Search Results for 'spiritual practices'

Haiku writing

The haiku is a Japanese form of poetry which evolved out of the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. Traditional Japanese haiku have 17 syllables, but it has been suggested that English haiku should have more syllables, because English is a more long-winded language than Japanese, and you can pack a lot more concepts into 17 Japanese syllables than you can into 17 English syllables.

However, I tend to stick to the 17 syllable structure, divided into 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Haiku also traditionally include a kireji, a ‘cutting word’. The cutting word divides the poem into two contrasting sections with imagery that adds a surprising twist or contrast to each other. It’s difficult to find ‘cutting words’ in English, so haiku writers in English use a dash to separate the two sections of the poem.

Haiku are essentially poems about Nature, so Japanese haiku also have a season word, to indicate in what season the action of the poem takes place. The season word does not have to be the name of the season; it can be something that is obviously associated with that season – for example, plum blossom would indicate that the poem was describing spring. The imagery of a haiku is simple and unpretentious, and generally does not use similes to achieve its effects. The natural phenomena described may very well be metaphors for something else, but the haiku may also be enjoyed for the images of natural beauty, and the human response to it, that it conjures up.

Haiku poets would often gather together to compose haiku on the spot. One poet would begin, and then another poet would respond with a haiku of their own, and in this way a series of linked haiku (known as haikai-renga) would be composed by the group.

Sometimes haiku would be combined with travel writing or other prose. The most famous example of this form is The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho, which describes Basho’s travels to the far north of Japan. The combined haiku and prose form is known as haibun.

Writing haiku teaches one to strip things back to the bare essentials, to distil experience into its pure form, and to observe Nature closely. It is a very satisfying process, because haiku are so short, and so complete in themselves.

 

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Buddhism

· Buddhist · everyday spirituality · haiku · Matsuo Basho · mindfulness · poetry · spiritual practices · Zen

Yoga

Provides a comprehensive guide to yoga. Find information related to the ancient art and science of yoga.

Link: Yoga

Category: Recommended websites

Tradition: Hinduism

· yoga · spiritual practices · body · awareness · mindfulness · exercise

Tel Shemesh

 a web resource for those who are attempting to integrate Jewish faith and practice with earth-based beliefs and ways of living. Tel Shemesh provides writings, rituals, songs, prayers, and myths that integrate Jewish texts with earth-based images like the Divine feminine and the sacred earth, in order to promote an inclusive vision of a Judaism entwined with nature and with all life.

by Jill Hammer

Link: Tel Shemesh

Category: Recommended websites

Tradition: Judaism

· Jewish · spirituality · spiritual practices · rituals · songs · prayers · myths · mythology

Ask Grace: What are the symptoms of spiritual burnout and how to avoid psychic burnout?

Ask Grace: What are the symptoms of spiritual burnout and how to avoid psychic burnout

Spiritual burn-out is a real risk for spiritual leaders, counsellors, caregivers, healers and psychics. Grace, a psychic, gives advice on how to avoid it (and she should know because she has suffered from it). I have recently suffered from this myself, and have found in the past that if I was getting nurtured by others, and receiving energy from the universe, it didn't happen, whereas if you fail to do these things, you will get burn-out, and the symptoms can be quite nasty.

She first identifies the symptoms of spiritual burn-out, and then identifies how to avoid it, or how to recover from it if you already have it.

The symptoms of spiritual burnout or psychic burnout can include exhaustion, depression, dread before or after working, feelings of unbearable responsibility, feeling overwhelmed, crying for no reason, crying often, being overtired, insomnia, difficulty getting out of bed, restlessness, procrastination, avoidance, constant illness, problems with the heart, difficulty breathing, anxiety and panic attacks, extreme weight loss or weight gain, hair loss, irritability, and a desire to avoid people.
Grace's advice can be summed up in six key points:
  • Take a break and rest - Grace says "take a sabbatical from everyone and everything, and really nurture yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually".
  • Make sure your needs are met - physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Breathe properly.
  • Draw your energy from the universe - don't use up all your personal energy; make sure to be replenished from the source.
  • Charge for your services - either in money or in kind - Grace says "there always has to be an exchange of energy, which is what money is - it is the energy of worth and value given in exchange for the service received."
  • Maintain strong boundaries - visualise yourself surrounded by white light; set aside a special room for your clients; set fixed working hours. If there's an emergency, calm the client down first. Have a website which answers all the obvious questions about what you do.
  • Only work when you can give 100% - don't deplete yourself by working when you are ill, distracted, etc.
It's well worth reading the whole article, which gives more examples and some excellent techniques and advice.

