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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Posture

I think we’re slowly waking up to how spiritually arrogant we have been in the West. For literally thousands of years people of pretty much every faith tradition have talked about the importance of the body in prayer. Yet since the enlightenment (when we were told that rationality was pretty much all that mattered) we have ignored this wisdom and done our own thing.

But it does matter.

If you learn to sit in one of the ‘eastern’ positions for example – the lotus or half lotus – you have to sit with an erect spine. This keeps you alert. It also opens up deeper breathing – breathing from the abdomen which helps to still the mind and opens up a deeper level of prayer.

Most of us probably already know this. It’s something that I have been learning more recently. What amazes me is that I haven’t been taught it before – things like this just aren’t seen as important in the protestant tradition.

I am glad more people are rediscovering this important sense of our connectness as whole human beings.

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double tracking the mantra

As you probably know, basic meditation practice often involves use of a mantra or ‘prayer-word’. This is to give the mind just enough to do to quieten the incessant ‘crazy cocktail party of the mind’ to use Martin Laird’s wonderful description.

I don’t know about you but I have found in my practice that, while this helps, I am quite capable of repeating my mantra on one level of my mind and find that I am daydreaming concurrently. I find that I suddenly realise that for the last few minutes I have been saying my mantra AND thinking about the shopping (or whatever)! The mantra seems to operate ‘below’ the buzzing, discursive mind.

The other day I tried what you could call ‘double tracking the mantra’ – if my mind is operating on two (conscious) different levels well how about giving both levels a mantra to work with? So then I had two mantras running concurrently. This probably all sounds quite chaotic and busy – it wasn’t particularly. The ‘lower’ mantra stayed quite stable and the ‘upper’ one came and went as I needed it too.

This probably isn’t text-book meditation teaching! But it was something I found helpful on that occasion.

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a new mind

John the Baptist, as we know, is one of the key voices in Advent. I shared some thoughts about him at our community eucharist on Sunday.

The main point I was making was that perhaps we need to hear his call to repent in a different way. We have understood repentance to mean either ‘say sorry to God for all the wrong things you have done’ and/or ‘turn from doing wrong to doing right’. And neither of those things are bad!

But the greek word translated in Mark 1 (and parallels) as ‘repentance’ is metanoia and although I am not a greek scholar I understand this word to mean something like ‘change your mind’. Again we need to think of this differently I would suggest. What about if we heard this to mean ‘receive a new mind’?

Why is this important? I think that without a new mind we will be unable to perceive the presence of the Kingdom which – as Jesus goes on to announce – is ‘close at hand’ and even ‘within you’. We will still think that God is somewhere else and we have to get to him (or get him to come to us) through religious observance (in the Jesus context this meant going up to the Temple etc.) because he is not normatively present with/in us.

We need to repent – we need a new mind : so that we can recognise the presence of the Kingdom around and within us. Meditation and contemplation will help us to develop this new mind.

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6 Breaths a Minute

breath

breath

Many spiritual teachers and writers – of all traditions – talk of the importance of the breath for meditation and interior silence. It’s a big deal.

Phrases like ‘watching the breath’ or ‘practicing with the breath’ are common. I will write more about this at another time. But last week I was listening to Rob Bell (author of ‘Velvet Elvis’ and the man behind the popular Nooma DVD’s). He was referencing some research that linked breathing to energy. We all know how our breathing is linked to our state of mind – if we are anxious our breathing will be quick and shallow. If we are in a rested, peaceful state we breathe more slowly and deeply. But what we perhaps weren’t aware of is the link between breathing and energy. Apparently if we breathe around 6 breaths per minute we will optimize the amount of energy that is available to us.

Most of us breathe more like 20 breaths a minute – quick shallow breaths. This dissipates us. The research Bell was referencing suggested that when we breathe like this we access less than 10% of available energy.

So apart from the link between breathing and deeper prayer states, it would seem that if we can slow and deepen our breathing we will access more energy generally. Try it – count how many times a minute you breathe.

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