Monthly Archives: February 2020

Saturday 29th February 2020

Day 4   Getting into the habit.

I would encourage you to just make a start. Choose your mantra and begin to pray it, and allow it to come to life in you. It really is that simple. There is no right or wrong way of praying it, there is just praying it. If you suddenly find you have gone ages without praying it, it is not a failure. When you realise you have not prayed it for a while, pray it. When you first begin to pray in this way it is often useful to have a particular moment when you do pray it so that you begin to associate certain routines of the day with praying the mantra. For example, if you travel to work by public transport you may begin by praying your mantra while walking to the bus stop or train station. If you have pets you could get into the habit of praying the mantra while feeding them each morning or evening. If you drive a car you might get into the habit of praying the mantra at the beginning of a journey. If you use a computer regularly take a few minutes to pray your mantra while waiting for it to load. If you use a diary write your mantra on the top of each day’s page to remind you to say it. If you stick at it, you will very soon find that praying the mantra becomes a very natural part of your life, a very natural way of reminding you of God’s loving presence in your life.

As I wrote yesterday, the daily routine tasks that we often find mundane and boring are an ideal time for praying the mantra. It gives extra meaning to the task, an opportunity to use it for prayer, and the monotony of the task often gives us the perfect rhythm for praying our word or sentence. If those mundane tasks are daily occurrences it means there is always that time in the day that we come to associate with praying our mantra.

Praying a mantra is a simple, no fuss, way of praying. A simple way of becoming aware of living in God’s presence; of remembering that God is a part of the whole of our lives. We often shy away from prayer because we over complicate it; praying a mantra reminds us to keep it simple. Prayer is simple. It is merely the methods we use and the routines we put around it that makes it difficult and complicated.

Think about how you can introduce the mantra prayer into your life, so that it is natural and simple. The way prayer should be.

…………………………………….

On waking from sleep           – Pray your mantra
With first conscious breath   – Pray your mantra
At each pause in the day      – Pray your mantra
Walking down the road         – Pray your mantra
Preparing for worship            – Pray your mantra
Beginning each task             – Pray your mantra
Before leaving home              – Pray your mantra
Waiting for a bus                   – Pray your mantra
If angry or anxious               – Pray your mantra
Dealing with crises               – Pray your mantra
Needing inspiration                – Pray your mantra
Before eating a meal             – Pray your mantra
Before resting or sleep         – Pray your mantra
Your mantra is a river that flows through the day
It opens you to the holy
Places you in The Presence
Grounds you in the moment.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 3

There is no hard and fast rule about when we do our meditation. It will depend on a number of factors. Some people, like me, are morning people and like to be up and about early. If so, first thing in the morning is a lovely time to meditate. It sets the marker for the day, the day can flow out of our quiet few moments with God. Others are not so chirpy in the morning! They leave getting up until the last minute and have time for very little while they get ready to go out to work. If that sounds like you it may not initially be a great time for your meditation, because it will become a burden and you will find yourself rushing it and skipping it; and then stopping all together. If morning is not great for you choose a different time. Maybe a lunch break. I know a few people who slip out from where they work find a nice quiet bench and meditate in a local park. Others will find it better to meditate when they get home, a good way to wind down before the evening begins. Some may find it easier just before they go to bed. I have even known people from very busy, noisy, households who have done their 5 minute meditation while sat on the loo! Whatever works for you! Each of us needs to consider our daily patterns and choose a moment when we think it will best fit in.

For me, when we meditate is less important than actually committing ourselves to a daily meditation. While it is probably best to meditate more or less around the same time each day for it to become ingrained, the actual time needs to be one we feel most comfortable with. For some people it may just be impossible to have the same time each day, which is fine, as long as we remember to schedule it in. While meditating every day is good for establishing its pattern in our lives and for it to take root in us, there may well, of course, be occasions when that is just not possible. We should not become paranoid about it, or feel guilty about it, simply begin again as soon as you can.

