This is the final article in our “Skills for Self-Love” series.
It has been many years that I have been working on cultivating my own inner stillness. Early on, I was just trying to calm down my overworked central nervous system. Like most of us, I just assumed that it was one of the systems in the body that automatically resets and essentially manages itself. I didn’t link my common behaviors of constant tapping feet, bouncy knees, distracted mental focus, or wiry over-doing energy to the well being of my central nervous system.
Most people are unaware that the central nervous system is the first one that appears in the opaque field of new life in the earliest days of conception. It is referred to as a primitive streak out of which all form and function emerges.
Coming back to feel into our center line and cultivate a silence that allows us to reconnect to that vibrating central axis that we are made of is what the pursuit of all prayer has been from the earliest recorded texts. It contains the recognition that we are connected to something larger than our own ego and contained in something much larger than our own body. This Universal Oneness is referred to by many names the world over, but shares the core attributes of spiritual existence with the experience of forgiving, unconditional loving acceptance at its center.
Learning the practice – any practice of meditation – is the most effective way I know to become a vessel for receiving this loving energy. There are many techniques that are taught. Some, like mindfulness have no spiritual associations and are used as a method of primarily calming the nervous system. Adding a focus on breath and deepening our ability to control the pace and timing of our breathing can also access deep spaces of internal quiet. Many teachers use the power of sound or mantra to keep the mind focused and moving internally.
There are also an endless array of guided meditations available free on any device with a skilled practitioner walking you through the steps of finding some inner quiet. Two of my favorites are Calm and Insight Timer.
What is more important than technique is developing the self-discipline that keeps you coming back to the practice. Self-discipline is really just another way of thinking about committing to positive habits. Most people find pretty quickly that choosing and being intentional with our time is actually a form of freedom. Certainly securing a space in life to get quiet in order to listen more deeply is a reward in and of itself.
The meditation practice that I hold as the center of my life is one part Eastern metaphysics, one part Buddhist and Hindu dharma, and one part feeling into the dynamic stillness of the universe, and it has given me a glimpse of what heaven on Earth feels like. Even during the most challenging of times, a brief meditation will sometimes elicit deep gratitude and bathe my heart with golden light. Most importantly though, it allows me to witness and release repetitive and negative thought processes and see them for what they are.
Within these moments of quietude, I have learned to make peace with what is –not only in my errant, wandering mind, but in life itself. Lao Tzu once wrote “The world is ruled by letting things take their course.” The practice of meditation is the most worthy way I have found to allow life to be what it is. And lately that requires a great deal of practice.
I believe that developing a regular meditation practice is the most powerful form of prayer we can engage in.
William Barclay wrote “Prayer is not a way of making use of God; prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest we wait in silence for God's voice to us.”
Although that quote refers to a patriarchal God, it is just as true if you pray to love itself. The point is that we give ourselves regular permission to stop running the show, to stop wanting things to be the way we think they should. Instead, we listen and feel for how we are part of something more loving, more enormous than we can imagine.