You may be afraid to do either! You may be unsure of “why you are on this earth” and feel that you might get trapped into doing something that won’t work for you. You may have a well-developed prayer life but have heard about the “evils of meditation”. You may also feel that you are more spiritual than religious and see prayer as a part of something that only “those religious people” do. Most believe that there is a difference and I believe both have value.
Prayer and Meditation from a Neurobiological Standpoint
Let’s begin with a little neurobiology. Your subconscious mind files away everything you have ever been through. It files these memories in a way that will be most advantageous to you in the future. The more you either like or disliked something, the easier the information will be to retrieve. Over time, you will tend to give things more or less value depending on how you see the world. For example, if you experienced hunger as a child, you may have a greater awareness and response to hunger in the world. This is a continuous process that occurs mostly outside of your awareness, in other words, subconsciously.
You do have a conscious impact on this process. As human beings we have the ability “to think about what we are thinking about”. Over time, we form opinions as to which thoughts we find beneficial and which thoughts we want to slowly let go of. This ability comes with a sense of “who you are”. For example, if you decide you are a “good person” you will generally do your best to avoid thinking about needlessly hurting people.
Deciding that you are first and foremost “a good person” becomes a semi-permanent filter for your subconscious thoughts. The greater your intent on being a good person, the greater effect it will gradually have on how your subconscious mind sees the world, stores information and makes decisions. Over time your thoughts on being “a good person” grow and develop furthering your filtering efforts.
At some point you may have been introduced to one of the world religions. These are pre-made consciously derived filters based on a relationship with a deity, a feeling, a way of thinking, a group of people and/or a single person. In each of these cases you decide, at least in part, to have this relationship serve as your sense of self. Dr. Andrew Newberg has documented the neurobiological effects of this kind of relationship on your brain and your life.
Prayer or Meditation
Now to the question at hand. When do you pray and when do you meditate? Meditation is listening to your subconscious activities to see where you are in your desire to align with “who you are”. This can be done in literally thousands of ways. Each way directs you to a point of focus; your breath, a sense, etc. each potentially providing access to different insights. Who you meditate with, your experience with meditation, your thoughts about what meditation is or should be, all provide a differential experience of yourself.
Prayer is acknowledging your relationship with God, Jesus, The Way… and asking for something. Even in “emptying prayer” you ask God to empty your mind of everything but your relationship as a child of God. Asking for what you feel you need is an organizing part of the relationship. You do your best to live as the relationship would have you live. You also allow your heart and mind to come together to request what this “redefined you” feels would be in everyone else’s best interest. This is - it would be best for you, others and the greater good.
Praying comes with the acceptance of this process as a process, not your answer. Your answers come in the form of the trust you build in the relationship, no matter the outcome. In this way this relationship remains unbroken and serves you through any kind of life challenge. It literally produces within you “the peace that passes all understanding”.
When you want to build your skills at “checking in” with “where you are” at any time, meditate. When you want clarity with the relationship you have chosen to define you in any life circumstance, pray. Make them a part of your daily practice. They both will serve you extremely well.
To discover more ways you can incorporate prayer and meditation in your life to improve yourself and your relationships with others, sign up risk free for the Grow in Oneness course.