If you think you are suffering spiritual burn-out, get help - don't leave it until you are absolutely exhausted.

by Grace

Link: Ask Grace

Category: Recommended articles

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· ministry · pastoral · practitioners · professional · self-care · spiritual burn-out · spiritual practices

Books by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Women who run with the wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This classic book has inspired many women to discover their inner wild self – the self that instinctively knows how to sense danger, to protect itself, to be nourished by stories and wilderness. The book is structured around several classic folktales, including the story of the Selkie (retold by the author as Sealskin, Soulskin), the Inuit story of Sedna, the story of the girl with the red shoes, the handless girl, and many other stories which teach people how to follow their instincts and listen to their hearts. Following each tale is a section explaining what it means and offering spiritual practices for everyday life. The wolf metaphor runs throughout the book, as the wild instincts of wolves are key to understanding how to be in touch with your own deepest instincts.

The Faithful Gardener – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This is an interwoven collection of stories about life, from the author of Women who run with the wolves. The book begins with the story of the author’s uncle being collected from the railway station in Chicago amidst the arrivals of hundreds of other displaced people arriving in America from war-torn Europe. The heart of the book is the story of that which never dies – the spirit which moves from life to life through various transformations.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Recommended books

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· books · Clarissa Pinkola Estes · everyday spirituality · spiritual practices

Twelve Concrete Ways To Live A 'Compassionate Life'

Putting the 12 steps to a compassionate life into practice.

Armstrong admits compassion isn't a very popular virtue. "People often prefer to be right," she says. And though she offers these 12 steps, it's not a get-compassionate-quick scheme. "This is a struggle for a lifetime, because there are aspects in it that militate against compassion."

Armstrong says she struggles with compassion, "all the time, every day." She admits to a sharp tongue, and "like everybody, I feel I've suffered, I feel I've been damaged, I meditate unpleasantly on my enemies and feel this corrosive sense of anger."

But her religious studies kept guiding her back to the theme of compassion. In histories of Jerusalem, God, even fundamentalism, compassion popped up again and again. And that's what frustrates her.

"The religions," she says, "which should be making a major contribution to one of the chief tasks of our generation — which is to build a global community, where people of all opinions and all ethnicities can live together in harmony — are seen as part of the problem, not as part of the solution."

The golden rule, a commonality throughout religion and guiding force for compassion, "asks you to look into your own heart, discover what gives you pain, and then refuse under any circumstance whatsoever to inflict that pain on anyone else." It's tricky, because each situation and individual must be evaluated differently.

But making space for the other "in our minds and our hearts and our policies" is essential to Armstrong. "We are always talking about the importance of democracy. But I think in our perilously divided world, we need global democracy, where all people's voices are heard, not just those of the rich and the powerful."

For example, it's hard to love your enemies. We are driven by our legacy from our reptilian ancestors, Armstrong says. It "makes us put ourselves first, become angry, [and] when we feel threatened in any way, we lash out violently."

Link: NPR books

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· Karen Armstrong · philosophy · religion · compassion · spiritual practices

Storytelling

Most spiritual and religious traditions have a corpus of stories which transmit their values and beliefs, and the stories of their saints and heroes. It is also good to create stories. In his essay, On Fairy Stories, JRR Tolkien expressed the view that when we create stories, we are exercising a gift from the Divine, the gift of ‘subcreation’.

One way of creating new stories is to practice storytelling in the round. One person starts off a story, and then when they have run out of ideas, the next person in the circle takes over. You can augment this practice by using cards with images or words to suggest ideas to the participants.

