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Thessalonians 5:17 (INT)
When I was a child, I thought this Scripture verse meant that I
was supposed to pray day and night without stopping. It certainly appeared to be an impossible task for someone as active and fun-loving as I was. The closest I came to praying constantly during my childhood was "blessing the hour," a practice that the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters taught us in grade school. Each day as the clock struck a new hour, the appointed child rang a bell and told the class that it was time to bless the hour. At that time the entire class recited a prayer that reminded us that we were in the presence of God. Today I appreciate the value of this prayer as a path to mindful meditation.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh recommends the practice of mindfulness as a way of praying constantly. In Living Buddha, Living Christ, he shares an exercise that can help our minds and bodies become one in the present moment: "Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment."
Mindful meditation helps us to calm down, understand our lives, and access the love, peace, strength and other spiritual resources we have within us. During a recent crisis, when I was feeling agitated and anxious, I practiced mindful breathing. It helped me touch the Holy Spirit within me and become more peaceful and energized so that I could deal with the issues I was facing. I began with the exercise above and then continued my prayer by breathing, in and out, the love and strength ofJesus. Whenever the worries returned, I resumed this mindful meditation.
Another wonderful way to pray constantly is to walk. As I stroll leisurely through our neighborhood, I sense God's presence everywhere. I sometimes touch and smell flowers, such as the daffodils and the beautiful lilacs in our front yard. I stop to taste ripe berries and often chat with neighbors who are outside doing yard work. Sometimes I skip a little through the woods in our neighborhood park and watch the cool, clear water flowing through a quiet creek. I love to listen to birds singing and take deep breaths of fresh pine-scented air. From day to day, my focus will vary. Sometimes I spend a lot of time looking at trees; other days I'll listen to birds or just simply enjoy the rhythm of walking. Walking meditations release me from my agenda and show me how to caress the face of God present in a rich variety of ways in nature. Just as no two walks are exactly the same, so too with walking prayer. It can make us more attentive to the miracles of grace and glory that are new and full of surprises each day.
To pray constantly, simply pray honestly, with or without words-from your heart and in whatever way that helps you. We can live each day by being attentive to God, who is always present in our lives. Even if we are "running on empty," as they say, and have nothing to offer, the Spirit will come to our aid: "The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don't know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her interces sions for God's holy people are made according to the mind of God." (Romans 8:26-27, INT)
Practice mindful breathing for ten to twenty minutes today. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, using one or more of the following prayer suggestions:
Breathing in, I am peaceful (or joyful, strong, kind, etc.). Breathing out, I give peace (or joy, strength, kindness, etc.). Breathing in the Breath of Life, love (or joy, strength, peace, etc.). Breathing out the Comforter's love (or joy, strength, peace, etc.).
Today select one of your ordinary chores- such as making the bed, washing dishes, doing laundry, waiting in line, shopping, driving, cooking, working. As you perform this task, be fully present to the job at hand. Notice the many details about the chore. Be aware of all that your senses take in. As you do this task, be aware that the Spirit of Love is with you and dwells within you.
Today as you eat, be mindful that food is a gift of the Source of Life and a gift created by human hands. Taste each piece of food you put in your mouth. Chew it thoroughly. Savor its flavor and texture. As you enjoy your food, enjoy it in the Beloved's presence. As you eat, be mindful of those who are hungry. Decide on something you can do to help feed the hungry in your neighborhood or area.
Go for a walk. As you walk, be mindful of the presence of the Giver of Life everywhere. With each step, caress the Earth as you would a beloved friend. Touch nature. Pick up a rock, hug a tree or kiss a flower. Listen to the sounds of Earth's creatures around you. Look lovingly at one or more of the following: the sun, the sky, clouds, rain, snow, trees, plants, the moon, stars. Breathe deeply as you walk. Smell the aromas. Smile at the Beloved Presence everywhere around you and within you. Pray constantly!
Use the following psalm, or make up one of your own, to celebrate
the Glorious Presence all around you:
Bless Creator of the Universe, my being! Sophia, Holy Wisdom, how splendid you are! Dressed in glorious attire,
radiating light and beauty everywhere, you created earth in its glory.
You make green grass grow.
You provide majestic trees as homes for birds to build their nests. You give us food in every season.
You spread a banquet before us with bread and wine to nurture our bodies and to gladden our souls.
Your love surrounds me like the light of day. I will sing your praises every day of my life.
I will delight in your abundant love forever.
Adaptation of Psalm 104
Celebrate the Source of Love within you by loving another person. Become present to another, heart-to-heart, in a deep spirit-to-spirit
level. Begin by taking a few breaths. As you breathe in and out, relax your body. Imagine the person you love is with you. (You may want to place a picture of this person in front of you during this prayer of presence.) Become aware of the Divine Presence in this person. Give thanks for the ways the Lover of All has loved/is loving you through this person. Be conscious of the oneness or communion you share with this person. If you want, have a heart-to-heart conversation with this person and/or simply look deeply and lovingly at her or him. When you are ready, draw your prayer to a quiet close.
Make this your prayer today:
0 Beloved, I rest secure in the knowledge that you are always near me and that you dwell within me. There is nothing I can do, no place that I can go, that you are not beside me. You have written my name in your heart. I belong to you. Your dreams for me far surpass my dreams for myself Your love is irresistible, tantalizing, utterly beyond all comprehension. You are the laughter in creation's heart. I am rooted in your love, surrounded by your mercy, and filled with your compassion. What more could I want? Through you, with you, in you, all things are mine and I am yours forever.