Getting Energized: Of Prayer, Meditation and Contemplation in Real Life
By Cyndi Dale
Who doesn’t feel exhausted at the end of the day? You know you’re in trouble, however, when you’re tired and the minute hand hasn’t even triggered your alarm clock.
Modern life is like being stuck in a sandwich. On one side are the “to do’s,” on another the “not done's.” No one would question the statement that life is stressful and becoming more so.
We see the results of contemporary stress all around us. Consider that:
* More than 60 percent of all Americans are overweight. In fact, obesity is now being toted as more dangerous than smoking and one of the leading killers of Americans. Who has time to exercise? To create a dinner rather than rely on our old friend Mr. McDonald?
* Reducing debit is the number one financial concern of more than half of us. We’re working more, making more and yet spending more. Who doesn’t shop to assuage the pressures?
* The average couple spends only about one-half hour of talk time together weekly. And we’re supposed to consider our spouse our best friend.
* The suicide rate of teenagers goes up every year. The pressures of adulthood are obviously squeezing the lifeblood of our kids.
* The divorce rate is now well over 50 percent, even higher for second or third round marriages. It’s estimated that one out of every three children will spend some time in a stepfamily. For our universal and eternal search for everlasting love, we’re yet to get it figured out.
We’re all searching for a blueprint to make our lives work. The trouble is, what’s out there is often, bluntly, too canned to work!
It’s as if current culture is trying to convince us that our life consultants ought to come in little brown bottles. While that’s a step up from those transported in little brown bags, our newest companions leave something to be desired. You know of whom I’m speaking. There’s Mr. Prozac and Ms. Celexa. They are related to the Annies: Ann T. Depressant and Auntie Ann Zietie.
We just don’t have time for the old stand-byes, like good food, exercise, community and prayer. We’re lucky if we get in a book over the car audio; get to our “8 minute work-outs;” spend our requisite 20 minutes of quality time with our kids a day. Why shouldn’t we enjoy our designer water when simultaneously popping pills guaranteed to lower cholesterol, raise libido and perform mental gymnastics for us?
There’s nothing wrong with medicine. Medication meets critical goals, but not all problems can be solved with biochemical assistance. Hugs can’t be dispensed through a bottle. Wisdom isn’t a sitcom specialty and you can’t listen to your child through headphones. Donuts, quickie sex, overwork, high finance, soccer momming and drugs are nothing more than no-brainer fixes for real problems.
If we’re not careful, our great-grandchildren will call this generation the “Prozac generation.”
Some problems can’t be fixed fast. Some solutions come only after long, slow work. Some relationships only become loving after years of work. If we’re going to put in the time and effort to make progress in our lives, we need to have the energy to keep going.
We’ve searched for energy through external means. It doesn’t cut it. The solution must then lie in finding a source of energy that is long-lasting; that endures and supports and genuinely fulfills us.
I’m reminded of a comment once made by my oldest son, Michael. I was dog-tired and he wanted to go to the toy store. “I’m sorry, Michael, I just can’t budge,” I complained, as much a couch potato as any I’ve seen.
I could see the wheels churning. “Well, mom, I think you need to change your battery.”
The truth is we don’t need to change our batteries; we need to refuel our battery cells! The only real means of doing this is spiritual.
To be spiritual means to be “filled” by the “spirit.” When we feel filled spiritually, we are inspired. We are simultaneously behind held “in the Spirit” even while the Spirit fills us. The concept of a universal spirit is a universal one. While it is slightly out of vogue among individuals devoted to consciousness and holism, I like to call the Spirit “God.”
I’m a Christian, but I believe that God is bigger than my religion of choice. I believe that God is the Creator. God isn’t exclusive to certain parts of creation, but is available to all. God’s consciousness differs from that of others because God is the only being capable of reflecting total and unconditional love.
When you peel away the layers of exhaustion and fatigue, the wounds of life, the disappointment and the doubt holding us imprisoned, you ultimately find a shortage of love. Relationships end because we didn’t find them loving. We leave jobs because we don’t think they are fulfilling. We’re fired because someone doesn’t believe we’re giving enough, that we’re valuable enough. Our children stop talking to us because they don’t believe that we love them – who they really are. We pop pills because they numb the incessant ache of loneliness, they ease the question of whether we’re worth being loved or not.
Love is an actual energy. It’s not just a concept or a divine spiritual idea. It’s a flow of energy that contains the message that we are unconditionally loved. Of course the main source of this energy is God.
Some spiritual leaders insist that the only true source of love is God. Of course our Creator is the primary source of complete, unconditional love. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. In between lies a lot of space. Space that we’re being asked to fill.
As Jesus said, you are to love they neighbor as thyself. We’re supposed to share love with each other, even as we receive it from God’s Spirit. We fill up; we give out; we give out; we’re filled up.
How do you plug into this source of endless energy? The energy of God’s love – and human love. It’s tough if you’ve been heart because you’ve built a shell around you. We’ve all been hurt.
There are three tools that assure us of bountiful energy. These are prayer, meditation and contemplation.
Prayer is talking to God. It’s a one-way communication that asks for a divine listener.
Meditation is opening to receive energy or answers from God.
Contemplation involves allowing yourself to sense the presence of God. It’s about feeling God’s love in your body.
Prayer, meditation and contemplation are channels for direct contact with God. They are also means for opening to loving relationship and energizing exchanges with people.
