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Prayer For People Who Think Too Much


tinythinker
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I saw it in the local library and had to check it out just on the the title alone.

 

The run-down:

 

It is short, it drags a little in places ("could use more editing"), and doesn't try to go really deep into an intellectual analysis. That doesn't make it unintelligent, and it actually does attempt to be interfaith in its presentation. Instead the book tries to focus on a few main points on issues that trip people up, such as the idea that we need to stop thinking of prayer or God etc as "problems" to be "solved" with our intellect alone. Concerning such overthinking, the author does a good job in diagnosis, and it has hints at some useful prescriptions for this dilemma. The best example involves a literary character taken from a Russian novel who is a seeker of sorts. Following some advice he has been given, the character repeats a short prayer frequently when not engaged in activities that would distract him from it, and keeps doing so as suggested. Eventually, he gets profoundly bored with it, but he keeps repeating the prayer anyway. After a long dry spell of boredom and disinterest, an unanctipated change occurs and the prayer moves from his head to his heart. He no longer needs to say the prayer with his lips or in his mind, even though he still does at times, because it has become almost a living thing.

 

Interestingly enough, from what I have observed and read over the last few years, getting over an initial phase of interest or anticipation and then passing through a tedious period of seemingly endless and fruitless desert of monotony and a virtual loss of total interest seems to be a common theme/requirement of the basic prayerful and meditative practices of (most/all?) major religions. It's a test I haven't passed yet. I get bored, distracted, busy, or frustrated, and working along it is hard to maintain a serious commitment. I would agree with the author's assessment (shared by many others I have read or spoken with) that is made worse by our culture's focus on individualism and consumerism and the desire for relative quick gratification. With so many options, why commit to one path and one practice? (Which is another point of common interest/observation cited by other practioner-authors I have encountered and a point made in the book being discussed - even if you believe all paths lead to one truth you still need to pick a path to get somewhere, and then once you are well on your way you can fully benefit from sharing and learning with those on other paths).

 

Another interesting observation I found was that the author equates having a single-pointed focus as something that comes from your heart rather than your head. I have read and heard quite a bit about different methods for cultivating such focus, particularly in Buddhism but also from some Christian circles, and I have yet to have come across this explicit connection. I wonder if that is why so many people have trouble with working on this focus?

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I saw it in the local library and had to check it out just on the the title alone.

 

The run-down:

 

It is short, it drags a little in places ("could use more editing"), and doesn't try to go really deep into an intellectual analysis. That doesn't make it unintelligent, and it actually does attempt to be interfaith in its presentation. Instead the book tries to focus on a few main points on issues that trip people up, such as the idea that we need to stop thinking of prayer or God etc as "problems" to be "solved" with our intellect alone. Concerning such overthinking, the author does a good job in diagnosis, and it has hints at some useful prescriptions for this dilemma. The best example involves a literary character taken from a Russian novel who is a seeker of sorts. Following some advice he has been given, the character repeats a short prayer frequently when not engaged in activities that would distract him from it, and keeps doing so as suggested. Eventually, he gets profoundly bored with it, but he keeps repeating the prayer anyway. After a long dry spell of boredom and disinterest, an unanctipated change occurs and the prayer moves from his head to his heart. He no longer needs to say the prayer with his lips or in his mind, even though he still does at times, because it has become almost a living thing.

 

Interestingly enough, from what I have observed and read over the last few years, getting over an initial phase of interest or anticipation and then passing through a tedious period of seemingly endless and fruitless desert of monotony and a virtual loss of total interest seems to be a common theme/requirement of the basic prayerful and meditative practices of (most/all?) major religions. It's a test I haven't passed yet. I get bored, distracted, busy, or frustrated, and working along it is hard to maintain a serious commitment. I would agree with the author's assessment (shared by many others I have read or spoken with) that is made worse by our culture's focus on individualism and consumerism and the desire for relative quick gratification. With so many options, why commit to one path and one practice? (Which is another point of common interest/observation cited by other practioner-authors I have encountered and a point made in the book being discussed - even if you believe all paths lead to one truth you still need to pick a path to get somewhere, and then once you are well on your way you can fully benefit from sharing and learning with those on other paths).

 

Another interesting observation I found was that the author equates having a single-pointed focus as something that comes from your heart rather than your head. I have read and heard quite a bit about different methods for cultivating such focus, particularly in Buddhism but also from some Christian circles, and I have yet to have come across this explicit connection. I wonder if that is why so many people have trouble with working on this focus?

 

Fascinating thoughts. I know what you mean about trying to get past that "tedious period"...I have also been unable to pass this "test" as of yet. I like your thoughts on picking one path and sticking to it (which I think you also mentioned in another thread). That makes sense to me, as long as the path works for you, because otherwise you'll probably just hit a dead end.

 

So overall would you recommend the book? :)

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Fascinating thoughts. I know what you mean about trying to get past that "tedious period"...I have also been unable to pass this "test" as of yet. I like your thoughts on picking one path and sticking to it (which I think you also mentioned in another thread). That makes sense to me, as long as the path works for you, because otherwise you'll probably just hit a dead end.

 

So overall would you recommend the book? :)

 

Sure, it's worth a trip to the library.

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