-Christian texts.  However I would like to begin reading other texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text or the Koran.
A brief comment on reading and praying. I know this may sound like a LOT, but it’s not so much about how much is read. The passages are pretty brief. It’s more about reading slowly and with awareness. Christian monks speak of “Lectio Divina,” or Divine Reading – Sacred Reading. It’s simply a practice of reading slowly and with awareness, conscious that these words have Power and are able to change and form us. If a particular line hits me, I STOP and stay with it for a while and let it sink in.

Another word about reading and prayer in general. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a lot of different “things.” Keep it simple, especially at first. Just use some reading that is a thought provoking and life changing and just do a LITTLE each day. Again, a little bit done consistently is better than a lot done sporadically.

I end this time of meditation, prayer and reading with some concluding prayer, usually taken from the intercessions and closing prayer of the day from the Companion to the Breviary.


My Spiritual Practice. What Works For Me? – Part III

My Routine – Meditation/Prayer

I find a dedicated time for prayer/meditation/reading essential in keeping me focused.  We all go about routines that ready us for the day.  This is one such routine that spiritually readies me for the day.

Each morning I spend at least 30 minutes in prayer/meditation/reading.  I usually start by spending around 10 or 15 minutes in meditation, being attentive to my breathing and getting in touch with what Eckhart Tolle would call the “inner body,” that place of Being that is below the chatter of the mind.  Zen Buhddists might call this Zen or Zazen – just sitting, getting to the core of our essence and literally touching right here, right now, what is Eternal and Divine, the Unmanifested within.  Tolle describes an exercise of breathing, similar to many forms of meditation.  What I like about the way he describes this is his how the breath leads us to connect with the Life Force, or that which is Eternal within us.  (See The Power of Now, p, 112)

Spiritual writers through the centuries have spoken of the importance of meditation to open us.  It is in such a posture that we become receptive and in tune with a Power that is able to open within us an abundance of life, creativity and healing.  It’s really amazing when you think about it.  We are literally able to touch the Divine right NOW!  Jesus said it this way:  “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”

After 10 minutes or so I begin to shift the meditation and begin to call on the Power that I have opened myself to and I raise specific people,  world situations or personal desires.  I do so AS IF WHAT I AM PRAYING FOR HAS ALREADY BEEN GIVEN.  Several influences are evident here:  the Power of positive thinking a la Wayne Dyer, The Secret and Jesus who constantly called on people to have faith, to believe.  Whatever we may think of these ideas, I have found them helpful in slowly lifting me from a negative way of thinking to a more positive frame of mind and a more lively and palatable sense of belief.  All thought is energy and if I keep my thoughts in a positive frame of mind, that is what I will see and experience.  And I believe that sending good thoughts to even the most difficult situations in our lives, the lives of our loved ones or our world contains within it Power to change.