In a previous posting, Musings- God and Chicken Soup, I mentioned that I had been involved in presenting a workshop about prayer and meditation. I use both of these activities/tools to help me through each day and to develop my spiritual growth through relationship with the God of my understanding. There are many people in my circle of friends who also pray and meditate and because we recognize that there is a growing hunger for the Spirit, we decided to put on the workshop.
We had an ordained minister, Amy, who agreed to talk about using prayer in every day life and to explain how powerful prayer could be in developing a spiritual life. We also had another person, Martha, who teaches meditation and who leads meditation groups. She agreed to “demystify” meditation and demonstrate how simple it is to practice. She also agreed to lead a guided meditation for the participants of the workshop. The plan then was to have a panel of three people, myself included, who would share their personal experience with prayer and meditation.
As people began arriving I was aware of a growing sense of anticipation. Our small workshops usually attract forty to fifty people. The room began to fill and I realized very quickly that we were going to have a bigger crowd than usual. This was more than exciting because the kind of people filling the seats did not look particularly “spiritual” (as if I could describe what spiritual looks like!!).
The room was almost full and, just before opening the workshop, one of the volunteers mentioned that he had given up counting heads after seventy five. I found this to be very heartening. This many ordinary working people wanted so much to hear about prayer and meditation that they were willing to give up a few hours on a Saturday afternoon to do so.
We began the workshop with an opening prayer followed immediately by a short, ten-minute skit. (We have learned that relaxing the audience with some humor at the beginning and feeding them some good food at the end is always a winning combination!) So after some good laughter, we then introduced Amy. Her talk on prayer was simple and straightforward. She shared from the heart, from her own personal experience, and from her perspective as a chaplain guiding her flock. She was well received.
Martha followed this with a basic but very dynamic talk about meditation and it’s use in every day life. As I listened I also glanced around to see how this “motley group” was receiving the information. Faces were focused in rapt attention and I was reminded of why we had wanted to put on this workshop. The average Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones are seeking a relationship with God. They are on a quest to find a spiritual path that will satisfy the hunger of the soul and fill the void that all the material things in life just do not fill.
Martha segued into a guided meditation by first having the lights dimmed and then lighting a candle. She also played some very soft music in the background. Then in a quiet but steady voice she invited us into a place of quiet and led us on an internal spiritual journey. Even as I focused on my own spiritual experience in that moment, I was also very aware that there was an intense quiet in the room, the kind of quiet in which you could hear a pin drop. There was no uncomfortable shuffling or shifting in chairs. Just a total peaceful quiet.
I felt so joy-filled in the moments following the end of the meditation. This is what we had worked so hard for: the chance to give the ordinary man and woman in the street the opportunity to experience the calm, the tranquility, and the peace of mind, heart, and soul that comes through prayer and meditation. After a short break we returned to the room and ran our panel.
To illustrate my personal experience with making time for prayer and meditation in my life I shared from one of my meditation books that I use every day. The title is Quiet Moments in the Presence of God, which is published by Bethany House. As I read some of the reflections that were themed, Be Quiet, Rest Up, and Always More, I looked out at the sea of faces and realized that they were hanging on every word I was reading and saying. I felt the awesome presence of Spirit in that moment as S/He touched all those hearts. I felt humbled to be an instrument.
But the best was yet to come. After dinner was served and people went home and the room emptied out, I was sitting at table finishing my food when a woman came up to me. She was someone that I would label a “down-and-outer”. She was shabbily dressed and had grey stringy hair and it was fairly obvious that she was “not very bright”. She looked me intently in the eyes and said, “when you talked, I listened”, and she smiled. I was stunned into silence for a moment, then said, “I’m glad, thank you”. Continuing to look intently into my eyes, she then said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully, “I liked that book you read, I’m going to find that book”.
It is in moments like this that I truly feel the presence of God. It is in moments like this that I think, this is my mission – to bring a God-moment to this woman. And in doing that I experience my own God-moment. I may not be an international circuit speaker. I may not be famous. But I am rich beyond belief when I am given the precious gift of moments like that. I am completely soul-satisfied.
In my opening blog post back in April this year (Taking Care of Spirit, Body, and Mind), I talked about the importance of taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Something that I do with as much frequency as my wallet allows is to receive a massage. Although massage is a very physical mode of therapy, if you find the right massage therapist and if you approach massage with an open heart and mind, then you will also be taking care of yourself on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels.
