I have been focusing on meditation after having a really wonderful experience meditating a few weeks ago, but I have had less success with being able to pray. I have had a few different kinds of prayers over the last few years while struggling with my reactions to my husband's addiction. Most often, my prayers are centered around the themes, "Help me! Help me! Help me!" or "Please help my husband!" Sometimes, I have prayed in gratitude when I've broken through some barrier, and after working the steps the first time, my prayers have frequently reworded the 11th step..."God, please show me your will for me and give me the power to carry it out."
Last night, though, I recognized something new...
When I pray, it can function similarly to my meditation. When I sit to meditate, I am trying to quiet my mind, and the way I quiet it is to bring awareness to my thoughts. If I start to have a sexual thought about my husband, I can label it as "desire," and come back to my breath, my mantra, my center. If I have a thought about a resentment, I can label it as "aversion," and again return to quiet. Once I shine some awareness on my thoughts, they tend to dissipate, and I find some peace and stillness within myself.
If I apply these same principles to prayer, then, I can shine a light of awareness outside myself. I found myself praying last night, and the thoughts that came to my mind were all extensions of loving kindness to people who I love. I thought of my husband, and I brought my attention to hoping that he is able to follow God's path for him, and that the path will include some healing. I thought of certain members of my family and friends, and I bathed them with similar loving wishes. I thought of my students, and I wished them success in finishing the semester and hoped God would guide them to breakthroughs in their work. It felt so good that I even thought of some the people I like least in the world, and wished them peace and a softening of the rough edges of life.
I've heard many times that meditation is listening to God and prayer is talking to God, which was a helpful starting place...but this new understanding of meditation as an inward-facing concentration of loving kindness and prayer as an outward-facing concentration of that same energy helped me understand it all in a new way. I'm excited.