The advantage of meditating with the same mantra which we also use in our daily round of prayer, is that if we do miss a day we can at least pray our mantra while walking for the bus, cooking the dinner, or during some other activity. Praying the mantra in daily life is an extension of our period of meditation; and our meditation is an extension of our daily prayer. The two flow into each other.

Friday 28th February 2020

Day 3   When should I pray my mantra?

The simple answer is, anytime. The great value of this method of praying is that it is simple and easy to do in any circumstances. You don’t need some quiet place, you do not need a period of time, you do not need convenient circumstances, you do not need a structure; you just need a commitment to quietly repeat your mantra. I find the mantra an ideal companion to meditation, but its biggest value for me is its use in ordinary daily life. So the mantra can be quietly prayed while driving the car, travelling on a bus or train, standing in a queue, sitting in the dentists, walking the dog, cutting the lawn, doing the ironing, or whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. It is a timely reminder that God is with us – even in that queue in Tesco’s! – a reminder that even the most mundane moment is a holy moment.

Another good time to pray our mantra is when we are feeling troubled, afraid, angry, or upset. Instead of just going around in the circle of our emotion, the praying of the mantra invites God into the situation and calls upon God’s comfort, love and guidance. We can also pray our mantra when we are at a loss at what to do next, or if we have an important decision to make, or if we are in need of guidance or inspiration. Praying our mantra places everything into God’s hands and keeping, and opens us to God’s guiding presence within.

The mundane moments of life are an excellent time to pray our mantra. The mundane gives us valuable space to take time to remember that God is with us, is part of us, is sharing this moment with us. The mundane moments of life invite us to call upon God in the words of our chosen prayer. The great value of praying the mantra at moments like this is that the prayer begins to become ingrained in us, and begins to take root in us. Once it has we will, after a while, begin to find that we pray our mantra quite naturally, even in the most difficult situations. Once the mantra prayer has become a part of our life, it will begin to arise spontaneously out of the depth of our being in a most wonderful way. We discover that not only do we pray our mantra but it prays us! Or to put it another way: The Spirit prays for us in our weakness, with a sigh too deep for words. Romans 8:26.

……………………………………..

I pray the Prayer
Jesus, Christe, Eleison.
Slowly become one with the Prayer
Jesus, Christe, Eleison.
Eventually the Prayer prays me
Jesus, Christe, Eleison.
Instead of praying
I am Prayed.
Jesus, Christe, Eleison.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 2

There are many ways to meditate. There are many different techniques and approaches and a whole array of books and literature on them! I have found one method that works for me that is simple and straight forward. It is that way that I want to encourage you to try. I pray by repeating my mantra over and over, and using prayer beads and my breathing as part of the rhythm. If you want to try this method and would like some prayer beads I will be very happy to supply you with some.

Find a reasonably quiet place, sit comfortably with a straight back, feet on the floor, hands resting on your lap and beads. A harder upright chair is better than a comfy armchair – there is less chance of dozing off! Then simply begin to say your mantra silently in your head. After each recitation of the mantra, move a bead, and breathe in and then breathe out. It is that simple. My mantra is Jesus Christe Eleison, so for me the rhythm goes like this:

Jesus – Christe – Eleison
Move a bead
Breathe in – Breathe out
Jesus – Christe – Eleison
Move a bead
Breathe in – Breathe out
And so on.

At first you may well find yourself doing this quite quickly, that is natural; just become conscious of the pace and rhythm, and allow it to gradually become slower, so there is a slight pause between each word, bead, and breath in and out. If you have a set of prayer beads with 10 beads on, begin by simply praying the ten beads. This may at first be less than 5 minutes, but that is fine, remember it is not quantity that is important but simply getting into the habit of meditating. You will soon work out how many beads you need to pray for it to be 5 minutes. Or simply stick to praying 10 beads each day if that suits you better.

You may prefer not to use prayer beads at all, in which case just combine your breathing with your mantra.