Storytelling is an art which it is very satisfying to learn. To make your story come to life, include details of colour, taste, smell, sound and texture; imagine how the characters in the story feel about their situation. Traditional storytelling does not go into much detail, but it gets across the experience with directness and immediacy. You can also add your own personal twist to well-known stories, such as telling the story from the point of view of another character – how about the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the point of view of the wolf, for instance? Try to find and listen to traditional storytellers and learn from their technique.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· everyday spirituality · JRR Tolkien · spiritual practices · storytelling

Making a mandala

The idea of the mandala comes from Hindu and Buddhist tradition. In its most developed form, the mandala is a diagram of the inner world. Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas depict temples and palaces where particular Buddhas dwell, and pathways between them. A sand mandala is carefully and painstakingly constructed by pouring sand through special pointy tubes onto a surface, and after a certain amount of time, the sand is swept up and poured out as a blessing into a river, or given away to pilgrims.

Mandalas can also be drawn or painted. Carl Gustav Jung (the psychoanalyst) drew mandalas representing his inner states, and encouraged his clients to do the same. Other Jungians also did this. Drawing a mandala can be a very satisfying experience  it doesnt have to be great art; its the process of creating a picture of your inner world that is important. You can also make mandalas from seeds, pebbles or shells.

Once you have created your mandala, you can use it as a focus for meditation, following the patterns you have created, or meditating on the meaning of the symbols within the mandala.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· Buddhist · everyday spirituality · Hindu · mandalas · meditation · spiritual practices ·

A nice cup of tea and a sit down

The Japanese tea ceremony is the ultimate form of this spiritual practice; in it each movement is choreographed, and the tea is prepared and served mindfully and gracefully. The ritual has deep meaning and resonance for the participants.

However, the preparation and drinking of tea has a restorative effect on many people. The fragrance of the tea, the effect of drinking it, and the relaxation of sitting and being focused on the pleasure of tea, is all good for you. Its even better if it is accompanied by conversation with a friend.

The title of this article is taken from the excellent website entitled "A nice cup of tea and a sit down" which extols the pleasures of this activity, or should I say inactivity?

Details on the Japanese Tea Ceremony can be viewed here

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· a nice cup of tea and a sit down · Buddhist · everyday spirituality · mindfulness · spiritual practices · tea ceremony · Zen ·

Shared meals

Many religious traditions have shared meals as part of their practice.

Jewish tradition has the Seder or Passover meal, in which specific symbolic foods are eaten, representing different aspects of the Passover story. The youngest person present must ask, "Why is this night more special than all other nights?" and various other symbolic actions are performed, such as leaving the door open for Elijah, and raising a toast to the idea that one's next Seder will take place in Jerusalem.

Christianity has the Eucharist, which commemorates both the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples, and also the meal he is said to have shared with them at Emmaus after his Resurrection. The meal consists of bread and wine consumed in a sacred manner. There has been much conflict throughout Christian history about what the Eucharist means, who is allowed to partake of it, and what its effects are. Nevertheless it is a powerful ritual. Stephen Lingwood, a Unitarian minister, suggests that communion represents Jesus' radical hospitality – his willingness to eat with people marginalised by society, such as prostitutes, tax collectors and publicans.

In Wicca, the shared meal is known as cakes and wine, and is usually consecrated by a woman and a man (or a same-sex couple), and then shared among the participants in the ritual. A portion is kept for offering to the deities as a libation.

In some Hindu traditions, a portion of the food is offered to the deities while it is being cooked, and blessed food is known as prasadam.

The ancient Greeks had a ritual of sharing bread, which is where we get our word symposium, which literally means ‘together bread’. In ancient Rome, there were dining clubs devoted to the god Bacchus (god of wine), which presumably had a ritual or spiritual aspect.

Many religious traditions (including Buddhism, Christianity and Paganism) give thanks for their food before eating. Typically, the meal blessing might include thanks to all the beings and processes that went into creating the food, and a wish that everyone in the world might have enough to eat.

