Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pray without ceasing...for all beings

The Abbey of Gethsemani is continuing its gentle shaping influence on my heart and life. Since my visit there in late May (I attended a wonderful writing retreat at Bethany Spring), I have been immersing myself in Thomas Merton's faith and thought. Because he has such a strong, clear voice in his writing (and so honest!), I wanted to hear the sound of his voice as it really was. The director of Bethany Spring pointed me to a link on their site, and then I wanted more, so I searched YouTube and found a few "videos" (really audio with photos) someone has uploaded. The first link I clicked on was Merton teaching new postulant monks about the Jesus Prayer. I'd never heard of this prayer before and it seemed too simple to be very effective, at first, but then, listening to Merton's teachings, I realized the transcendent power--the Holy Spirit is praying with you when you pray this prayer.

I realize this is a big concept and probably something that should be covered in a book as opposed to a blog post, but I have been praying with the Jesus Prayer for a while and it is truly a transforming and loving and powerful prayer. I've also just begun reading The Way of a Pilgrim, the personal spiritual journey of a 15th century Russian peasant who desperately wanted to pray without ceasing and discovered the even-then ancient tradition of the Jesus Prayer was the method that ministered to the yearning of his soul.

So what is the Jesus prayer? Simply, and heart-fully, this:

    Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me...

Because I am learning and beginning to live with a greater awareness of Oneness, I often pray have mercy on us... or have mercy on all, or simply, have mercy. I'll write about my discoveries on the topic of "mercy" in a later post...

Yesterday it occurred to me to combine the Jesus Prayer with tonglen as I was in conversation with someone who was hurting. If you're unfamiliar with tonglen, go here. Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist nun, wrote about the practice of tonglen in her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. The use of breath as prayer is part of both the Jesus Prayer and tonglen--it was a very tender and beautiful moment. And the person I was with seemed to feel a shift in the depth of struggle. A lightening occurred, and the rest of the evening seemed to be more peaceful (even with a little joy thrown in).

Note: I was hoping to share the links to the Merton teachings on the Jesus Prayer with you, but when I checked the links, the creator of the clips has taken them down. If I locate them again I'll post them here at a later time.

Be well, and may you feel, receive, and share all your blessings today! :) k

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