Mindfulness to Contemplative Prayer

I have wrote previously how I have been reading about Buddhism and meditating again. In 2019, I first read the book The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living which contains a western perspective of a psychiatrist in discussion with the Dalai Lama. It introduced me to some teachings of Buddhism that I found intriguing particularly with dealing with suffering.

The book I’m reading at the moment, The Heart Of Buddha’s Teaching goes into more detail of the Buddhas teaching and what Buddhism is about. As I explained before I felt the ‘Mindfulness’ ripped off and held up in high regard by many Clinical Psychologists had lacked wholesomeness (as the Buddhists could describe) and perhaps even a heart.

I have been meditating for the last week, now up to to 10 minutes a session. I usually sit on my chair in complete silence. I ask Alexa on my Echo Dot to remind me to end my meditation in 10 minutes. Sometimes I can hear my neighbours, the birds, the wind and the traffic outside. It can be very relaxing as my mind naturally wanders. I may start thinking of an upcoming appointment in the next day or some tasks at home I needed to do like the washing. My mind may slip into a memory of the past or something that worries me. I have to tell myself to let it go. So I clear my mind. I’m then back to hearing the wind again but I have to not focus on that and let that go as well. I don’t ever get to a point where my mind is totally clear except perhaps for a few seconds. It’s the practise and kindness to myself of letting things go. I often feel more relaxed after the meditation is finished.

As a Christian it does feel a bit strange doing a meditation practise that originated from a different religion. Though I see no harm being inspired by Buddhism even as I identify as a practicing Christian. I was aware of Contemplative Prayer also known as Centering Prayer. Contemplative Prayer is centering your awareness entirely on the presence of God. Much like Mindfulness meditation you sit quietly with your eyes closed, letting go of any distracting thoughts and feelings. The difference is you say your sacred word to re-center yourself to the presence of God. The idea is to be in love and faith to God.

I attempted Contemplative Prayer last night. I chose ‘Jesus’ as my sacred word. Like when I meditated before I was distracted. This time thoughts of past events that happened during the day. I said “Jesus” and tried to let them go. Saying this sacred word had a different effect on me. Rather than my mind wandering, I saw imagery of a man with a beard breaking bread. Another image was being on a cross on the ground having my hands nailed to it. I then said “Jesus’ again and was returned back to the present again. It was an interesting and thought provoking experience I would try again.

I don’t think Contemplative Prayer is a replacement for conventional prayer such as at home or in Church with the Lord’s Prayer but it can be a helpful additional exercise. I certainly as a Christian found the Contemplative Prayer more fulfilling than the mindfulness meditation I had been doing. However, if I were to have imagery of Jesus’s crucifixion on the Cross every time I may find that overwhelming. Perhaps using a different sacred word like ‘Peace’ would elicit a difference experience. In the end all of this requires much practise to truly know how much you are benefiting from this. If I keep it up perhaps I will write further on this.