Friday, April 16, 2010

Breath Prayers -- part three

Once again we return to our Breath Prayer. Some people have an aversion to set prayers they "have" to say -- even if they were the ones who came up with the words in the first place. The idea of repeating the same words over and over, of praying by rote, is anathema.

This may be, largely, from experiences with "empty ritual" in their past -- religious practices that they were expected to engage in simply because they were told too. In some cases the meaning and purpose of these practices were never adequately explained, in some cases they had actually been lost to the tradition, but in all such cases the actions felt empty and hollow and false -- and the idea of doing something for the sake of doing it seems, if you will, blasphemous.

Another reason for the resistence to repetitive prayer is the idea that prayer is about "talking to God." If that's true, why should I let someone else put words in my mouth? And why should I have to say the same words over and over again regardless of how I'm feeling or what's going on in and around me? These would be valid critiques if that were the only way to think about what prayer is.

Yet hopefully by this time we've seen that prayer can be understood in so many richer and deeper ways than simply "talking to God" (whatever that might mean). It's also worth remembering that there are different types of prayer, different forms, just as their are different food groups (protein, carbohydretes, fats), or different types of exercise (aerobic, anaerobic), or music (jazz, classical, indi-folk). Each has its own function and purpose. This prayer bead practice is intended to bring together the major prayer forms into one practice -- a spiritual cross training experience, if you will.

And so the breath prayer is the form of prayer that, as noted in the last post about it, is intended to work its way into your subconscious. Just as a runner doesn't wake up and ask herself if she feels like running today, so too it really doesn't matter what kind of mood you're in -- say your breath prayer. It doesn't matter what's on your mind, what you need to "say to the Lord" -- during the time for breath prayer, repeat your breath prayer.

Each of the various parts of the prayer bead practice is intended to work together with the others; this is part of what makes this practice unique. Often, perhaps even usually, these various styles and forms of spiritual practice are separated from one another. Here they are brought together. That's part of the practice itself, in fact, their harmonization. And yours.

in Gassho,

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