Jesus – Christe – Eleison
Breathe in – Breathe out
Jesus – Christe – Eleison
Breathe in – Breathe out

Tomorrow will reflect on when we should meditate.

 

Thursday 27th February 2020

Day 2    What is a mantra?    

I wrote yesterday that a mantra is a prayer word or sentence that we repeat over and over until it takes root in our lives. But a mantra is not necessarily associated with prayer. Many businesses and organisations have a mantra; a message that they want to ingrain into people’s consciousness. Advertising uses a mantra as a slogan to make their product memorable. Others use a mantra to think positively, and as a word of encouragement; for example, “I can do this, I will do this”; or “My life has value, I am of worth.”

A mantra used as a prayer is different to this. It may well encourage us, or even ingrain a message, but its main purpose is to open us to God’s presence and love, and to connect us to God’s presence in our lives. It is a way of prayer used in many different spiritual traditions and is often associated with the Hindu or Buddhist tradition, but it has been a part of the Christian tradition from a very early stage. The Desert Fathers and Mothers from the 4th Century and other Christian monks from that period encouraged people to pray by using one word, or one short sentence, which is repeated over and over. They encouraged the use of a word such as “God”, “Jesus”, “Mercy” or “Love”; or short sentences from scripture such as: “Be still and know that I am God” from the Psalms, or “Come to me, do not hunger” from the Gospels. Most religious traditions recommend calling upon the name of God in prayer and many mantras contain a name for God. The Orthodox Jesus Prayer grew from this teaching.

We can, of course write our own mantra: “Mercy, Grace and Love”, “O God, be with me” for example. The important thing is to have a mantra that feels right for you, has a gentle rhythm, and is meaningful for you. What is important is that we choose a mantra and stay faithful to it. Swapping from one mantra to another will defeat the object, it will not take root in our lives and we will not experience the full benefit of the prayer. I will write more of the benefits and value of the prayer later.

The advantage of using an established mantra like the Jesus Prayer, or a form of it, is that it links you with many others who pray this Prayer regularly and you are part of a prayer community.

Consider today: What might my mantra be?

………………………………………………

Be faithful to your mantra
And your mantra will be faithful to you.
The prayer that envelops the whole of the day,
A sacred backdrop to your daily life.
A holy rhythm, pulse and heartbeat
Resonating gently in the depths of your soul.
A constant companion sharing each moment,
Present in good times and troubled alike.
An open receptor receiving the flow
Of God’s loving presence, mercy and grace.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Along with the reflections on praying a mantra in daily life,
there will also be some reflections on using a mantra in meditation.

                                                                     Meditation 1
 
The praying of a mantra is ideal for meditation. I find that meditation is a natural way for me to pray and is an invaluable part of my daily routine. I realise it is not a way of praying that everyone is attracted to, so my reflections on mediation and the mantra have been included as an add on to the main reflections. I hope some may find them useful and may be encouraged to give meditation a try, because it can have a powerful effect on our daily living.
One of the problems many find when it comes to meditation, is finding the time to become regularly committed to it; and for meditation to be effective it does need to be a regular part of our routine. The effects of meditation will not take root in our lives if we only do it every now and again. It needs to be done more or less daily.
The problem is, when we read some books on meditation we are told that we need to meditate for 30 minutes a day; or some suggest 20 minutes twice a day. Straight away we are put off by the commitment of it, and by the sheer length of time. Thomas Merton said that we should build a prayer life slowly, bit by bit, and I believe that is absolutely true. Very few people will be able to get into meditation by trying to meditate for 20 or 30 minutes each day. Both finding the time and finding the capacity to be able to meditate that long is difficult, and so we become despondent, begin to meditate less and less, and finally give up all together thinking we are useless at it.
If you want to give meditation a try, I would suggest you begin with 5 minutes a day. It is then far less daunting and more easily fitted into a daily routine. You may find after a while you want to extend the time you meditate, or you may be happy continuing with your 5 minutes a day. It is better to stick with our 5 minutes a day than for it to become a burden we cannot keep up. Again, as I have said before, it is not about quantity. God is not timing us! 5 minutes we enjoy is far better than 20 minutes we continually find a struggle.
5 minutes meditation can have a profound effect on our lives, and the value of those 5 minutes flow into the course of the day; especially if they are topped up by praying our mantra at various moments as the day unfolds.

