- Religion and Philosophy»
Continuous Prayer Throughout the Day
Always With the Divine
There is a quality - I call it the Divine, but I could also call it Life, God, Reality, Heaven and Earth - that is always present, and yet also beyond all things. Within all religions, and outside them, there are traditions that seek to be aware of this Divine Presence at all times. In Christianity, mystics of the Eastern church called it "continuous prayer." It is Sufism in the Muslim world, and Bakti to the Hindus. In Judaism and Vietnamese Zen, a verse goes with each and every action throughout the day. Athletes call it the Zone, and doctors call it The Relaxation Response. It doesn't matter what tradition inspires us. What matters is that, however we think of it, we can practice entering a state of Peace that is deeply wonderful and Divine, and become a gift to the world, each moment of each and every day.
How do we remain continuously aware of the Divine each and every breath of the day, waking and sleeping.
We can't, but there is another way.
We can't remain aware of the Divine because distraction and forgetfulness (also called avidya, or ignorance) is simply part of being human.
But we can remind ourselves many times a day. And that is part of the solution.
Three Steps to Continuous Prayer
There are three steps to continuous prayer. And if we want to succeed, we must do them each and every day.
The first is formal practice. I know of five spiritual teachers from five different traditions, all of whom say we must practice in mind and/or body at least an hour a day, or we slide back into illness, confusion, and forgetfulness. That may be prayer or silent meditation, or spiritual reading, or conscious exercise. A blend of body and mind activities is a very good idea. So, an hour or more of formal practice, each and every day. Before you say you are too busy, let me point out two things. One, you can do this while you are on the subway, or driving. Two, if you do this regularly, you will need less sleep and waste much less time.
The second is Last Feeling / First Feeling. Pick a word, such as Love or Peace, and breathe with that word as you drift off to sleep, and then, again, as you wake up early in the morning. Do this each and every evening and morning, and when you take naps, as well. This aligns the unconscious mind with the intention to be with the Divine each moment.
The third is Reminders. Let us accept that we forget. It is our nature. So, many times a day, let us use a reminder. It can be a bell set to ring every quarter-hour. It can be standing up, or sitting down, or seeing a person. It can be clicking the mouse, or writing an email, or answering the phone.
And when we receive a reminder, let us stop and straighten our spine, and relax. Let us breathe deeply three times, and return to our natural breathing. And let us place a prayer, a bit of gratitude, or a reminder of the Divine on our lips, flowing out with the breath.
When we do this, day and night, we let go of the confused and cluttered thinking mind and the tight emotions and fear that keep us separate from the Divine. No matter what our religion - or without religion - we can dwell in this peaceful and joyous state. When we do, we, naturally share peace and joy with the world.