Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Saint Dominic's Ninth Way of Prayer




Here is Saint Dominic instructing a young friar (who has his mantle thrown over his shoulder) and then the fellow setting out with Dominic either waving good-bye or imparting a blessing. Walking as prayer! Christians are more than just believers in dogmas, Church laws and moral teachings - we're practitioners.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a now elderly Vietnamese Buddhist monk who is perhaps the best known Zen teacher in the world. He has written a small book titled: How To Walk ( 2015 Parallax Press). The book is indeed about walking and the attendant aspects of life: body, mind, memories, inner healing, the earth. Each page presents only one paragraph.




I'd suggest Christians need a little book like this because we're caught up in the joyless race like everyone else. And while our believing might make us different from others, the way we go through life is often as frenzied, scattered, distracted, angry and exhausted as everyone else. Christian believing ought to enlighten and transform my lifestyle ~ the way I walk or my mind-way as I share life on this planet. Here's a sample from the book:


Practicing Joy
We may think of joy as something that happens spontaneously. Few people realize that it needs to be cultivated and practiced in order to grow. Mindfulness is the continuous practice of deeply touching every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly present with your body and your mind, to bring harmony to your intentions and actions, and to be in harmony with those around you. We don't need to make a separate time for this outside of our daily activities. We can practice mindfulness in every moment of the day as we walk from one place to another. When we walk through a door, we know that we're going through a door. Our minds are with our actions. 

Now someone might say, "This isn't Christian." I'd disagree. I'd suggest the most common and lovely way in which Jesus demonstrates continual mindfulness is found a number of times in St. Mark's Gospel where the evangelist makes a point of telling us that Jesus took someone by the hand: the little girl who has just died at home (Mk 5: 41,42), Peter's mother-in-law healed of her fever (Mk 1:29-31), the healing of the leper (Mk 1: 40,41). And in St. Luke's gospel, (7:11ff) Jesus touches the coffin of the boy being carried to the cemetery.  In his touching, everything stops for that precise moment. That moment is all that exists.

11 comments:

  1. Waling as prayer! This is so very true and often overlooked as a way to pray. Many times I will set out for a walk along a quiet street or in a park by myself to think and have a conversation with God. As I ponder and reflect the things driving my life, I feel His presence and it has a calming affect. I guess one can say I feel touched by God's presence.

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  2. The little book mentioned here takes us even further - not thinking, not saying words, simply total awareness of my breathing and movement as the sole of my foot makes contact with the ground. You've got access to a park where you can practice mindfulness walking. How blessed!

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  3. I'd say that practicing mindfulness makes us BETTER Christians. Being mindful of our thoughts and of our actions helps to bring an awareness of how we treat others. And a simple touch is all it takes to demonstrate great mindfulness of another's suffering, as you show in the examples from the Gospels. When we take the hand of someone who is suffering, or in need of comfort, we are acting as an extension of the hand of Jesus. It brings healing comfort to both parties. We just have to be mindful to recognize the feelings of need in others.

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  4. School starts soon. Teachers have daily and countless ways to practice mindfulness by the most simple touch.

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  5. Father Stephen, you bring the darkness of my life face to face with the light of Christ here in your blog posts. I am grateful for the peace and understanding that they bring to my conciousness. Thank you so much.

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    1. You're very welcome. Thank you for following along. I am going to the First Communion of a family of boys today. I will tell them the story of the little Greek boy who carried the Easter light home from church - keeping it burning against the wind, the bullies who taunted him, the dog that chased him.

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  6. There are some people that don't allow themselves to experience joy. I have met people along the way that exude negativity wherever they go and whoever they are with. They can suck the joy right out of your life if you let them. I am mindful to avoid letting these people take hold of me. It is one of the ways I practice having joy in my life. It isn't always easy to push them away as they like to latch on, but if you can do it, life becomes much more enjoyable. I thought of this while I was out for a walk today and remembered this post on St. Dominic's Ninth Way to Pray.

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  7. I understand. I have heard these folks referred to as "zappers". And in the book The Artist's Way they are called 'crazy makers" - it is not uncharitable to avoid them. Not to be rude, harsh or unkind. Wish them well, but walk a wide circle. But I might also ask myself, "Is there something I do to attract them in the first place?"

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    1. Kindness. These crazy makers, as you refer to them as, view kindness as weakness and they latch on to that. They also know that kind people are less likely to push them away so it is safe and empowering for them. And for other people, negatively breeds negatively but they don't see that in themselves.

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  8. It's funny here - I said "we don't have to be kind" and it looks as if you translated it as be kind or
    "kindness." This is difficult indeed. I think the sister of one of the 9 people killed recently in Charleston said, "To be more kind than people expect." This may require exceptional grace to achieve. People may very well translate being kind as weakness. I try to be kind - but I'm also learning to set limits. Kindness doesn't mean you own me. This is delicate stuff. These are crazy times and a great mindfulness is needed to navigate it.

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  9. My first line should have been:"We don't have to be UN kind."

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