The Path of Faith
Two major spiritual paths: The path of wisdom and the path of faith. The path of faith uses our natural feeling of love and affection towards spiritual growth. Since it is easily accessible to even for children, it is widely practiced in the world. Like love, often faith is blind and its devotion quickly turns into a frenzy. Instead of focusing on the real elements of spiritual growth, people easily get attached to the superficial elements such as religious rituals and customs.
Those who practice faith and devotion should go beyond this childish attitude, and develop some clarity and bring some maturity into their practice. Otherwise, it becomes like an intoxicating drug that offers some temporary relief, but eventually leads to misery in the long run. Faith is very powerful, it can move mountains. And bringing mindfulness into it can give clarity, so its power can be utilized wisely.
Fires of Life
When we put our hand on the fire, it burns our hand. If we don't understand and learn from it, we simply continue to suffer. In life, there are many kinds of such "fires" that come in many different forms and shapes. They may not follow simple, direct or immediate cause and effect; they may be subtle, indirect and complex. Hence we may not clearly recognize and understand them. Like a child, we continue to put our hand on the fire again and again and suffer.
Very often people keep their hand on the fire and cry out loud with their prayers for help. Jesus can be compassionate for us, he can offer food for our hunger, medicine for our disease, but he cannot eat it for us, we have to eat it for ourselves. Instead of practicing his ways and taking the medicine, if we simply read it, hail it, then there is no use in it. Jesus can show us the way, but we have to walk through it for ourselves. Without clear understanding, without paying proper attention, if we walk blindly and pump into a wall, it will only hurt. So, first we have to fully wake up and pay unbiased attention towards clear understanding.
Courage to Face
Sickness, aging and death are realities of life, and there is no way to escape them. Change and pain are the basic realities of life. When we struggle against them, we suffer more. When we deny them and not fully accepting life just as it is, then we are also denied of a deep fulfilling life.
Since we are afraid to face our pains and suffering, we seek many ways to escape from them: alcohol, smoking, drugs, news, movies, social media, etc. We even use prayers in the same way. As we fearfully run away from our pain and suffering, they continue to multiply and chase us. Jesus did not just teach, but he showed with his life — how to carry our own crosses.
It is easy to be depressed in sadness, miserable in grief and scream in anger — any coward or fool can do it. It takes a lot of courage and wisdom to be at ease and happy, and laugh joyfully.
We Reap what we Sow
If we indulge in fear, anxiety and worries, it will multiply more. If we indulge in anger, irritation and hatred, it will multiply more. Instead, if we sow courage, patience, love and happiness, it will grow and develop.
If we have wisdom, it will grow further; otherwise whatever that we have will be gone. If there is anger and hatred in us, this darkness will grow further; and whatever peace and love that we have will be gone. If there is fear and anxiety in us, it will grow stronger; and whatever courage and happiness we have will be gone.
In this world, there are so many people with many different physical and mental disabilities and other challenges; there are so many people without any parent or family; there are so many children without next meal. We have far more blessings and richness in our life. Instead of being grateful for them, if we only focus on what we don't have and complain about it, then we will lose whatever we already have.
How to Pray
When we pray, we should only ask for courage, patience, peace, love, health, happiness and wisdom; anything else is selfish. Self compassion is good and wholesome, but not selfishness and self absorption.
When we ask for courage, we have to believe that we have received it and if we act accordingly, it will be ours. When we ask for happiness, if we believe and act accordingly, it will be ours. If we have a genuine faith, we can able to surrender and let go of our ego - and all its struggles and miseries; then we can courageously accept life just as it is.
Prayer is neither whining nor talking insanely. It is neither shouting like hailing for a king, nor an escaping tool to run away from facing realities of life.
Our mind is overwhelmed and all over the place — sorrowing over the past and hankering for the future. Without any clarity, we are mindlessly running like its slave. And our prayers simply become a manifestation of this mental state. So first, we must learn to relax and calm our mind.
Instead of struggling with our mind, we learn to gently calm abide it. Then we can discover our mind's natural clarity, stability and strength. From such a peaceful state, our prayers will have clarity and it will be wholeheartedly deep and effective.
Calm Abiding the Mind
We cannot fight against the mind and find lasting success; it will only further disturb our peace. When the mind is suppressed and forced to be quiet, it grows underneath like a cancer. Instead, like a mother how she listen with patience and care to understand and calm her child, we need to slowly and gradually calm our mind. So, we need to pay attention and sincerely listen.
When people indulge in alcohol, drugs or smoking, their body and mind cry out loud with so many symptoms and effects asking to stop it, yet they may not sincerely listen to it. Our body and mind are continuously saying many things; but we don't listen to them properly. The earth, the sky, these flowers and those birds, they all are telling us so much; but we don't have time for that.
The problem is that we do not have a clear understanding of what our needs really are. Further we do not listen for it with care and diligence. So, more than asking for something, prayer should be about listening wholeheartedly with patience and attentiveness. That leads to clarity, understanding and wisdom.
Mindful Prayer: Calm Abiding
Sit comfortably upright without any tightness or tension in the body. It can also be done lying down. If it is suitable, close your eyes.
[Calming the Body: 5 min]
Scan the body slowly from toe to head step by step and directly sensing and feeling each part. If any part of the body is tensed, try to relax it a bit — perhaps breathing deeply and slowly into that area.
[Calming the Mind: 5-10 min]
If needed, take a deep and slow breaths three times and relax the mind.
Bring Jesus (or whoever inspires you) into your heart and mind [Christ within]. Feel the deep peace and love in your heart. Only keep this feeling in your attention and relax. No thought is needed.
All kinds of thoughts, worries, fantasies, mental stories can distract your attention. When that happens, simply recognize it and gently bring your attention back to Christ within you without any judgments.
The mind naturally tends to wander. So do this again and again and again.
Totally accept the mind with all its emotions and moods without any struggle or judgments. If you feel like crying, fully cry out without restraining it. If you are angry, feel it completely without suppressing it in any way.
Mindful Prayer: Praying
(Loving Kindness Aspirations)
[Calm Abiding: 10 min]
First calm the body and mind as stated above.
[Praying: 10 min]
Pray for yourself, for your loved ones, and for others.
Depending on the situation, ask for peace, love, patience, health, happiness, courage, and wisdom.
If you are angry or resentful towards someone, send him or her your good wishes and loving kindness.
If needed, you can slowly repeat your prayer to feel it fully and open your heart.
May I be happy and healthy, and free from suffering. May I have ease of being.
May all beings be happy and healthy, and free from suffering. May all have ease of being.
Fully accept the mind with all its emotions and feelings without any struggle or judgments.
Mindful Prayer: Thanksgiving
[Calm Abiding: 10 min]
First calm the body and mind as stated above.
[Thanksgiving: 5 min]
Offer your thanksgiving for the blessings and happiness in your life.
Show your gratefulness for the good things that happened today. Every day, thank for at least three joys.
Thanks for the meal today.
Thanks for giving such loving grandchildren.
Thanks for some relief from the pain.
Regular practice is the key to fully realize its benefits.
Calm Abiding needs continuous practice and training to make it proper and effective.
Thanksgiving can be done in the evening/ night prayer.
Originally I wrote this for my mom, focusing on her faith. But it can be similarly applied to other faiths as well.
Attachment is very different from love and care. Attachments to race, country, religion, etc. only cause suffering to us and others. It only allows religious and political leaders to exploit us. As long as we have attachments, we are also a cause for the fights and wars in the world. It is foolish to talk about world peace, when we hold on to our attachments.