The prayer of mindfulness

Daily Reading for October 18 • The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Converting spoken prayer to doing prayer may start with the need to accompany words by moving the body: bowing again and again while reading Torah, my kneeling and standing in church, a nun bending to light votive candles, an elderly couple raising their hands and arms during praise, or your walking through the dark, ferny woods as you recite the Jesus prayer.

You may already be doing prayer. Perhaps all you need to do is notice what you do and dedicate that time to God. Sometimes doing prayer is intentional, but at other times, you realize during or even after your activity that you have entered into new communication with God. Maybe you take a walk every day in a place that declares God’s presence. Every time you acknowledge Creation, you have prayed. Zen Buddhists believe in a strict policy of “mindfulness,” in which walking while thinking, taking pictures, listening to a CD is unheard of. When you walk, you pay attention to walking. And although the concepts of Zen Buddhism originated in the East, they are not so different from those of Western mystics.

Once a novice found St. Teresa of Avila devouring a partridge, holding the roasted carcass in her hands and ripping the meat off with her teeth. “Well,” she told the horrified novice, “when I pray, I pray. When I eat partridge, I eat partridge.”

From “Doing Prayer” in Beyond Words: 15 Ways of Doing Prayer by Kristen Johnson Ingram (New York: Church Publishing, 2004).

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