Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets
I’ve been writing about the five core principles of Unity.
4. I experience God’s presence and power through prayer and meditation
This fourth principle is officially stated by Unity as “4) There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our connection to God.”
This principle is the place where the Unity stream of my own spiritual path flows directly into the major river of my spirituality – the Twelve Steps. Step 11 says “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.” It has always been one of my favorite steps.
This principle has 3 key parts:
- Experiencing God’s presence and power through these means
I grew up with prayer as a central part of my life. I was lucky in that my mother not only taught us formal prayers, but taught us to have a conversation with God. She really modeled experiencing God’s presence and power through prayer and taught us to have ongoing dialogues with God. That has been very helpful to me. What’s different with my Unity experience is the emphasis on positive prayer. On affirming God’s good and the good in my life. And even in that, not bossing God around. I’ve found that bossing God around is not only puerile, but also ineffective. I wrote about this a bit in my post on Thoughts Held in Mind Produce After Their Kind, but basically the Unity way of praying is to affirm the good in a situation rather than pray for a specific outcome or to try to negate the bad. So rather than boss God around by saying “Please God comfort my friend Pat after the sudden loss of her brother” I might instead say “I affirm Pat’s wholeness, serenity and strength. I see God guiding her through her necessary grief work. I know Pat’s well-being is assured and that she will be led to the right choices as walks through this changed time.” I often add “this or better” or (as I learned in 12-step studies) “Your will, not mine, God”.
This topic is worthy of many posts both because it’s so central to my own spirituality and because it’s so often misunderstood or seen as woo-woo, inaccessible, etc. This part of the Unity principle ties together THREE aspects of my spiritual path (Unity, 12-Step and Buddhism). I think if I had to pick one spiritual practice that would make the most difference in my life it would be a 3-way tie between meditation, forgiveness and kindness.
It has been said prayer is when we talk to God; meditation is when we listen to Her/Him/It/That. I’m pretty chatty, so it is very good for me to be quiet and listen. Just being still is a blessing. Sometimes I get great insights. Sometimes I get relaxed and peaceful. Sometimes I simply notice how agitated I am and how it is hard for me on that day to settle down. I never regret meditating. And almost always I think “why don’t I give myself this gift more often?”
I don’t do anything fancy. I set the alarm on my iPhone for 30 minutes, lay down on my couch (yes, I know, they say to sit up – but then I spend the whole time fidgeting and focusing on my joints, etc.). I close my eyes. I often start out with a simple phrase to start to settle down. Like “Peace” on the inbreath and “is here” on the outbreath or some such. My thoughts wander. Jon Kabat-Zinn whose tapes (yes, it was that long ago – tapes) taught me to meditate, says “if you have a mind, it’s going to wander”. So when my mind wanders, I notice it. And maybe do a few breaths of “Peace. Now” to re-engage. Typically within awhile (5 minutes? 10 minutes?) I am in that alpha-brain-wave state that you know of – the one you too enter before you drift off to sleep. It’s the relaxed state we seek with that second beer or glass of wine – the ‘ahhh’ moment.
That’s when insights can come. Or not. Sometimes I just feel totally at peace. And honestly – that’s enough!
Experiencing God’s presence and power
With both prayer and meditation, if I am sincere and fully conscious (ie., not tossing off rote foxhole prayers or perfunctorily meditating) I DO feel God’s power and presence. It’s a sense of “all manner of things shall we well”, a palpable connectedness with a Power greater than myself.
That then becomes circular – it reinforces my faith and thus encourages me to reach out to God (as I understand Her) more regularly.
So that’s my experience of the 4th Unity principle. Whether or not you have any connection with, or interest in, Unity as a spiritual path, I’m eager to hear about your experience with prayer (especially informal prayer) and with meditation. So, please! Join the conversation in the comment stream. I’d really like to know!