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?