Is prayer more about talking or listening?
It's good to be with you right now. You might want to slow things down a little bit and let this be a time that refreshes you.
When you think of prayer and meditation as "talking", you might be imagining a connection to the divine, in which you are bringing words and content to the experience. You might be reaching out to God or the universe, often using language, to bring your questions, pleas for help, gratitude, and praise.
When you think of prayer or meditation as "listening", your experience might be quite different. The content, with or without words, might emerge from a space of receptivity. You might cease your mind and heart and body activities and fall into a deep stillness. In this place, it becomes possible for us to visualize, hear or feel the divine as it speaks for itself, or offers some wisdom about what's wanting to happen.
If you tend to do only speak or only listen, it's like missing out on at least half of a conversation. I've adapted a way of praying from The Underground River of God into a process you might like to try. I call it the "Four Levels of Awareness Prayer".
Level 1: Start with the five senses, which we often aren’t aware of at all. These are all the environmental sensations in the context around you. You can take the time to become aware of what you see, hear, taste, touch, feel. These sensations are present in the moment, and they don’t last. But they can be remembered and contribute to an atmosphere [a secluded garden vs a busy city street]. It is good to be aware of all that is, without judging whether you like the sensations or not, and without doing anything about them.
Level 2: Next, you can attend to the thoughts, again without any judgment or attachment. Thoughts come and go in a similar way to sounds - the mind chatter is very similar to bird chatter. If you find yourself getting attached to any of the thoughts as if they were true, there is normally an immediate effect on the body sensations, chemistry, and emotions. If that happens, allow the wash of chemicals to come and go in a minute or two, and let the thought pass.
Level 3: Next, becoming aware of the insides of the body. Many people can be somewhat aware of a headache but still persist in their work. This is your chance to actually attend to the physical sensations of the body. Notice any feelings of intensity, tingling, warmth, heaviness, or other awarenesses in the body—again, without judgment. Allow yourself to breathe into anything that you notice with kindness.
Level 4: Finally, allow yourself to become aware of the core state that is the underground river of God. This level manifests at all the other levels in an expanding, powerful, and comforting way. Joy, peace, love, and an experience of OK-ness emerge at the heart level. It’s like feeling at home—the action of God within the self, nourishing the other three levels. The quality, the duration, and the intensity let you know that this is the peace that passes understanding. You can learn to discern it and know its radiance.
Whenever thoughts or feelings are troublesome, allow them to be there and do an internal check—are they coming from Level 4? If not, go to level 4 and allow the peace of God to do its work on them. The peace that passes understanding cannot be touched, even in the worst situations.
Thank you for being here and now. Your life is important. You are part of it. You belong here.
With great love,
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