Monday, May 6, 2013

A Good Book

For 20 some years, the phrase "pray incessantly" has been in my head.  Since I first read Franny and Zoey (number 1 on my top 10 books of all time). Zoey references 1Thessalonians 5.17, where Timothy instructs "Pray continually." He also instructs "Always be joyful...give thanks for whatever happens; for this is what God wills for you." (5.16,18). Salinger wants you to look this up.

Until very recently, I considered prayer to be begging.


For intercession.

For material gain.

To make right some dumb ass decision or other. (Fight Club is #3)

Through my practice, I have discovered that prayer is none of these things.  It is much more  simple:

It is an act of adoration.

The beauty of prayer is that it does not have to be formal. Or done at a certain time.  It can be done all of the time.  The beauty of prayer is that you do not have to have any faith to do it.  From Swami Sivananda:

"The name of God chanted in any way, correctly or incorrectly, knowingly or unknowingly, carefully or carelessly will give the desired result." (Swami Sivananda, Easy Steps to Yoga p.6).

Prayer, true prayer, adoration, can begin as a purely mechanical action. You just train yourself to say it. Repeatedly..  It can be any Name.  The Rig Veda says "Truth is one, the wise call it by many names."  If the Divine is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, then the Divine created a multitude of ways of worship that are all equally valid.  (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas #4)

But you just can't say "Steve." Or "Sally." (Moby Dick #10).  Established prayers work best because the name, meter, words were developed to create certain vibrations.  The beauty of Sanskrit is the perfection of the sounds and the ability to create specific vibrations attuned to the Divine.

The significance of Gen. 1.3 is not "Let there be light."  It is "God said." (Dune #9).

I don't know when I replaced the focus on ujjayi breathing in asana with focusing on Ra (inhale) and Ma (exhale) (Ramayana #2).That is how I learned to make asana an act of prayer rather than just stretching. It is also when I knew the Ashtanga system was no longer right for me.

I forget to pray most of the time, usually during the main part of the day when I get caught up in work and it feels like there are unknown forces acting against me (anything by H.P. Lovecraft #5). I am still in the mechanical phase, having to remind myself to say the words over and over.  But I remember to say them when I wake up and before going to bed. Even when I forget, it is still in my mind somewhere, like a light across the bay that is always calling. (The Great Gatsby #6).

Praying incessantly is a good book. It doesn't matter if you are reading it, can analyze the symbolism, or even remember all of the characters. It matters that it is sitting on the shelf, there when you want to read it. It matters that flipping through the pages and reading one sentence is enough to snap you out of the funk you are in that moment. It matters that I can't choose #s 7 and 8 because they are all good books.

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