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.
Wow! I am still overwhelmed. Two thousand two hundred and fifty three miles completed on the back of the Harley. That was the sum total of the mileage of our trip to and from San Antonio, Texas. And Rich added another five hundred and seventy five miles to that as he travelled from San Antonio to Arlington, Texas and back. He just had to smell the sweat in the new Cowboys stadium:-).
We spent three days on the road to get to San Antonio, and three days to get back to Jacksonville, Florida. That’s a lot of God’s creation visited and appreciated and a lot of private God-time as we rode.
I am not completely isolated when I ride passenger on the Harley. Rich and I have interconnecting speakers and mikes so that we can communicate as we travel. If either of us sees something interesting we are quick to point it out to the other. And it’s always good to say “I love you” as we ride.
But most of the time is spent individually. Rich obviously has to focus on the driving part of the experience, which leaves me with a lot of time to communicate with God. I get to pray for our safety and protection as well as our enjoyment as we travel the highways and byways. This is always primary before and during any trip that we take whether it be on Harley or in the car.
Next on the list to God are all the people that are under my “prayer candle” at home. This is a candle that I keep on the Italian granite island in my kitchen. The candle rests inside a candle jar, and the jar sits inside a metal holder. When people put out requests for prayers for either mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical healing, I put their names on a piece of paper which goes inside the metal container under the candle.
When there are too many names on any one piece of paper, I start a new one on which I always write, “for all those who have gone before and…” Under this I add the new names. So once you make it under my prayer candle you’re there to stay! When I light the candle I do so “with intention” that all those named be lifted up to the Lord while the candle is burning. And as I go about my day and I see the candle I offer more prayers for everyone.
Once this is done I then turn over my sorrows and heartaches to God and ask that He relieve me of them, that He resolve them for me, if it be His will. That last phrase is always the hard part of praying to God. But if I am to practice total trust in the God of my understanding and His plans for me and others, then I must add that phrase, otherwise I am dictating to God what I think He should do!
And then it’s on to world intentions. Now that could take up a trip to the moon and back! We, mankind, have made such a mess of this world and continue to do so today. Sometimes I get a little despairing when I realize we are still making the same mistakes, doing the same things as we did thousands of years ago, and expecting different results. I read somewhere that’s a true definition of insanity!!
I spend a lot of time asking God to please change peoples’ hearts, to lead them on the path of love and compassion. I ask him to remove hatred and greed and the quest for power. I ask Him to take care of the defenseless ones and to bring food to the hungry. I ask Him to shower humankind with His love, His grace, His light, and His energy.
So as you can see, my Harley time is put to great use. It’s usually a very intense and focused time for me and the tears flow frequently. I have accepted this as part of my mission in life and I am very willing to do it. As I pray for others and their needs, I also benefit because I am deepening my own spiritual life and my relationship with God. So it’s a real win-win situation for me and the tears are a small price to pay.
I almost forgot. Some of my Harley prayers are simply words of worship and praise. I forget who the singer is but the song says something like, “Our God is an awesome God”. I like to let Him know that I see that and appreciate it. And let me not forget the gratitude. My soul is full of gratitude for the many blessings in my life, and so I thank God for all He has done and is about to do. Amen!!
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.