The energy of mindfulness is a real energy, and whenever energy is applied there is a change.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Dear Still Water Friends,
I was recently struck by a sentence of one of our dear, deeply spiritual sangha members, Eliza, wrote about her contribution to an upcoming book: “My personal essay is about my life-long quest to arrive at a sense of peace about my eyes, both how they appear to others and how I see the world, and the powerful role that mindfulness practice played in that journey.” For me this was a very personal expression of the healing power of meditation.
Similarly, there have been times in my life that the energy of meditation, or simply following my breath, have had a significant effect on my physical body’s healing and my acceptance of a sense of peace. Thirty-five years ago, I had a procedure on the roof of my mouth which took out a growth and exposed a small section of the palatine bone of the roof of my mouth. It was quite disconcerting. One night, before I went to sleep, I meditated on that spot, concentrating on my breath and healing. The next morning I discovered that a membrane of velum had coved the spot in my soft palate. I have no doubt that this was connected to the energy of my meditation.
More recently, I had a surgical procedure. When I came out of the procedure into the recovery room, my blood pressure was very high. Although I was still doped up and don’t remember a thing about it, my wife whispered into my ear “sit, meditate.” Within minutes my blood pressure went down to normal levels.
Thay writes in The Energy of Prayer:
… meditation can bring about a great deal of healing. A number of medical programs have been developed that offer effective ways of reducing symptoms and healing illness by relieving tension in the mind. In the past thirty years, the laboratories of the medical faculty at Harvard have in a systematic way researched the benefits brought about by the influence of body and mind on each other. The research programs have proven that when people repeat a phrase from a sacred scripture or the words of a guided meditation or even a single sacred sound, it stops the dispersed state of the mind from intervening and positive physical changes can take place, changes contrary to those that brought about the mental tension to begin with. The research programs have demonstrated the beneficial nature of the changes brought about by meditation practice, and have shown that they can have an effect on such medical conditions as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, chronic pain, insomnia and impotence.
Later in the The Energy of Prayer, Thay explains that prayer is similar to meditation and that the essential parts of prayer, what Buddhists often call “sending spiritual energy,” may be visualized as creating an electrical circuit and then energizing that connection:
Earlier, I asked the question: To whom do we pray? And I answered, the one who prays and the one prayed to are two realities that cannot be separated from each other. This is basic in Buddhism, and I’m quite sure that in every religion there are those who have practiced for a long time and have this understanding. They can see that God is in our heart. God is us and we are God. The entire visualization gatha goes like this:
The one who bows and the one who is bowed to
are both, by nature, empty.
Therefore the communication between us
is inexpressibly perfect.
The first element of an effective method of prayer is the communication between ourselves and the one we are praying to. Because we and the one we are praying to are interconnected, our communication is not dependent on time or space. When we meditate on this, communication is realized straight away and we are linked. At that point, there is electricity in the wire. …
The second element we need for prayer is energy. We have connected the telephone wire, now we need to send an electric current through it.
In prayer, the electric current is love, mindfulness, and right concentration. Mindfulness is the real presence of our body and our mind. Our body and our mind are directed toward one point, the present moment. If this is lacking, we are not able to pray, no matter what our faith. If you are not present, who is praying?
To pray effectively, our body and mind must dwell peacefully in the present moment. When you have mindfulness, then you have concentration. This is the condition that will lead to prajña, the Sanskrit word for insight and transcendent wisdom. Without that, our prayer is just superstition.
We invite you this Thursday to contemplate the energies of meditation and prayer and how they have impacted our lives. In what ways, if any, does prayer enter into your life and practice?
Peace and blessings,