So let’s take a look at the different benefits of massage. Apart from the most obvious physical relief from having aching muscles and joints massaged and gently moved, there are several other physical benefits to be received. Massage stimulates the circulatory system, helping to bring blood out to the extremities of even the tiniest of the veins in our bodies. This helps us to deal better with any form of pain as well as improving the circulation of the blood in general.
Another bodily system that is stimulated by massage is the lymphatic system. Without getting too scientific or technical the best way I can describe this is as a series of vessels that runs parallel to the veins. They carry a liquid called lymph and the whole system is extremely important to the good functioning of the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and digestive system. The lymphatic system helps the veins do their job better.
Having mentioned the digestive system I will also point out that massage stimulates this system too. It is not abnormal (and should not therefore be cause for embarrassment!) for the stomach to start grumbling once the massage starts. All toxins in the body are helped to exit the body more readily by the action of a massage.
So to recap, it’s not just a question of “feel good” or a good way to relax, massage is also a vital way to help maintain our bodies healthy. Improved blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, and digestive systems help us to live longer and with a better quality of life. But let’s not downplay the “feel good”; that’s important too!!
However, the physical body is not the only part of us to benefit from massage. The simple act of laying down on the massage table should induce a certain level of relaxation. Today’s frenetic pace of life brings heavy doses of stress and tension into our bodies, our hearts, and our minds. The more we choose to reduce stress the better our health will be in all those areas.
Most massage therapists today, with perhaps the exception of those working in the sports arena, provide calm and peaceful environments in their studios. Music, soft lighting, and the use of aroma therapy via oils or candles all help to set an environment where the client can let go of worries and anxieties at least for the hour or so of their appointment.
The massage table is also a good place to let go of any toxic emotions that we may be clinging on to. Most therapists and psychologists who are helping people deal with hurtful and damaging issues will also recommend that their clients try massage to help them release trapped emotions. This is important because negative emotions that are not dealt with properly will take up physical residence in our bodies, eventually causing illness and disease.
In my opinion, there is no better place to pray than on the massage table. Whatever belief system you may have can only get better by indulging in some form of spiritual connection while receiving a massage. Allow your soul to be massaged by your Creator as the therapist massages your body.
The actual origins of therapeutic massage are in the instinctual response to hold and rub a hurt or pain. Therapeutic massage is found in all cultures and in all historical ages as an integral part of health care and maintenance. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, considered massage of prime importance in any health regime.
So next time your body, your mind, your heart, or your soul seem to be in need of attention and pampering, book a massage and come home to yourself. If you don’t know of any massage therapists and you are concerned about finding a good one, ask around among your friends. I bet at least one person that you know receives massage on a regular basis and can give you a good referral.
Over the last few days the theme of prayer has come up in my daily readings and in conversations with friends. It has made me realize and be grateful for just how much time I spend daily in prayer. It has also made me wonder why prayer has become such an important part of my daily life.
First and foremost prayer gets me quiet. It slows me down and forces me to a place of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual rest. I can get very busy, too busy. Busyness can become almost a form of escape for me, and that can be a dangerous place for me because it has me rushing through life without an appreciation for the present moment and all that offers.
When I become wrapped up in busyness I risk getting tired and stressed out. When I live in that state I do not do well. I get irritated and crabby. Relationships suffer, I suffer. Prayer centers me and brings me to a place of calm. When I am calm I can be more objective and less hyper about everything. I can make better decisions that affect me and those within my daily living circle.
Secondly prayer puts me in my rightful place with my Creator. Through prayer I offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all the blessings in my life. I come to Him in meekness and humility as I acknowledge my inability to do this life thing without His help. And it is in my praying that I become attuned to His presence in my life. Prayer gives me the opportunity to build a deeper more intimate relationship with my God.
Prayer brings me right into the arms of God and His incredible love for me. All my life I have looked for love in the wrong places. When I am immersed in prayer I am fully immersed in the love of God. I feel His presence within me and around me. I am at peace.
Thirdly, as prayer puts me In my rightful place with God, so it also puts me in my rightful place with my fellow human beings. Prayer time allows me the chance to pray for the well-being of others. It takes me out of self and therefore away from selfishness and self centeredness. It gives me the chance to intercede with God on behalf of others and their intentions. Praying for others is truly a blessing and a joy.
Prayer is an important part of my spiritual development. It recharges my batteries and restores and revives my soul. When I allow the power of prayer to fill me then I am more capable of living a productive and creative life. I am more able to use wisely the talents that God has blessed me. Daily prayer sets me on the right path each day.