Our fundamental problem with prayer is that the word itself -- prayer -- is linked in our unconsious mind to the concept of "Talking To God So That HE Can Know Our Problem And We Can Ask HIM To Do Something About Them." And this concept is so intimately connected to the word, so inextricably bound to it, that we cannot hear, or speak, or even think the word without this idea coming up in our unconscious. And since we reject this concept, we have a block even with the word. How, then, can we not have problems with the practice?Just about everyone nodded in agreement. This, it seemed, hit the nail on the head for them. The word, the concept -- and all of its attendant baggage -- was getting in the way of the experience. So what are we to do? Forget the words, of course! Do the thing; don't get caught up in what it's called!
"out of the dozens of priests and brothers who came to them for help in their personal problems, only two ever even so much as mentioned the name of God in all their interviews, and only one of these, a lay brother, mentioned [God] as an important factor in his life and his cure. To all the rest it seemed as though God had no part in their lives."I know that this would be true of Protestant clergy as well, and believe that it probably would be true of the majority of Christian laity as well -- at least from the liberal and progressive branches and traditions. (I don't know if it also would be true of Buddhists and Hindus and Jains, but I would surmise that it would.) We live our lives -- even those who claim to be "religious" or "spiritual" -- except for those times that we've set aside as "religious" or "spiritual" time -- an hour on Sunday, perhaps, and maybe a brief period several days a week for our private practice -- as if we were strict secularists.
"Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thin that we call human existence. . . . most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare. . . .How's that for provocative? He also says, and this book is a transcription of talks he gave during a retreat, "Do you think I am going to help anybody? No! Oh, no, no, no, no, no! Don't expet me to be of help to anyone. Nor do I expect to damage anyone. If you are damaged, you did it; if you are helped, you did it. You really did!"
The first thing I want you to understand, if you really want to wake up, is that you don't want to wake up."
We read in Acts 1:4: "While Jesus was in their company he told them not to leave Jerusalem. 'You must wait,' he said, 'for the promise of my Father.'" Do not leave Jerusalem. Once again, resist the urge to be up and doing before you are freed from the compulsion to act; the urge to communicate to others what you yourself have not yet experienced. Once the Spirit has come, "You will bear witness for me in Jerusalem . . . and to the ends of the earth." But not before, or you will be lying witnesses -- or, at best, you will be pushers, not apostles. Pushers are insecure people who have a compulsion to convince others, so that they themselves will be less insecure. (italics mine)That's all it took, and the urge was once again upon me to shut up and go flip burgers, or start bagging groceries at Stop n' Shop.
"There is, of course, one more thing you must do: you must decide that within these two minutes, five minutes, which you have assigned to learn that the present exists you will not be pulled out of it by the telephone, by a knock on the door, or by a sudden usurge of energy that prompts you to do at once what you have left undone for the past ten years."This is a relatively easy exercise, as you're doing nothing when there's nothing else going on. It is, of course, actually extremely difficult, and if you've never tried it you'll quickly discover what a myriad of things are going on within you when "nothing's going on." But be that as it may -- this is a relatively easy exercise. For his second exercise, Bloom suggests learning to "stop time . . . at moments when it rushes, when it puts forward claims." He says this:
"The way to do it is this. You are doing something which you feel is useful; you feel that unless this is done the world will falter on its course; and then if at a certain moment you say 'I stop,' you will discover many thngs. First, you will discover that the world does not falter and that the whole world -- if you can imagine it -- can wait for five minutes while you are not busy with it."He recommends setting a clock, while in the midst of some task you consider tremendously important, and when the alarm goes off you simply stop right there, wherever you are in your work, and take five minutes, as in the previous exercise, doing nothing. Bloom says,
"In the beginning you will see how difficult it is, and you will feel that it is of great importance that you should finsish, say, writing a letter or reading a paragraph. In reality, you will discover quite soon that you can very well postpone it for three, five, or even ten minutes and nothing happens."Could you imagine doing these exercises for one week? I intend to do them both this week. I bet the world will keep spinning just fine.
"First of all, it is very important to remember that prayer is an encounter and a relationship, a relationship which is deep, and this relationship cannot be forced either on us or on God. The fact that God can make Himself (sic) present or can leave us with the sense of His absence is part of this live and real relationship. If we could mechanically draw Him into an encounter, force Him to meet us, simply because we have chosen this moment to meet Him, there would be no relationship and no encounter. We can do that with an image, with the imagination, or with the various idols we can put in front of us instead of God; we can do nothing of the sort with the living God, any more than we can do it with a living person. A relationship must begin and develop in mutual freedom. If you look at the relationship in terms of mutual relationship, you will see that God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does not make Himself present to us for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer 'I am busy, I am sorry' or when we do not answer at all because we do not even hear the knock at the door of our heart, of our minds, of our conscience, of our life."I know that the exclusively male language Bloom uses will be problematic for some folks -- I know that the theistic language of this will be problematic for some folks! -- but let's try to read through those particulars to hear what he's really saying.