Tomorrows reflection on meditation will be an introduction to the method I use.

Sermon for Ash Wednesday

While our Lenten booklet on praying a mantra in daily life will encourage us to find our own personal mantra and stick with it, our whole faith – our worship and our scriptures – are made up of many short mantras. They are made up of short prayerful sentences that stick, become ingrained, and become a part of our life:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.
Love your neighbour as yourself.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This is my body, this is my blood.
We are the body of Christ.
Draw near with faith.
Seek and you shall find.
I am the bread of life, come to me and do not hunger.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again
– and so on, and so on.
Mantra, after mantra, after mantra; that become a part of our spiritual journey.

Ash Wednesday as its own particular mantra which is at the heart of today’s worship and ritual. That mantra is: Remember you are dust.
Remember you are dust, remember where you come from, what you are a part of.   Everything comes from dust, dust connects us to everything else in creation; and to God who, Genesis tells us, breathes life into dust and forms it in his own image.

Remember you are dust is a mantra that is humbling. We have the same origin as everything else that exists, has existed, will exist. We all come from that same explosion of dust when the universe began – there is nothing more, or less, special about you or me than anything else in all creation. We are just plain ordinary dust.

When we are anointed with ash we are reminded of this; but, at the same time, we are also reminded what that dust can become when it moulded by, and given life by, God. It becomes a beautiful creation with incredible potential.

What this holy day calls us to do is to surrender the dust that we are to Gods creative presence and love; to get out of the way and let God get on with what God does. Our lives, mine and yours, are being carefully designed to bring us to that ultimate goal of love and divine wonder. This day says: don’t resist, but trust – and surrender to the divine breath and image within you.

So as we receive the anointing of ash, the anointing of dust, we acknowledge and embrace our humble origins; and yet, at the same time, dare to believe in what we are becoming by the divine breath and presence the gives us life and meaning.

Ash Wednesday 2020

Ash Wednesday 26th February 2020  

There will be a Eucharist at both 10am and 8pm.
Also a children’s Eucharist at 6.30pm
All will include the Anointing of Ash.

Lenten Reflections Day 1       40 days.

Lent is always a good time to introduce something new into your life. I once read that it takes 40 days for a new habit to really become established and take root. This applies to good or bad habits. So I would like to encourage you this Lent to introduce a habit into your life that I consider to be good and worthwhile – which is praying a mantra.

A mantra is a simple prayer word or sentence that we repeat over and over and allow to take root in our hearts, so it becomes for us a beautiful means of connecting with God’s constant presence in our daily lives, and of remaining aware of that presence as each day unfolds. It is so easy to forget God’s presence, to lose awareness of the love and grace that enfolds us in each moment of the day. We become distracted by so many events, thoughts, schedules and routines that we lose sight of the fact that God is a part of each and every one of them; all our joys and sorrows, our busyness and our stillness, and all that absorbs our interest or causes boredom. God is part of it all, and if we can grow in deeper understanding of that, each of them can become a holy moment; a moment of blessing.

These Lenten reflections are going to be about how praying a mantra can help us live in greater awareness of God’s presence, and how we can introduce and establish this spiritual practice into our daily lives. It has been my central spiritual practice now for nearly 40 years and I would like to share something of my own experience of this method of prayer, and encourage you to try it for yourselves.

