Prayer (& Openness)
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.... As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.... I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” –John 15: 4-5, 9, 11
Mindfulness opens us up to our experience just as it is. In doing so, it opens us up to God just as He is. Our attitude to the world is transformed in that we are more able to see God in each moment that we cultivate this awareness. Surely this is what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)—to cultivate this ongoing awareness of God’s presence in each moment. To open the eyes of our hearts to awareness of Him.
Without awareness, our brains run in auto-pilot. The themes of this auto-pilot mode tend to circle around ourselves—evaluating ourselves and how others perceive us. We can be closed in with our own thoughts and easily lose perspective on the reality of God’s presence with us. In this unaware mode, we are swirling within our thoughts (pulling us into the past and future) rather than abiding in God and His love (who can be accessed only in the present moment).
So prayer requires awareness, and it requires us to be present in the moment. Mindfulness provides a tool to open ourselves up to God in this way—to abide in him, to pray without ceasing. We can learn to reconnect ourselves to awareness of the present moment as often as we notice we have drifted, and in doing so, we cultivate moment-to-moment communion with God.
There are three layers to cultivating mindful prayer (or prayerful mindfulness). The first is informal, mindful awareness throughout each day. Because God is fully present in each moment, simple awareness of our experience creates pathways to Him that support ceaseless prayer. The second layer is formal meditation. The silence and open stance of mindfulness meditation open us up further to awareness of God, softening our resistance to His voice. The third layer is the integration of Centering Prayer principles into our meditation. This includes an intentional awareness of God's presence with us, just as we cultivate awareness of the other elements of our experience through mindfulness practice. These three layers serve to deepen and sustain our connection to God--to be branches that are abiding in the vine of God for love and sustenance in every moment that we are alive.
"…we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet.... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?"