Archives for category: Contemplative Prayer

pizza

Image courtesy of  suphakit73/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In an 11th step centering prayer meeting discussion this morning we talked about how  we all have recurring compulsions and that we should not be self-critical when related obsessive thoughts become the focus of our attention. It was suggested that we should acknowledge such thoughts and look beyond them and continue seeking the God of our choosing. Thus, one can develop the habit of thought redirection so that the after first acknowledging such thoughts one can think something like,  “Oh, you again” and immediately follow that thought with “I am going to look over/around you as I seek to be in the presence of my Higher Power.” The “you again” is simple enough for me, but I’ve got to work on the re-direction part.

In recognizing the all too familiar obsessive thoughts (cravings) I tend to sometimes start thinking about the “you” addressed in “oh, you again” rather than immediately turning  the focus of my thoughts to the God that protects me from giving into those cravings. It can be as simple as just taking a deep breath and thinking “I’m in God’s hands, you no longer have power over me” or “I’m not wasting my time on you anymore, I am, instead, turning my will and my life over to the care of my God as I understand him.” I have heard these phrases repeated over and over again by people in recovery, and I have even said them myself. But this is the first time I have associated them with mindful breathing and centering prayer—–a practice that is teaching me to quiet my mind and extraneous thoughts while I consent to spending some alone time with God, accepting his love, and listening instead of asking.

I have experienced a lot of “positive side effects” of centering prayer since I have been learning this new technique. One is that the skills my mind learns to use while in centering prayer can “bleed out” into “ordinary reality.” For example, I can have an obsessive thought about food any time I open my refrigerator—–or even think about what is in my refrigerator. I am learning to just smile and think, “oh, you again” when such thoughts occur.  Then I immediately remember I started the day off by turning my will and my life over to God, so those thoughts are rendered “powerless” over triggering compulsive eating. I’ve been doing something similar to this for years whenever I happen to walk through a grocery store’s liquor section.

Applying this thought redirection approach is starting to help me put my eating compulsion into  perspective. I have been trying the “25 chews/bite with one breath between bites” method (Altman, Donald,  2004.  Meal by Meal: 365 Daily Meditations for Finding Balance Through Mindful Eating, Kindle Locations 3644-3648, New World Library, Kindle Edition )when I consciously remember to do so. It has amazed me that it no longer feels “silly” as my previous attempts to learn to eat slowly have. Now I am aware of taste, texture, and the need to chew things thoroughly before swallowing. The breath between bites has been amazing—–it reminds to thank God during those “breathing” times for the gift of living—–of being able to breathe and to eat healthy food as it should be eaten. It has changed eating from being a frantic race to fill an ever-empty hole to a celebration of the sacred. What once seemed tedious and unnecessary  has become a very viable, easy way to accomplish a means of reaffirming my spiritual path.  It is amazing to me how much better thought redirection can work for me if the re-direction I apply is directly associated with something spiritually important to me .

God bless and keep you.

hand held heart

Image courtesy of  Somchai Som/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, during a guided imagery session, my Higher Power made me aware of a  couple of insights.  One is my Higher Power’s love is always there, has always been there, and will always be there—-even if I have been hurtful to myself or others in the past. But the newest insight for me, the one that really got my attention, was I am able to feel and express that same type of love for those I love in spite of any hurts, real or imagined, that I  believe I have suffered at their hand. Thus, the important lesson I came away from today’s session with is this: Our love for someone is strong enough to withstand the hurt we attribute to that person, just as God’s love is strong enough to withstand the things I have done that I am sure have hurt him.

I’m not talking trivial, little transgressions here. The person I love and chose to bring into today’s imagery session had, when I was a child, tied our family dog to the back of our school bus and had the bus driver drive away so the dog would be dragged behind the bus; the rationale for doing this was to teach the dog not to chase the school bus so he would avoid getting run over in the future. That same person slapped me at the dinner table in front of company and at another time picked me up by one arm while  swatting my “behind” with his other hand—- I literally became a human pendulum swinging back and forth between blows. Remembering those instances of hurt I experienced as a child brought unbidden tears to my eyes—even after all this time. And then I knew that some of the things I have done in the past like driving while intoxicated, practicing addictive behaviors, and engaging in what at the time was  called “free love” must have hurt my Higher Power just as deeply as those childhood memories that are embedded in my soul.  Then I felt the blessed relief of knowing  my Higher Power loves me anyway—-just as I love the person who psychologically and physically hurt me as a child. Those embedded hurts no longer have the power to block the love I have for the person who hurt me. Love is stronger than the hurt.

My writing today is relatively short. Conversely, however, the message “love is stronger than the hurt” is a momentous one for me. Now when I think of perceived hurtful events in my life I can stop investing energy in resenting those instances.  I can, instead,  focus on the love God shares with me and all of us that overlooks and overcomes the hurt. Resentment will never again have the power over me that it has had in the past. To be honest, I don’t yet trust that the resentments I have “nurtured” during my life time to entirely go away, but I know that now I can overcome  the hurt and resentment by focusing on the love I have been given as a gift by my Higher Power. And for this I am grateful.

