• January 28, 2017

    I have read that the higher forms of prayer lead to contemplation. My question is how prayer differs from contemplation.

    Do these words really mean anything to you? If they are just terms that you want to define, you will never understand them.

    Prayer and contemplation really refer to the same thing. They converge. They may begin with what appears to be a different view, in a different place, but they come together as they must because they refer to the same capacities that we have as humans, those same few capacities that we are able to exercise.

    To pray is to ask. I have things that I want. Very quickly, I learn the limitations of asking other people. I may therefore inwardly ask God or the Universe, someone or something I have heard or read about who is reportedly more powerful and more charitable than other humans. At first, I probably only ask for what I think will be pleasing to me or to others I have a connection to. But perhaps it may occur to me to consider, who am I asking? Over time, this may become a serious question.

    A serious question, one that I can ponder, always contains its own answer. Such a question gives rise to looking. As Rumi says: “The looking is a trace of what we are looking for.”

    Is someone really there to hear my prayer? Perhaps I may begin to wish for a relationship with this mysterious someone. This possible relationship may become more important to me than the satisfaction of my wants. Can I find in my inner experience those thoughts, sensations and feelings that inform me of this one that I seek? Can I find in myself the evidence of the other? By its effect on me, can the other be known? The qualities I adopt in order to bring me closer…do they not reflect the qualities of the one I seek?

    This is the secret of real prayer. I discover that the qualities of the one I seek are reflected in me. What I can know of Him is His trace in me. “Know Thyself” was the advice inscribed on the wall at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. More exactly, as Ibn Arabi says: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.”

    To contemplate is to hold. I have some experiences that are precious to me. I wish to enter these experiences fully, to contemplate them to the exclusion of all else. Can this be done? I find that I must learn how to relinquish the thoughts and sensations that are not the ones I wish for. I also find that perception and attention must become subtle enough to discern and hold the essential qualities of the experience I seek to immerse myself in. I discover that the sensations of my experience have a feeling behind them that I can access. In contemplation I reflect that feeling. Then I know it.

    Both prayer and contemplation relinquish the ordinary self I know in order to share in something greater. Both are made possible by the law of reflection.

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  • September 3, 2016

    What is prayer?

    Prayer is communication. It is a movement towards communion. It is a celebration of relationship with being.

    Is prayer always about God?

    It is a relationship with something higher and greater than oneself. God means many different things to different people. As the relationship unfolds and evolves, its form and meaning will change. It is a process of discovery, if you allow it. The name does not matter very much.

    Perhaps it begins with an idea or a picture. In time, in my experience, what you pray to becomes who you pray to.

    How do you pray? Is there a method?

    How do you develop a friendship? Does it not require your care and attention? Does it not summon your presence into the present? Prayer asks you to bring all that you can. Are you able to bring your thinking, sensing and feeling to the encounter? Perhaps not at first but with practice and the guidance that comes within the prayer experience, you may be able to bring all that you have. There is no formula. You must begin where you are, as who you are. No pretences. But as a general rule, humility is always a good place to start.

    What about praying for things you need or others need?

    You are developing a relationship. What do you want from it?

    Are you sure that you know what is needed?

    Asking implies humility and a willingness to accept help. Often, friends like to be asked to help. However, praying for things may bring worldly cares into a place where you are able to be without them and experience a different reality. Find out for yourself.

    What is the difference between prayer and contemplation?

    I do not think there’s a practical difference. As it develops, prayer becomes a subtle exchange which in some traditions is referred to as contemplation. The experience is characterized by the feeling of being seen and recognized as your essential being. The Sufis call this mushahada which I like to think of as mutual regarding or mutual observing. At times, the quality of seeing, what is seen and who is seeing may merge and become indistinguishable.

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  • June 10, 2015

    I wish to inquire into the meaning of invocation and why it is so emphasized in this work.

    Spiritual evolution ultimately requires help from higher forces. The opponent of progress is self. I am the barrier to my own evolution. If evolution depends on me alone, I am lost. My efforts to change are a reflection of my limited understanding and my motivations which prevent real change. Can the one who seeks change be simultaneously the agent of change that is by its very nature unknown to me?

    Furthermore, if spiritual evolution is real, would it not suggest that I am not the first and that others who have gone before me may have been able to find help? Perhaps they are able and willing to help me?

    The idea of help suggests teachers and schools. Let us be sceptical and assume that they know nothing more than you do and that they have personal motives. Not a bad assumption, in my experience. Is there another kind of help?

    A good place to start is to take an inventory. What tools for your possible evolution do you have available to you now? Can you access capacities that are not tainted by self? This is a serious question each of you should work with diligently. Today, I will skip to the answers I have found but you need to go through the same process and not rely on my work.

    In my experience, the first and most important tool you have access to is attention. Attention is the perfect catalyst…it initiates various processes but it is itself not changed by them. We have discussed attention many times in our group and it is not the subject of this inquiry. A second immensely valuable tool is invocation.

    What is invocation? To invoke is to call. It is a very specific use of the human capacity for speech.

    Vajrayana says that humans consist of body, speech and mind; speech connects body to mind, it is the subtle bridge between form and essence, a midpoint of transformation and a doorway to invisible worlds.

    A word may be used to create an initial vibration. Certain words are invocational; they have a shape, sound and texture which together suggest the inner nature of what they name, even when pronounced inwardly as fikr. The word creates a vibration in body and mind. The machine being quiet and passive, the word in the mind finds its counterpart, its echo, in sensation. Word and sensation held gently by attention resonate and invite feeling. All other content is ignored.

    And so the presence of that which is named is brought into the present. This is invocation.

    Invocation is deepened by inviting the invoked to shape thinking, sensing and feeling. Attention is a key…it does not wander but continues to connect to, and accommodate, the sensations and feelings of the invoked, and amplify them. A rose is easily thought and sensed but its essence is a feeling, a vibration of exact frequency which is expressed in every rose.

    Submission is the other key. Are you willing to become the invoked and know it from the inside…knowledge by presence as the sufis say?  Anything of your self is hindrance. Submission begins even before the invocation, in a relaxation of the body/mind, a releasing of self.

    On Monday night, we invoked XX. The experience was not what might have been imagined or pre-figured in thought. Knowing through invocation is not anything like thinking. In this form of engagement, you may experience a reciprocated love.

    Invocation is a talent. Are you an invocant? The invisible world is looking for invocants who can help its ‘residents’ enter and assist this continuum of sense and form. Who or what are these residents? They are qualities of essence, of being, most often experienced as feeling, perhaps embodied by an historical personage or an angel, perhaps having no form at all. Not all of them make good guests. You must be discerning, trustworthy and reliable. You cannot always call the one you wish; you must work with those whose presence, for various reasons, are nearest your present, those most in sympathy with where you are, inwardly and outwardly. This is not work for proud or precious people.

    I have heard you say that invocation and contemplation are closely related.

    You could say that contemplation is an invocation that is held. Contemplation is not mere thinking. The word contemplation is derived from templum, a proto-indo-european root word meaning to stretch or to string…a string that connects us to the worlds within and above?

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