The mantra that I use is based around The Jesus Prayer: Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me. It is a prayer that has developed in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, but is now widely used across traditions. I find the Jesus Prayer a bit long for me so I use the following version: Jesus, Christe, Eleison. Christe Eleison is the Greek for “Christ, have mercy” which we often use at the Eucharist.

So I encourage you to begin this Lent simply by trying it out. At quiet moments in the day just spend a couple of minutes slowly saying quietly in your mind: Jesus, Christe, Eleison – so it is like a gentle stream of God’s loving presence in the day.

……………………………………………..

To have a Prayer so precious
that it opens a channel
to God’s Presence in life.

To have a Prayer so simple
that a few well-chosen words
are all that need to be expressed.

To have a Prayer so practical
that it finds its home
in every aspect of the day.

To have a Prayer so personal
that it is a natural part
of everything I am.

To have a Prayer so embedded
that it rises unbidden
from the depths of the heart.

To have a Prayer so complete
that it flows into all
and all things enter its flow.

My mantra is such a Prayer
it is a prayer I both pray
and by which I am prayed.

The sermon for Ash Wednesday will be added later.

LENT 2020

Lent begins with our Ash Wednesday worship on February 26th.
There will be a Eucharist at both 10am and 8pm.
Also a children’s Eucharist at 6.30pm
All will include the Anointing of Ash.

The Lenten journey begins with the anointing of ash.
We are reminded of our vulnerability as human beings
and our dependence upon God’s presence, love, and grace in our life.
In the creation story in the book of Genesis
we are told that humankind was created from the dust of the earth.
The anointing of ash on this day reminds us of our origins;
and that our life is a gift of God
lovingly crafted from the dust of the earth.
The ash is also mixed with holy oil as a reminder of our divine heritage.
We are more than mere mortals,
Not only are we mortal, we are children of the Living God.
We may well be fallible, vulnerable, human beings
but we are also filled with the very essence of our Creator.
The anointing on Ash Wednesday reminds us of both
and it is a very fitting way to begin this holy Lenten journey.
This holy season begins in a positive way with God reaching out,
picking us up, and saying:
“You are my son, you are my daughter, in you I am delighted.”

Our Lent course this year is entitled:
“Praying a Mantra in Daily Life”

I first began praying a mantra around 40 years ago. I was 20 years old and I had only recently moved to London from my Yorkshire village to study at the Church Army Training College, which was then at Blackheath. Up to that point I had a very narrow experience of Christianity and religion in general, and was enjoying experiencing the greater breadth of spiritual traditions that was to be found in a big city. I became drawn to meditation, which I had read about and assumed at that time to be a “Buddhist thing”. So when I was on placement in Bethnal Green and was introduced to some Buddhists monks there I decided to ask one of them for advice and guidance in meditation. One of the first things this monk pointed out to me was that meditation was as much a part of the Christian tradition as it was the Buddhist, and he introduced me to what is known as the Jesus Prayer; a Christian mantra that is often used as a basis of meditation. There will be more about this prayer in some of the reflections that follow during the Lenten season. I also discovered that its use was not limited to sitting down for periods of time to meditate, but was also a prayer that could be used throughout the day as we go about our ordinary everyday lives. And it is in this context that I mainly write about the use of a mantra in the following reflections.
I have, over the years, discovered the powerful effect of praying mantra in the course of everyday living, and during this Lent course I will share with you something of what I have experienced in using this form of prayer, and the how valuable I have found it in my life. The beauty of praying with a mantra is that it is simple and straight forward, and that it connects our daily lives with our daily prayers. I hope that you will also experience its value and simplicity and take time this Lent to try it out in your own lives and spiritual practice.
There is a reflection for every day during Lent up to the beginning of Holy Week, and I invite you to join me on this holy journey. Each day is just a short reflection will only take a few minutes to read, though, I am discovering, a whole life time to fully absorb.
Additionally, there will be some reflections on using a mantra in Meditation.

I hope you will join us on this Lenten journey.

Gavin Berriman      Vicar at St Augustine’s, Grove Park.