Friday, January 6, 2012

THE NATURE AND POWER OF MINDFUL PRAYER


There are many forms of prayer. In the words of an old hymn, ‘Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed.’ Thus, if you really want good health for yourself or some other person, that is your prayer. Simple as that.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (pictured left), the great Unitarian and Transcendentalist, wrote, ‘All honest work is prayer.’ (I think the great Saint Benedict said something very similar.) So, all who do their work well, and honestly, are praying. I like that.

Mindfulness, being an awakened state of mind, is a form of prayer as well. Living mindfully from one moment to the next, that is, living fully in the action of the present moment, with calm acceptance of whatever arises, is about as 'spiritual' a practice as you can get. In the Christian tradition it is referred to as the 'practice of the presence of God' ... and it is prayer in action.

Now, I tend to eschew all forms of petitionary prayer, yet when I find myself in a seemingly hopeless situation I am often amazed to see myself ‘lapsing’ back to my old way of praying … to a personal Mother-Father God. However, most of the time I am more than content to sit in the Silence and feel a sense of at-one-ment with the One Presence and Power that is Life itself all things, as well as being the very life, indeed livingness, of all things.

Here's another form of prayer – clear thinking. One of my favourite novels and movies - it has also been the subject of at least two TV serials - is How Green Was My Valley. Richard Llewellyn (pictured below) wrote the book, which concerns a Welsh coal-mining family and life as seen in the village through the eyes of the youngest son Huw Morgan. (Many of my ancestors on my father’s side of the family were Welsh, and my name is very Welsh.)


In the following excerpt from the book Mr Gruffydd, the new parson, visits the young lad Huw who has been badly crippled in a mishap while trying to rescue his mother in an ice choked mountain creek. Huw, surrounded by good books, has nevertheless been treated, albeit lovingly, as an invalid by his beloved family. The parson encourages the boy to imagine - indeed know - that he will walk again. Let’s pick up on the conversation at this point:


‘Men who are born to dig coal,’ Mr Gruffydd said to me, ‘need strength and courage. But they have no need of spirit, any more than the mole or the blind worm. Keep up your spirit, Huw, for that is the heritage of a thousand generations of the great ones of the Earth. As your father cleans his lamps to have good light, so keep clean your spirit.’

‘And how shall it be kept clean, Mr Gruffydd?’ I asked him.

‘By prayer, my son,’ he said, ‘not mumbling, or shouting, or wallowing like a hog in religious sentiments. Prayer is only another name for good, clean, direct thinking. When you pray, think well what you are saying, and make your thoughts into things that are solid. In that manner, your prayer will have strength, and that strength shall become part of you, mind, body and spirit. Do you still want to see the first daffodil out up on the mountain, my son?’

‘Indeed, I do, Mr Gruffydd,’ I said.      
   
‘Pray, my son,’ he said, and left.


Here - courtesy of YouTube - is part of the 1941 film version containing this famous exchange between the worldly-wise but flawed Mr Gruffydd (played by Walter Pidgeon) and the young Huw Morgan (played by Roddy McDowall) [please go to 07:07-07:41 for the scene]:

 



So, prayer is ‘good, clean, direct thinking.’ You make your thoughts ‘into things that are solid.’ That way, your prayer will be strong, and you will become strong. Well, by that definition even the most militant atheist who engages in ‘good, clean, direct thinking’ is praying. They may not think they’re praying, and they would almost certainly resent the imputation or suggestion that they are actually engaged in praying, but (be that as it may) I think Llewellyn is onto something quite simple yet also very profound.

You see, there is only one ‘way of being’ – one order or level of reality. As I see it, all things exist on the same plane. There is nothing beyond us that is not otherwise in us … as us. When you have a problem, use ‘good, clean, direct thinking.’ Think honestly, work honestly, act honestly. Whatever is your strongest, most sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed, will tend to actualize. Yes, we invariably do whatever is our strongest desire. For example, if 'part' of you wants to smoke, and 'part' of you doesn't, it is a psychological and metaphysical fact that the 'part' [that is, desire] which is strongest will always win out! (That reminds me of the Cherokee ‘object lesson’ story of the fight between two wolves – the two wolves inside each one of us. One wolf is evil, unhappy and ugly – representing anger, greed and delusion. The other wolf is beautiful and good. The two wolves are in more-or-less constant battle with each other. Which wolf wins? Whichever one we feed.)

It is written, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (Jn 3:16) [NKJV]. Is Jesus God’s ‘only begotten son’ in a unique and exclusive sense? Well, if you think that, I fear that you have literalized and carnalized a ‘myth’ (the latter being not something which is untrue but rather something which is supremely and universally true beyond all notions of literalness). Yes, the really ‘good news,’ as I see it, is that we are all ‘begotten’ of the Only One. There is Only One, and everyone and everything is the ‘only begotten son.’ We are all ‘sparks of the Divine.’ We are all part of Life’s Self-Expression. Never forget that. And here's another important truth from the Bible. Spiritually, the 'son' is your mind – the place where you pronounce judgment on yourself by the thoughts you entertain. That is the real meaning of the verse, 'For the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son' (Jn 5:22). So, watch your thoughts, for they become words, and 'by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned' (Mt 12:37).

Well, what does mindfulness have to do with this? Is not mindfulness about not thinking? No. Not at all. Mindfulness is not about not thinking. It is about allowing thoughts to be present but not letting them run, control or overpower you. By all means think. Indeed, thinking can be a very good thing ... at times ... within reason! (I'm being frivolous now.) However, when you do think, do so mindfully ... and not mindlessly.

The abovementioned verse from John’s Gospel (viz Jn 3:16) encapsulates an important metaphysical truth, namely, that one’s ‘only begotten son,’ creatively expressed, refers to a creative and saving thought, idea or desire, the ‘father’ being thinker or mind . If, for example, you are sick, your desire for health is the ‘son.’ Your mind – or you, the person who desires and thinks – is the ‘father.’ When your desire (prayer) is realized, you are saved.

So, we have mind ['Father'] - thought, idea or desire ['Son'] - and expression ['Holy Spirit'] – the metaphysical 'Holy Trinity'! That's the nature and mechanics of all 'inner' spiritual working. By the way, the English word 'salvation’ comes from the same Latin root as the word salve, and refers to a healthy kind of wholeness. Health, holiness and wholeness – three words, and they are all interrelated.

In short, think well, and make your thoughts into things that are solid … for such is the nature of reality. ‘Pray, my son.’



How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn, ©1939, 1940 by Richard Vivian Llewellyn 
Lloyd; copyright renewed 1967 by Richard Llewellyn.
Images and film footage courtesy of 20th Century Fox International.
All Rights Reserved.



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