Cooking can also be a spiritual practice. It is in many ways akin to alchemy (the transformation of one thing into another); indeed, a cooking vessel invented by a medieval female alchemist – the bain-marie – founds its way from the laboratory to the kitchen. In Jewish tradition, the preparation of food has special rituals associated with it. The magic of a lovingly prepared meal is powerful stuff, restoring both body and mind.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· alchemy · ancient paganism · Buddhist · Christian · everyday spirituality · Hindu · Judaism · Pagan · shared meals · spiritual practices · Wicca ·

Making an altar

An altar is a focus for devotion, prayer or meditation. It can be simple or complex, small or large. It can have no images, a single image, or multiple images. It can be themed around a particular idea, deity, holy person or festival. You can have more than one altar or shrine around your home.

If your altar is for meditation or prayer, choose a spot in your home that is quiet and peaceful. Consider how you will use your altar. If you are going to place flowers on it, or use it in ritual, make sure there is space for everything you need, and that the altar is easy to keep clean. Some people like to light a candle or ring a bell before they start their ritual, meditation or prayer.

The typical altar might have a bell or singing bowl, some holy pictures or statues, some natural objects such as pebbles, shells, feathers or wood to make a connection with Nature, a candle, prayer beads, and perhaps a holy book. It may be a shrine to a particular deity, saint, Buddha or bodhisattva, or to multiple sacred foci.

In Orthodox Christianity, the shrine at which the family prays is known as the Beautiful Corner, and is decorated with icons of favourite saints. Icons are seen as windows into Heaven, and depict the transfigured face of the saint. Before praying, people will light a candle and cross themselves.

In some traditions, people build altars or shrines at particular times of year. In Mexico, people build shrines for El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) to commemorate their loved ones who have died. There might be photos of the loved one, together with their favourite foods, and flowers. Many Pagans around the world have borrowed this idea. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her classic book Women who run with the wolves, describes how women built altars to commemorate losses in their lives, and how this helped them to grieve properly and to recover from the trauma. You could also build altars for particular rites of passage, such as the transition from childhood to adulthood, or for marriage or divorce. The altar might include symbols of the phase that is coming to an end, and symbols of the new phase to be embarked on. You could even build one altar for each phase, and then have a ritual progression from one phase to the next.

Another way of making an altar is to find a special tree or rock, and decorate around it with found (but biodegradable) objects arranged in a pattern, such as twigs, leaves, berries and feathers.

There is no right or wrong way to make an altar. Each altar is personal and special. If you are following a particular spiritual tradition, it may have particular ways of making altars, but even within that, there is plenty of scope for creativity.

 

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· altars · Clarissa Pinkola Estes · everyday spirituality · icons · meditation · prayer · spiritual practices

Building a meditation hut

The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids suggest building a meditation hut. The actual process of building the hut could be a mindful and meditative process, using recycled and sustainable materials. The Order’s founder, Ross Nichols, got the idea of his hut from the poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Yeats was inspired to write the poem by Henry David Thoreau’s account of how he retired to a hut beside Walden Pond, there to contemplate the wilderness, be self-sufficient and find himself.

Ross Nichols suggests that one of the benefits of living in a hut is that there are fewer distractions there; no electricity, no running water, only yourself and the wilderness (or your garden) for company. It was important to Nichols that the hut should be a semi-permanent structure, so it felt safe and secluded.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· Druidry · Henry David Thoreau · hut · meditation · Ross Nichols · spiritual practices · William Butler Yeats

Gardening

Gardening is well known to be therapeutic, but it is also deeply spiritual. It is a process of fostering life, of working with the land and Nature to create beauty – what could be more spiritual than that? Embodied spirituality is about responding to the world with wonder, creativity and joy; it is not some abstract process – it is about connecting the inner with the outer. The planting of the seeds in the ground teaches us hope and care for small growing things. Watching the seeds come up is an experience of hope rewarded. Then we must care for the tender seedlings, watering them, planting them out, protecting them from being eaten. We create patterns in the garden – arrangements of plants that flower and fruit in their season. The plants might be herbs that heal, or flowers with scent and colour, or leafy trees, or fruit and vegetables. Plants have symbolism and mythology and folklore associated with them.

The word paradise means an enclosed garden; the earliest gardens were oases of fertility in the desert, such as the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which must have required considerable watering. The fabled Garden of Eden was the mythological model for such gardens. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ uncle Zovár said that the Garden of Eden was really the whole Earth, because everywhere on Earth is capable of flowering like a garden, and is full of the divine presence if you know how to be aware of it.