Prescription

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A frequently occurring mantra in my head this morning is, “Take a deep breath, relax. This too shall pass.”  I am in one of those moods where every little thing is irritating me. Actually, I am allowing it to do so. I have to consciously redirect my thoughts to what really matters—– that God is in control. Period. It does not matter that my television carrier stopped carrying the Weather Channel overnight. It does not matter that the university’s web-page generating program is tedious, onerous, and just about every other “bad adjective” I can think to attach to it. It doesn’t matter that I made a trip to the pharmacy last night for a medication that was promised to be phoned in and ready to be picked up by 6 PM last night yet was not there when I arrived to purchase it.

Now, looking at that list of grievances, I realize the things I have allowed to bother me are trivial. The bible verses I chose to post on my church’s Facebook page this morning for the daily bible reading say it all: “It was you who opened up springs and streams; you dried up the ever flowing rivers. The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon” (PSALM 74: 15– 16 NIV). I need to just relax and trust God. Just because things are not going my way does not mean God has abandoned me or anyone else or thing he created. Just because things don’t happen how or when I want them to doesn’t mean God is not in control—–or that he should have done things my way instead of his. Sometimes my psyche is like that of a demanding 2 year old. I don’t like that part of myself. Luckily, God loves all of me regardless of whether I am demanding or in a good mood or not.

Prior to working a twelve step program I would have used this “free floating irritability” triggered by my inability to control everything in my life exactly the way I want to as an excuse to indulge in one or several addictions. Now I know better. I don’t reach for a drink, drug, or sugar. I love myself too much to use my irritation as an excuse to hurt myself. Now I am forced to feel what I am feeling instead of numbing my feelings. I am learning to be that “witness” contemplative prayer is teaching me to be—–to practice a type of detachment so that I can observe what happens and my reaction without getting caught up in the drama of it. I can say to myself, “Well, you’re upset because you didn’t get the medication you need when you  need it. Live with it. Going without it a bit longer will not kill you. Get over yourself.”

And, today, that is my best advice to myself—“get over yourself!” It is not all about me or how I think or need things to be. What I can change is how I react to life. Sometimes it is about accepting my reaction, noting it, and getting on with the business of living, and, if I am lucky, I can even begin to realize that living is a gift and not a business at all. God bless and keep you.

Sands of Time

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Today I am writing about something very personal. The photo I chose to illustrate today’s writing was taken by Sattva, and the photo is  entitled “Sands of Memory.” It seemed appropriate because today I am writing about the magical transformation occurring in my life because of contemplative prayer.

When I read today’s meditation out of Open Mind, Open Heart (Keating, T., 2005,p. 8, New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group) I was, as we used to say, “blown away.” Here before my very eyes were the words that explained the magic of contemplative prayer to me. It seems that God’s spirit heals us when we quiet our mind to the point that we are able to  experience “interior silence.” Keating explains that this process works in a psychological way without our conscious knowledge—much as one is unaware of what happens when one is anesthetized and undergoes surgery. In fact, Keating says, “The purpose of contemplative prayer is to facilitate the process of inner transformation.”

I would tend to question this promise of an unconscious “inner transformation” if I had not already started experiencing it myself. I have been practicing contemplative prayer for a few  years now, and during my first year of “unknowing” I had not read about what can happen during contemplative prayer, so I had no preconceived expectations. During one of my group contemplative prayer sessions I sensed that someone entered the room because of what I smelled. I think I must have audibly gulped at that point because I recognized the scent as that of the man who molested me when I was four years old and who has been dead for decades. The Spirit moved me to have a conversation with this man and to tell him while I would never forget what he did, that what he did has shaped my entire life, that I forgave him, and that I loved him. It wasn’t easy, but the Spirit told me he had brought the man to me because I needed to do this. The Spirit also reminded me we are all one and that God is in each of us. Because of this I was able to honestly tell the man I forgave him and that I love him.

Since then, I have studied and learned more about contemplative prayer. I have come to understand that my “contemplative spiritual experience” was one of healing. It was a gift God gave me when he knew my “unconscious psychological level” was ready to handle the experience within the embrace of his love and guidance. On a conscious level through much reading, journaling, and counseling, I had developed insight about what happened to me all those years ago, but I could not “force” the healing. Healing was something only God could do, and it would not have happened had I not invited God to do so by consenting to his presence when I entered what Keating calls the “interior silence.”

So, on a very personal level, I know that God works on my “psyche” when I seek his love in that sacred interior space by stilling my thoughts and listening. Now, thanks to today’s meditation, I know that my “inner transformation” is occurring on an ongoing basis even if I am not consciously aware of it. Contemplative prayer is changing my life and my eternity. I believe the only way I can adequately thank God for this precious gift is by attempting to share it with others who follow a spiritual pathway. May God bless and keep you.