For just one moment, try to clear away prejudices or restrictive thoughts about prayer and meditation that you may have.
I invite you to join me in a “thought cloud” of open-mindedness about these highly charged topics.
For purposes of this article—our new working definitions:
Prayer = using focused intention—talking.
Meditation = sitting with inner stillness—listening.
Prayer is “sending” and meditation is “receiving.” Both are in the family of mindfulness practices. They offer us a connection to the magical side of the universe that I like to call the Mysterious. They both harness the power of human consciousness, regardless of religious or spiritual backgrounds and beliefs.
When we pray:
We use thoughts in the form of language, usually to express deeply held feelings to a higher power. Sometimes, we pray with words that were written thousands of years ago and written by someone else from a far removed culture, but they somehow resonate with how we feel at that moment. Prayer can take many forms, including asking questions, expressing gratitude and pleading for help.
When we meditate:
In a sense, we cease movement and allow the “see-er” of our minds and hearts to illuminate and go on without us. We then achieve a state of being that is deeply anchored into realms of stillness and receptivity. The stillness within, is a place that underlies all the noise and worry of the daily grind. In this place, we can see and hear the universe with a clarity not accessible in “normal” consciousness. Meditation can take many forms, including listening for answers, being mindful of our own existence and excepting vibrational and energetic nourishment from the universe.
Particularly here in the West, we have this prayer thing down—so I will focus more on that practice for a minute. Most people seem to be comfortable with talking to the universe, but listening is a bit more challenging for us. Without getting into the historical context of why I think this is the case, let me simply suggest that starting small is the way to go. Start with sitting quietly for five minutes and increase by one minute each session until you get to 20-30 minutes. For myself, going through this process and conditioning my mind to be quiet was similar to conditioning my body to be strong when I first started to workout with weights as a teen. (Here are six easy tips for mindfulness meditation to get you started.)
Both prayer and meditation are invaluable for self-cultivation and building our relationship with the universe and with ourselves. I talk about this extensively in Mindful Strength, and how when we combine the power of prayer and meditation we also begin to make mindful decisions that positively impact the direction of our lives.
“The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong. That block of granite is often nothing more than a decision.” ~ Thomas Carlyle.
Perception of what a thing means can literally rock your world one way or the other. Sitting quietly, daily, with yourself and the stillness within can dial you in to the universe in a way that refines your perceptive apparatus.
You must choose how to navigate the path of your life, and usually the “easier, softer” way isn’t for the highest good. Ask the universe (or your higher power) for guidance (prayer) and listen or feel what your heart is telling you (meditation).
Your intuitive self has a direct line to the highest good—and knowing this can help you make powerfully positive decisions when you (your egoic self) don’t have the strength to pull the trigger.
Making mindful decisions and not reactive ones will consistently steer your life into beautiful places. True story.
Chris Willitts is an expert of meditation, consciousness and strength training. He is also the founder of Mindful Muscle and teaches a course called Meditation Illuminates—a pioneering meditation class that integrates positive psychology applications. Chris’s academic background is in psychology/consciousness and meditation from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Be sure to check out Chris’s recent mindfulness project called Mindful Strength, a revolutionary mind-body system of meditation and strength training. Or, if you’re just getting started with meditation, please visit Meditation is Medication to get you going on the right path!
Ed. Evan Livesay
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