Composting (an essential aspect of gardening) is a wonderful metaphor for the process of change and transformation. We compost our dead matter (past experience) and it helps to fertilise new growth (the wisdom that comes from experience).

 

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· change · everyday spirituality · gardening · spiritual practices · transformation

Meditative walking

There are several different types of meditative walking, from various different spiritual traditions.

The theologian St Augustine famously wrote “Solvitur ambulando” (It is solved by walking), by which he presumably meant that as you walk, the problems that were at the forefront of your mind are put on the back burner and there solved. I have experienced this process myself.

Walking is also more environmentally friendly than other means of locomotion.

Eastern Orthodox Christians practice the prayer walk, which is a form of processional walking, with stops for prayers at various intervals.

The practice of walking labyrinths is a very ancient practice dating from pre-Christian times, but also used by Christians in labyrinths such as the famous one at Chartres. In a Chartres-style labyrinth, you never know quite how near or far you are from the centre, so as you twist and turn through the labyrinth, walking slowly and meditatively, you are reminded of the twists and turns of life, and sometimes solutions to problems come to mind as you walk.

Buddhists practice the walking meditation, which is where you walk slowly and mindfully, place one foot in front of the other in a slow and deliberate way, silently reciting a mantra as you walk.

Another way of walking mindfully is to walk in a garden, and walk towards the first thing – perhaps a plant, perhaps a stone, or a leaf on the ground – that attracts your attention, and then really look at it. What colour is it? What is its texture? How is it structured? Is it growing or decaying? Smell it, touch it. Does it make a sound? Follow the patterns on its surface. When you have really observed it with all of your senses, thank it and move on to the next thing that attracts your attention. At the end of your walk, you might like to draw what you have seen, or write a poem (perhaps haiku) about the experience.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· everyday spirituality · meditation · spiritual practices · walking · ancient paganism · Christian · Buddhist · mindfulness

Spirituality and Practice

A website created by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, devoted to resources for spiritual journeys. The site's name reflects a basic understanding: spirituality and practice are the two places where all the world's religions and spiritual paths come together. With respect for the differences among them, we celebrate what they have in common.

by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Link: Spirituality and Practice

Category: Recommended websites

Tradition: None

· spirituality · spiritual practices · mindfulness · poetry · article · Frederic Brussat · Mary Ann Brussat

The International Center for Reiki Training

Offers over 350 web pages and 150 articles covering every area of Reiki practice.

Link: The International Center for Reiki Training

Category: Recommended websites

Tradition: None

· reiki · spiritual practices · training · healing

The Reiki Association

Reiki (pronounced Ray-key) is a Japanese word meaning Universal Life Energy, an energy which is all around us.

Natural Healing

Reiki is the name given to a system of natural healing which evolved in Japan from the experience and dedication of Dr Mikao Usui (d. 1926). Fired by a burning question, Dr Usui was inspired to develop this healing system from ancient teachings after many years of study, research and meditation. He spent the rest of his life practising and teaching Reiki. Today Reiki continues to be taught by Reiki Masters who have trained in the tradition passed down from Master to student.

There is no belief system attached to Reiki so anyone can receive or learn to give a Reiki treatment, the only prerequisite is the desire to be healed.

A Reiki Treatment

The method of receiving a Reiki treatment from a practitioner is a very simple process. The recipient simply lies on a couch and relaxes. If they are unable to lie down the treatment can be given in a sitting position, the main thing is for the recipient to be as comfortable as possible. There is no need to remove any clothing as Reiki will pass through anything, even plaster casts. The practitioner gently places their hands non-intrusively in a sequence of positions which cover the whole body. The whole person is treated rather than specific symptoms. A full treatment usually takes 1 to 1½ hours with each position held for several minutes.

