Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ponder This Sunday: Do You Pray?

Today, Krista Tippet's program on "Speaking of Faith," (NPR) was about prayer. Now, I don't want this Ponder this Sunday segment to get too "religious." I am not a religious person per se. And I think the word "prayer" has religious connotations to many people. However, Tippet's guests were varied and the discussion included non-religious prayer. And it captured my interest.
Her first guest was Anoushka Shankar, Ravi Shankar's daughter. I own a CD of her music and love it. I think of it as jazzish. One of her early CD's done with her father was "Chants of India." Chanting, she says, is a form of prayer. The chants are in Sanskrit, the oldest language known to man. The chants, rather than being prayers to a god figure, are addressed to nature for the most part. Nature and a "universal energy." One chant that we are all probably familiar with is AUM, a primordial sacred sound. (OM).
Another guest, Steven Mitchell, who is a translator of both biblical and secular (such as Rilke) texts quotes Simone Weil. "...absolutely unmixed attention is prayer." This sounds like the Buddhist concept of attention in the present moment. Your mind is on the task at hand rather than bouncing around in the past and future. So, when we garden, when we write, when we paint and create or if we are scientists looking through a microscope, we are in a state of prayer. He also says silence is where all the most beautiful and profound words lead. Silence, something we all need more of for it is out of the silence that we come to know ourselves and grow compassion for others.

If prayer is focused attention, then I would say I do pray when I listen, when create. But sometimes I also pray more directly, often to Ganesha the Indian god who removes obstacles. "Show me the way." Other times, when angry or upset thoughts enter my head I chant: "Om Namah Shivia." Or any other chant and I consider that a sort of prayer. I also sometimes walk with my hands in prayer position, I bow to my mother and my sister-in-law (not in their presence though). Give me the grace and patience to be patient with the fact that they are patients. I am an impatient person sometimes.

So how about you? Do you have any thoughts on this matter?


Kim said...

Like you, Suki, I don't pray in the traditional religious sense of "talking to" the higher power all so much. I do, however focus a great deal and also honor many forms of life in a focused way. But more times than not, I listen with intent...more of a meditation. At least that is the way I see it...prayer is talking or thinking and meditation is listening or not thinking.

Interesting topic!

Cestandrea said...

Thanks Suki, for this silent post. I love the Simone Weil quote, thanks for sharing it here. That is what would praying be to me, absolutely unmixed attention. I'm not really a religious person but I sure am a believer. In the wee hours of the night I find it very soothing to pray in order to keep thoughts out of my mind. I pray the traditional prayers I learned, and try to focus on the words and the meaning in my very own way, including my family and then the whole world. Often, I repeat it ten times and then I can go back to sleep, calm and serene.:)

sukipoet said...

Thanks for you comments Kim. Those sounds like lovely prayers. Honoring life, listening with intent. Lovely. Thank you for your words.

Andrea, I love that Weil quote too. It is lovely to think of you praying in the wee hours and using prayer and familiar words to sooth yourself back to sleep. I'll have to try that. I've been waking very very early lately. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Namaste, Suki

Kim said...

I don't know if this is of interest to you or not, but with your current post...well, I thought why not. I am very much a student of spirit. One of the people I have enjoyed very much is Brian Weiss, MD. On his web side, he has something he calls "Consider This".

If you click on these little buttons, it will give you something which is interesting to contemplate. I find it interesting for me to consider these things.

Thanks Suki, again, for this thoughtful post.

sukipoet said...

thanks KIm for thinking of me and for the link. I'll check it out soon and let you know what I think.

Lynn said...

My prayer is a mixture of those I learned from childhood, my Jewish heritage, and my love of nature and joy of meditating silently or with thought on what I am experiencing in the present when outdoors.

The early Jewish prayers are used at special times, Shabat/Sabbath, holidays, or when I am in temple...and it's okay to laugh, when I am in the dentist chair or under the knife for a mole removal I've been known to say the "Shama" (the prayer we are to say when we think we might be dying...our last words and thoughts). (Just in case). ;-) I can hear the Jews in the group chuckling at me here.)
And I have been known, although my "belief" is still in it's formative stages, to be reaching out to G-d for help when in need for myself or for others.

I guess I am a crazy mixed up kid when it comes to prayer.

Honour said...

Wow oh wow. Suki. "Unmixed attention" - when I read those words a chill ran down my back. Yes, to me that is prayer. I was raised Catholic ... but I consider myself blessed to be able to find myself connected to the divine through a number of ways. Sometimes it's meditation, or through singing, or through silent walks, or - believe it or not - church. I try not to slip into a "method" of connecting -- and for certain, as you say -- my own acts of writing (creating) concretely affirms the existence of grace in a way none of those other methods seems to be able to achieve. So, yes, I pray - but not to someone or something -- but to the bigger force out there that's part of you and me and the plants and love... what a lovely posting. Thanks for prompting this stream of thought - a prayer in itself :)

sukipoet said...

Lynn, your comment is so interesting. Thanks. I think it's wonderful to have prayers to say when you are scared or for the dying. Alan Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish" comes to mind said/written for his mom. I should think the prayers would give comfort. It is interesting how your relationship to G-D sounds like it has changed too through the years.

HOnor that is great that you have been able to move outward from your Catholic beginnings. I know so many Catholics who are unable to do that or who move away from prayer and religion completely. I wish I liked church, in theory I do, but except for the one time I went to a Quaker meeting, I have not liked the experience of being lectured to nor being told I am a sinner. Which is what it seems to me lots of ministers seem to be saying. My own uncle is a minister, so if I lived near him maybe I'd go to his lectures. maybe not. As you say being quiet in nature or any number of ways exist to connect with the energy that is larger than ourselves.

marianne said...

I'm not a religious person but if attention is prayer I do pray especially when someone needs it.
I like this post and the things you give me to ponder about.
Thanks dear!

sukipoet said...

Hi Marianne. Thanks for your reflections. I think I agree that attention is prayer. Blessings, Suki