The common understanding of prayer involves you talking or communicating with something else, something more powerful, with the intent of getting something out of it, receiving something you don’t already have.
As many self-proclaimed free thinkers and atheists have pointed out, this is little different than talking to an imaginary friend with the hope that it will somehow solve your problems or create miracles.
If you ask me, both perspectives are pretty useless.
Prayer is an ancient and timeless technology. You have prayed before, even if it wasn’t under the pretense of prayer. It is a natural happening that overtakes us in very special moments. But it is up to us to allow those moments to go from being special to absolutely ordinary in the most beautiful way.
Prayer is about listening, not speaking. When you pray, you connect with the larger picture. You connect not as a small piece of a large puzzle but rather as a piece that contains the whole. Everything is in You and You are in Everything. Prayer is the remembrance of this basic truth.
For prayer you need to become a receiver. You need to empty yourself so that the divine may fill you.
The following are five perfect times to pray.
1. When you wake up in the morning.
The first moment you realize you are awake, what normally enters your mind? Is it something you are looking forward to, something you wish you could avoid, a desire, a rejection, a depression? The first moments of our wakefulness help to set the tone for our day.
Instead of transitioning directly from sleep into the cravings of the mind, take a moment to pause. That is a perfect time for prayer.
Get out of bed, stretch, and sit down somewhere comfortable. Become still and relaxed, empty yourself. You have the whole day to plan and worry and excite.
Sit with the Tao, with the moment, and just soak it in. Feel something shining into you. Shine outward into everything. Then go about your day.
2. Before eating meals.
When you consume a meal, you are partaking in a replenishment. Every seven years the entirety of the cells in your body have been replaced. You are not an independent phenomenon but rather exist as an example of interdependence.
The earth gave birth to your existence. Your existence is only sustained because around it is a living system that constantly supplies nourishment while recycling whatever is left.
Before you eat, enter Silence. A great many things had to live and die, grow and assemble, for this one meal. Even the simplest meal is a great wonder. Take this moment to acknowledge the fact that your body is a product of all that has sustained it and even when your body is sustaining something else, you will still Be. Connect to this larger picture. Then chow down!
3. When you feel a change in emotion.
People can never seem to decide whether to celebrate their emotions or escape from them. But either way, emotions are there. We are human and they are the color palate we use to paint our existence.
Changes in emotion are the perfect time for prayer because prayer reminds us that emotion is temporary. Prayer acts as a way of keeping all things in perspective.
When you feel yourself being moved to anger, or desire, or jealousy, when you are being made to feel like there is something you are lacking, enter prayer.
Welcome your emotion with open arms and immediately connect it to the whole. That is prayer. When you can see an emotion as it arrives, you will remember that it will also go. This will develop a relaxed equanimity in you.
4. When you are in the presence of Fear.
We think of fear as the terror that possesses us when our lives are in danger. And yes, that is fear. But the more dangerous fears are the small fears we let plague us every day. We are afraid of certain people, of what they may think, or of what we may think. We are afraid to lose and sometimes afraid to win. There are many kinds of fear.
When you feel fear, pray. Don’t ask for anything to happen, for your fear to magically disappear. Instead, forget your fear through prayer. The tao is always flowing, the Divine is always shining, your Soul is always blissing. Prayer is remembering the Divine Tao of your Soul at any chosen moment.
When you remember the tao, you are no longer at odds with the object of your fear. This is because you and the object of your fear are ultimately part of the same Picture. But because you are busy defending your body and its perceived separate existence, you allow fear to enter. Prayer is when you stop defending yourself. That is surrender.
And when you stop defending yourself, surrendering the ego, the divine will have an opening through which to shine through you.
5. Before going to sleep.
A great many things happen throughout the course of a day. Every day someone new is trying to condition you. New experiences are trying to condition you. Everything is trying to tell you who you are. And you are so desperate to know who you are that you are willing to listen.
Before going to sleep, silence the voices of the world. And then silence your own voice. Sit somewhere that feels right to you and enter Stillness. Let your existence shine through you. Let Existence shine into you.
There is nowhere to go, nothing to become, nothing to attain. Give gratitude to the opportunity to appreciate this moment.
Then go to sleep. :)
Prayer is a powerful technique for mindfulness when you can understand the experience of praying. Meditation is a very effective way to develop your capacity to pray. So is art, contemplation, and music. Contemplate these words and give it a try for a few weeks. You’ll discover what I mean very quickly.
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