I admit that I’m learning how to pray again. Suggestions from Richard Rohr’s book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps started me on my current experiment in meditation and prayer.
I conceptualize that I am sitting with a close friend in quiet shared presence. Before I tried approach prayer and meditation as an earnest attempt to gently clear my mind. Or to recite a mantra. Or to think of a list of those I wish to offer up in prayer. Or to address God quietly in my mind. All of those are valid ways to pray.
I set a meditation timer at 3 minutes, 6 minutes, then work your way up. I downloaded the free called Insight Timer. It also includes a quick check in questionnaire for how you’re feeling before and after meditation.
Here’s my basic approach (not numbered since this is not a linear action but more of a nonlinear cycle):
Find a somewhat quiet place free of auditory distraction
Sit or kneel. I kneel on the floor with a pillow between my rear and my heels since my aging right hip appreciates it. But lotus or seated in a chair is good too. Whatever is comfortable for you currently.
Let the eyelids close or drop somewhat to be gently unfocused and looking not to far past where you are seated.
Body scan. Move your attention through the body, finding tension and then finding the way to ease it.
Are you leaning forward? Then rest with the spine at a resting straight position.
Tension at the neck? Bring the chin slightly closer to the neck so that the top back part of your head is higher than the front part of your head.
Tension at the face? Gently smile and breathe
Tension at the shoulders? Breathe and ease them a bit
Tension in the hands? Bring them comfortably together or resting upon you
Tension in the backside? You may not be sitting with enough support or just find a way to breathe and relax.
The trick is to find a way to sit without feet going numb and prickly.
The vital thing is to recall how you feel in the presence of a close friend in comfortable silence. How do you hold your body in that moment?
Once you feel that you are in a comfortable posture, if you want to pray for a friend or family or someone you dislike, you can try this personal practice. Don’t think too hard. Just go with where your intuition visualizes that you gently reach out to the person. For troubling thoughts, it might be reaching with the fingertips or the hand or hands towards the heart region or the head or both. Or envision that person caring for themselves, reaching for their ears to listen and become more receptive. Or to perhaps cover their eyes or eyes if they feel distracted and reactive. Or take this concept way beyond in your own way. If you do, I hope you'll share it with me.
I’d like to share this Thomas Merton quote in closing. I believe that it gets to the heart of the true prayer process:
“The will of God is not a ‘fate’ to which we must submit, but a creative act in our life that produces something absolutely new, something hitherto unforeseen by the laws and established patterns. Our cooperation consists not solely in conforming to external laws, but in opening our wills to this mutually creative act.”
my watercolor and ink study of illustration from Dog of Flanders book