Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Prayer and meditation

Traditionally, prayer and meditation go together, but in many Western forms of meditation practice, there is little, if any connection, between the two.
Prayer is a way to give emotional expression to your deepest yearnings and aspirations. The two reinforce each other. Prayer raises emotional energy and strengthens intention. Meditation brings attention and focus to prayer.
You may not be able to connect emotionally with the forms of expression in traditional prayers. Confusion about emotions further complicates matters. Reactive emotions or afflictive emotions have a bad rap in Buddhist practice and many people feel they should avoid emotions altogether in their practice. This is more than unfortunate because the power of practice comes through our emotional connection with it.
Meditation devoid of emotion is pretty flat and doesn't go very far. 
In place of the ritual prayers (e.g., refuge, bodhicitta, prayers to the lineage, etc.), try taking a few minutes before you start meditation and feel, in your heart, your own spiritual yearnings. Feel what leads you to practice, even if you can't put it in words. Just feel it in your heart. Don't be concerned about goal-seeking or wanting to achieve something. We all do, at some level, or we wouldn't practice.
Or, if it comes more naturally, touch the faith or devotion you feel to your teacher, or to your practice. Feel how important your teacher or your practice is to you.
In either case, when you touch the depth of feeling in your heart, you may be surprised at how deep or how strong it is. Rest with the feeling, not analyzing it, or trying to understand it. Just let it be there and let yourself feel it.
Then turn to your meditation.
That's all.

Creative Commons LicenseThis article by Ken McLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.