by Michael Ketterhagen
“Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition,
and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts.”
--St Teresa of Calcutta
From last blog, I talked about how prayer is action—the action of listening to the voice of God within, which I call “God-consciousness”. In my movement towards healing and completing my purpose in life, prayer has been significant for me and for others who love me and want my best. So, prayer means not asking God for healing, but it means thinking in the way that God “thinks.” It means acting in a “God-conscious” way.
This sounds difficult to do, but yoga gives us some practices that help us change our thinking so that we can act without animosity, cruelty, jealousy, and self-righteousness. Remember we are made in the image and likeness of God. These practices are together called “Vishoka Meditation,” which comes from the Buddha’s “Lotus Sutra.” We must remember that we are made in the image and likeness of God. All we need do is get in touch with that created essence.
The Lotus Sutra, or Meditative practice of the Cave of the Heart, which is the yoga of the Buddha, guides us in this area by describing God-consciousness as “embracing an attitude of friendliness, compassion, happiness and non-judgment, [respectively] towards those who are happy, miserable, virtuous, and non-virtuous. (YS 1.33, Tigunait)”
But, that’s a lot of work and all the yogis and saints, sages, and mystics of the planet say that it takes humble, continuous, faithful effort to change some of my unconscious thoughts and desires into God’s thoughts and desires. The fascinating aspect of this whole journey is that all I have to do is be faithful to a daily practice of moving my mind into the Presence of God (the Christ, Buddha, Yahweh) within my deepest soul. That Divinity within will transform those deep desires and thoughts that are far below the surface of my awareness.
Wonderfully, Siddhartha Gautoma, on his way to becoming the Buddha, shared some important practices that, with effort, will help the meditator to transcend (vi) the anxiety, pains, worry, fear (shoka) of our daily lives. These practices lead to vishoka, the transcendence of suffering.
These practices include establishing a smooth, continuous, even, deep and quiet breath in specific yoga postures, like corpse pose (shavansana), crocodile pose (makarasana), or even during other asanas. When we establish this effortless and seamless flow of our breath, we start to be aware that the breath is moving itself. “Something other” than our mind and body are making the breath flow. We are not consciously breathing. “Something other” is breathing us. This “something other” is prana, the life force of the body which is usually under the direction of the mind or the body’s physical needs.
In the Sri Vidya Tradition, prana has an intelligence of its own and takes its direction from the Spirit within, the core of one’s self. However, the mind, in particular, often sidetracks the prana, causing emotional tightness within the body and triggers certain actions that seem to come out of nowhere. When we focus on the effortless, seamless breath, we are allowing the prana as it rides on the breath throughout the body to go where it is needed, where the life force will do the most good. Once there, it expands, opens, nurtures that part of the body releasing any unnecessary tension and blockage.
Two practices, if done daily with conscious effort, can effectively transport our prana throughout our body and mind, releasing all that does not serve our highest good. Those two practices are “sandbag breathing in shavansana” and “conscious, effortless breathing in makarasana.” Doing either or both of these for 5-10 minutes a day, and then sitting up to reflect on that experience of the the awareness of the flow of the breath, is the vishoka experience that the Buddha and Sri Vidya Tantra teaches us.
Almost miraculously, we acquire the awareness and sensitivity needed to experience the life force beyond our physical bodily sensations and mental imaginations. What comes next are other practices, as we move more deeply within to our deepest Self.
Happy journey within to the awareness of our guiding breath!