Throughout history, individuals and groups have used prayer to interact with the divine. According to a 2000 Gallup poll, 95 percent of Americans believe in God. The most known way to communicate to God is through prayer, and a CNN poll shows that 82 percent of us believe in the power of prayer to heal.
Science us finally underscoring what mystics have said through the ages. Prayer works. For instance, a l995 study of elderly heart surgery patients at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center found that those with religious faith were three times more likely to survive surgery. Studies from the Spindrift Organization, often quoted by Dr. Larry Dossey in his books about prayer, show that prayer can play a critical role in the recovery or survival of all living creatures, humans notwithstanding.
How does prayer work? We don’t really know. We only know that it does, if only to bring a sense of peace and calm. Some people believe that prayers are delivered to heaven, processed by God, then answered with angelic assistance. Others think that prayer opens a passage in our brain, encouraging the functions of our own inner powers. Various studies do show that the most effective prayers are non-specific, meaning, that they ask for God’s will to be done. I believe that these prayers keep our systems and psyche open to God’s plan and God’s energy, allowing us to receive help that might come from “outside the box.”
With the integration of Eastern practices in the Western world, meditation has become a strong contender for rejuvenation. In general, a meditative practice is one in which the subject stills his or her mind. The rejoinder peace and calm goes far to relieve tension and the diseases emanating from stress.
Study after study shows that Transcendental Meditation practitioners can relax physiological mechanics aroused from stress. An extreme example involves Tibetan monks who, using meditation to control physical functions, can actually dry wet sheets with their body heats while enduring arctic conditions.
But meditation can be used for more than relaxation. You see, while prayer can be seen as talking to God, meditation includes opening to God’s responses. Our problems, worries and questions can’t always be relaxed away. Sometimes we need a God-honest response or insight. When our problem is solved, we’ll naturally feel renewed and energized.
Common words describing God’s responses include revelation, premonitional dreaming, supernatural occurrences, mystical-religious experiences, 6th Sense phenomenon, ESP, intuitions, direct intervention, signs, prophecies, omens and receiving a word from God. Studies show that anywhere from 1/3rd to 1⁄2 of all Americans have had psycho-mystical experiences. These memorable events can be life-changing, but we need to remember that often, God’s voice is a soft one. God can answer prayers with a single thought, through a sudden knowing, through an apprehension, via the call of a friend. To rely hear from God, you must be willing to keep your ears open; to not assume a certain type of answer.
One of the most misunderstood notions about meditation is that you have to sit while doing it. While some of us are specially designed to remain quiet for long periods of time, others of us are simply too, what? Busy is the polite term. Hyperactive is closer to the bone. You can meditate standing up, washing the clothes, attending a business meeting and eating dinner. If the goal of your meditation is to receive a response, it doesn’t always pay to loll around and wait for an answer, anyway. Sometimes, God answers a particular question or meets a certain need immediately after your request, or prayer. More often than not, there’s a chain reaction of connections that must be made before you get what you need. My favorite way to meditate is to do so all day long. I make my request or prayer to God in the morning and then ask God to “get back to me” in good time. That way, I get to enjoy the flavors of God’s responses all day long.
Contemplation is one of the least used methods of reenergizing, probably because it is seldom clearly defined. Contemplation is simply basking in the presence of God’s Spirit. We live in a physical world and a physical body. It’s not always enough to talk to God or receive divine inspiration. Sometimes, we just need a hug. We need God to hold our hand when we’re scared and give us a slap on the back for effort. Asking to sense and feel God’s presence is one of the easiest and fastest way to receive the influx of immediate energy.
We’ve just examined prayer, meditation and contemplation as means of renewing our energy through God. But these three interactive tools are also ideal means for relating to other people, for giving and receiving healthy love. Aren’t you sometimes just too drained to pray? Haven’t there been times you’ve wondered whether or not there was even a God to pray to? During these times, it’s helpful – and rejuvenating – to ask others to pray for you. Not only do you establish a connection to God through another person, but also you teach your heart to trust people, not just God.
When heart wounds heal, you remove the greatest impediment to feeling energized.
Responses to meditative questions and needs frequently come from other people. God isn’t always going to reveal a response in a dream or an angelic visitation. More often than not, the reason you need help is because you’re stuck or lost. By providing insight through someone, God creates a little more love between you and another. God brings heaven a little closer to earth.
It’s important to be open to serving as God’s conduit for other people. How many times have you felt prompted to share a certain statement, Bible verse or story with someone? These promptings, if kind and nonjudgmental, come from God. The more you give to others, the more open your heart is to receive for yourself.
We all want to feel the presence of the Spirit. But God also knows that people need a physical reassurance of love, the warmth of the human touch. Hugging a sad child or offering your home to an out-of-work friend are all ways that we stand in for God. God walks this planet through your spirit. Acting from your spirit enables God to deliver love in a real way.
It’s okay to go for short-term energy fixes. To eat that brownie or down that glass of wine; to take the vegetative stance in front of the television. But the inspired use of prayer, meditation and contemplation can do more than any pill or pizza or panacea. Allowing God to energize you connects you to an ever-renewing source of love and vim. Even better, seeing others as a conduit of God’s love – and yourself as the same, provides the vitality you need to lead a truly inspired and fulfilling life; on that is truly “in The Spirit.”
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Copyright 2002, Cyndi Dale and Life Systems Services, Corp., All rights reserved.