Link: The Reiki Association

Category: Recommended websites

Tradition: None

· reiki · spiritual practices · training · healing

Pantheist Grace

We place a small vase of fresh flowers (a token of Nature's beauty) on the dinner table. We light a candle (a symbol of warmth and lasting life). We sit around the table and hold hands (an act of love, sharing, and closeness). Then, for a few moments, we engage in a silent grace (quietly giving thanks and treasuring life, each in our own way). After 15 or 20 seconds, we release hands and dive into dinner.

by Gary Suttle

Link: Pantheist Table Grace

Category: Meal blessings

Tradition: Pantheism

· meal blessings · Pantheist · Earth · Nature · spiritual practices

A Unitarian Universalist Prayer Bead Practice

What follows is not intended to dictate how to pray, but rather is a suggested structure onto which you can hang your own developing prayer practice. It draws upon the prayer practices of a number of religious traditions and seeks to put together a pattern of prayer that you can tailor to your own needs and understandings. This practice uses the image of a journey, one form of prayer moving into the next.


Preparation: The first, largest bead provides a way into this prayer journey. While touching it, you might gently breathe in and out a few times, sing a favorite hymn, or recite a passage of scripture that centers you and creates a space within for the prayer that is to follow.

Entering In: With the four small beads at the beginning of the prayer circle, you enter into this “journey” of prayer. With each bead you might recite the verses of a Buddhist gatha, such as:

Breathing in, I relax body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I realize this is the only moment.

You might call on the spirits of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Or you can create your own entering prayer. I say:

Open my eyes, that I might see your face in everyone I encounter this day, myself included.
Open my ears, that I might hear your voice in whatever forms it takes.
Open my hands, that I might freely give whatever is mine to share.
Open my heart, that I might live and love more fully in you.

Take the time here to be fully intentional about this time.

Naming: The first medium-size bead is for naming the sacred and the holy as you encounter it. In traditional prayer terminology, this is praise and thanksgiving. You can think of it as naming the places in your life where miracles abound, a chance to “count your blessings,” or a way of beginning your prayer centered in the awareness of the ways in which the holy is happening in your life.

The Small Beads: The three sets of five small beads between the medium-size beads are for “breath prayer.” Many of the world’s religious traditions encourage a short, repetitive prayer tied to the breath. You say one line on the in-breath and a second on the out-breath. You can use two lines from tradition or scripture—the classic from the Christian tradition is “Jesus Christ / have mercy on me”—or you can create your own. Once you settle on a two-part phrase, keep saying the same thing. Part of the power of a breath prayer is its repetition. Live with it long enough for it to become a part of you.

Knowing: The second medium-size bead is for giving voice to the broken, wounded, worried places in your soul. (Traditionally, this is called a prayer of confession.) It is the chance to take a “fearless moral inventory” and to give voice to what lurks in the shadow. Prayer calls on us to be authentic, whole people, and knowing where we are weak and wounded is essential.

Listening: The third medium-size bead is for listening to “the voice of quiet stillness” within. This is a chance to sit in the Mystery, gently breathing. (Depending on the tradition, this is called meditation or contemplation.) Far too often, people think of prayer as “talking to the sacred,” forgetting that in any good conversation we must make room to listen as well as speak.

Loving: If your prayer journey is just for your own sake, then it is ultimately hollow. The fourth and last medium-size bead provides a place to bring the concerns of others—family, friends, communities, the world—into your prayer. These prayers of intercession, as they are traditionally called, are a chance to encourage your prayer to move outward. Call to mind people and situations you know who are in need, or sit quietly and see who (or what) comes to mind.

Closing: Whatever you said to enter into your prayer time, repeat with the four beads at the end of the circle.

Putting It All Together: You can take the journey of this prayer practice all at one time (expect to spend at least 30 minutes), or you can spread it out during the day (for example, Naming after breakfast, Knowing at lunch, Listening before dinner, and Loving before bed). Some people carry their beads with them everywhere, like “worry beads,” and find that simply touching them—while in line at the bank, or when waiting for a friend—brings them into a prayerful place.

This practice is expanded—and a Unitarian Universalist perspective on prayer is more fully explored—in Erik Walker Wikstrom’s Simply Pray: A Modern Spiritual Practice to Deepen Your Life (Skinner House Books, 2005).

by Erik Walker Wikstrom

Link: UUA Tapestry of Faith Lifespan Curriculum

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Unitarian Universalist

· spirituality · spiritual path · spiritual practices · prayer · bead · UU