Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Call to Prayer

A very close friend of mine recently complained that while meditating, she found herself annoyingly preoccupied with associative thoughts about this, that, or the other thing in life. Her comment was that one would think after 30 or 40 years of practice, a sitting should be better than that.

I think we're all familiar with the problem. Yet what is a sitting for? Do we approach it, our meditation practice, with a real understanding of what we are about? Perhaps we do; perhaps we don't.

Every meditation is an effort to contact God and call for help. You can pile on all the exercises you want to; it doesn't matter. In the end, it's your predisposition that determines what is possible, as Ibn Al Arabi makes abundantly clear in the Bezels of Wisdom. I call the reader's attention to this particular passage, because so much of what it says is essential to understanding what we are doing in our meditation practice.

 As I have explained before, we live in a determinate universe, and the best that a man can hope for is to know his predisposition—that which is already ordained. (Al Arabi mentions this question a number of times in the quote, because it's central to an understanding of our place, and what our possibilities are.)

In an effort to move in this direction, a man aligns himself with the will of God, and only in this way and in such a sense can a man become whole. The "inner alignment" that is referred to in Yoga or the inner work of the Fourth Way isn't just some nifty rearrangement of the chakras; it is an alignment with the Will of God, which constantly expresses itself—another overarching subject in The Bezels of Wisdom.  Any understanding of practice, any mechanical understanding,  that falls short of this is an incomplete understanding.

 In any event, the most essential action in meditation is a call for help.The highest form of the call for help takes place in a reciprocal relationship between a wish for service, and silence (see the last paragraph of the quote.) So when we sit, we should actively pray for help. The routine invocation of the words Lord have Mercy in the Gurdjieff practice is especially appropriate, because we ought to be praying in this way constantly, and at all times.  It's a question of discovering and coming into relationship with the inner impulse that drives this desire; we are disconnected from God, and only a lifetime of effort can help us to discover this tendril, which reconnects our being to the divine. It's a good thing to pray in meditations; it is even better to pray constantly, all day long, as we walk through life and feel the movement of energy within us.

 There are many efficacious prayers that can be applied in sitting; Lord have Mercy is certainly one of them.  Above all, a prayer that arises spontaneously from the utmost inner soul of a man (which is God)  and offers itself as it is, from itself, with no predetermined formula, imbued only with the instincts that prayer is absolutely necessary, is the most effective. (Al Arabi, unsurprisingly, has a few words to say about this as well.)  If we align ourselves with a spontaneity of prayer, as it is inspired by higher energy, we can be sure that this is exactly the right kind of prayer... as opposed to through ones we think would be right.

 In any event, we must pray. It is this central attention pointed towards prayer, and the call for help, that keeps our minds from distracting us. To be sure, they'll distract us anyway; the mind is an undisciplined animal that runs from place to place like a rabbit, in search of the next good thing to gnaw on. The regular focused practice of prayer—preferably, a spontaneous and inspired one, but if not, a disciplined and prepared one—combined with a placement of attention on the point where impressions enter, is a powerful antidote for this kind of nonsense.

This idea of placing the attention on the point where impressions enter is quite important. It actually bears a close relationship to the practice of prayer, because the practice itself is the practice of the Presence of God, and that practice is inextricably linked with prayer, since (once again, as Al Arabi explains) one of the principal purposes of man, in so far as he meets the requirements of inner development, is an unfettered worship of the Lord.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding putting the attention on the places of reception of impressions, this seems to connect nicely with the emphasis on 'three-centered attention' - correct?
    It thus also provides yet another aspect of the importance of divided attention and being present.

    Best,
    Judith.

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