How To Pray Without Ceasing

Paul exhorted us to pray without ceasing. What does this mean?

In a very real sense, it is what I am trying to help people find with my mindfulness meditation and my lectures.
One thing is sure: we tend to fall away from awareness and get caught up in just about everything. Yesterday, as I was pulling out of a downtown garage, I saw a man standing on the curb. I saw him completely fixated on what some people were doing on the other side of the street. He stepped right off the curb and without looking to the left or right, walked toward them. He was oblivious to everything but what he was fixated on.

We are all this way to some extent, but just don't know it. We have our attention grabbed by one thing and then another. We rarely are able to stand back and see the big picture without being grabbed by another set of words, emotions, sounds, images, or imaginings.

We do not even know that a higher form of awareness exists--one where we are not involved and caught up in something. If we have a moment's respite between sensory overload, we quickly reach for our mobile device to get lost in. And if we sit without external distraction, we quickly get lost in the images in our imagination.

But it is only in the aware state--where we are not caught up in anything--that we can be close to God and have access to the Light which wordlessly guides and enlightens us. You cannot find God in an external writings or rituals. You cannot find God in nature. You cannot find God in the imagination or thinking.
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God's Presence is realized in the aware state, where your soul is not lost in externals or in thinking.

Once upon a time when we were little kids, we were closer to this aware state. We awoke without worry to pull us into thoughts, we leapt from bed and went forth to a day of adventure. Our attention was free to give to this and to that all day long. To the fixated, worried, obsessive adults around us, it appeared that we were being distracted by everything. But actually we were learning at lighting speed. Spending a few seconds or moments with one thing; then moving on to something else.

But as the months went by, we became emotionalized when someone upset us. Perhaps someone was cruel or confusing. perhaps they pressured us or threatened us. We cried or became afraid. Maybe we were teased. Things were ripped out of our hands, or we were told we were bad or called names. So we became frustrated, angry, or upset.

Maybe someone pulled on our heartstrings and emotionalized us.

Perhaps we just mimicked and mirrored other's (such as mother's) emotions.

When we become emotional, we start to fixate. Later, whatever it was that captured our attention while we were emotional, now will capture our attention the next time we encounter it.

Soon, objects around the house, people, words, images, sounds, smells, substances begin to affect us--because they were there in the scene of our upset.

Before you used to be fearless; now you fear mom's anger and you can't help but fixate on her facial expression to determine if she is angry again. Now you might become timid, lest she get angry and yell at you again. 

If a movie upset you, a dog scared you, or someone yelled at you for breaking something, the world starts to close in on you. Everything harbors some emotional memory. Everything captures and holds your attention.

Another thing, when we become emotionalized and upset, it is a fall from the aware state. And because of the fall, we tend to retreat into the imagination where we live with the images of the past or imaginings about the future. The greater the fall, the fear, the anger or the upset, the more we retreat from reality into the imagination.

The average adult spends the whole day having his attention captured or being lost in the images of the mind. He or she also learns to escape from one involvement by using another. When we worry, we reach for food, our iPhone or shop on eBay to distract us. When we can't get work off our mind, we turn on the television and get lost in those images.

But there is an aware state, where our attention is not captured by anything on the outside nor anything on the inside (thoughts, memories, worries, plans and schemes).

We tasted of this aware state, as I said, when we were little kids, but soon lost it when the world teased and emotionalized us.

We can only find God in the aware state. If our soul is lost in images or thinking, or lost in sensory feelings, it cannot know God.

God is in reality, in the ever present. We can sense His Presence in the present--but only in the aware state.

Perhaps now you can see that we can only really pray in the aware state. In the aware state, our soul is closer to God. Otherwise, our words are mumblings, as we look to some external source of to some memorized verbiage in the memory.

And when we are aware--standing back and observing lightly--it is akin to praying unceasingly. The soul finds and hangs onto awareness because it wants to be closer to God. It wants to know God's will. And it wants to be at the ready to receive any delicate wordless promptings.

Each moment, the soul is delicately aware in the inner Light, the soul scans things lightly, and the soul is ever ready to wordlessly sense the way: whether to go right or left, whether to say yes or no. The aware soul loves reality, loves God, and delights in delicate realizations. The humble soul that loves God and wants to do right has no interest or need for ego enticing imaginings.

Such a soul also is wary of making anything too important. it is always pulling back, so it can know the rightness of everything.

Perhaps now you can also see why you must learn to meditate, as we teach here at the Center For Common Sense Counseling. 

The proper meditation teaches you how to become still and observe thought, without being lost in the thought.

It is not a question of blanking the mind or trying to get rid of thought. Instead it is standing back and observing thought. When the soul is not immersed in the thought stream, it stands separate, aware, and partakes of the light in which it observes the thought.

Why is this so important? Because we have all been upset and emotionalized. We have all fallen, in other words. We have all become subject to the imaginings that attend the failing soul that worries and seeks some face saving escape from what it gets itself into.

These thoughts are very strong, and unless the soul learns how to stand back, it tends to keep getting lost in them.

Therefore, take heart. Learn the secret of standing back and observing. Because most of us have been failing and escaping into thought for years, it will take years of passive observation to gradually have the grip of thought loosened. The wonderful thing is that as the soul begins to fall into thought, all of a sudden it will be mysteriously reminded or made aware that it is lost in thought. In that instant, it is again separate, standing back and observing.

The soul learns to carry the meditative state out into the world too, so that it begins to be able to observe people, places and things without being caught up in them.

Standing back from being too involved in anything is praying unceasingly. It is not a thing of effort. It is not a thing of will. Rather it is a willingness to know the truth; it is a yearning for God and good; and is a willingness to know and do what is right regardless of the consequences.

Not of our own effort or will, but because we yearn to be free to do what is right, and the light makes it so.

Read now the beautiful words of St. Francis de Sales. He offers advice on how to hang onto the aware state. He understands that rushing, hurrying, making something too important, and becoming upset interfere with the aware state. 

Strive to see God in all things without exception, and-acquiesce in His will with absolute submission. Do everything for God, uniting yourself to Him by a mere upward glance, or by the overflowing of your heart towards Him. Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inward peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. Commend all to God, and then lie still and be at rest in His bosom. Whatever happens, abide steadfast in a determination to cling simply to God, trusting to His eternal love for you; and if you find that you have wandered forth from this shelter, recall your heart quietly and simply. Maintain a holy simplicity of mind, and do not smother yourself with a host of cares, wishes, or longings, under any pretext. ST. FRANCIS DE SALES.

For more information about re-finding the aware state with meditation, visit our resource center

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