Multifaith Prayer Room

Multifaith Prayer Room

One day, I was working on a piece of writing for my studies in the university library and was aware of a strong ripple of anxiety coming on, as the deadline fast approached. I was also aware that my writing wasn’t going to be up to scratch if it were written by the anxious version of me. My meditation cushion waited in my bag, I used to carry it around a lot to facilitate and take part in meditation groups in various places. There’s an idea! I thought, I could set aside a half hour for meditation… in the library! I had my cushion, I had an urge, the library was a quiet (enough) place for it, but where?

I had a wander. I had heard of the library having a prayer room, but I had never thought to use it. I didn’t know what the situation was in terms of using it; could anyone use it, at anytime? I assumed so, it was called, at least in one sign, a multifaith prayer room. But even so, did that mean at the same time or did it have to be booked, at least in some casual but polite way? I found it eventually, and without seeking an answer to these questions, I ventured inside with my cushion underarm.

The room was small, tiny, I dare say smaller than most rooms I have ever been in. It didn’t feel too small though, a huge window took up one wall and made the room alive with light. I shut the door behind me. There was a lock. Should I lock the door? I didn’t lock the door.

I place my cushion in the centre of the very square, very small, room; assumed the posture and began concentrating on the breath, after a body scan. Standard meditation procedure.

I don’t time meditations usually, and didn’t this time, but some time into it the door opened. A fellow student entered the room. I turned slowly, aware of my movements, attempting to maintain the awareness that had been cultivated thus far.

The young man was a Muslim, and he asked quietly if he could use the room for prayer. I nodded and moved to the back corner of the room, aware that he would need more space for prostrations. It turns out the room planners didn’t consider the orientation of the room very well as in order to pray in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, the chap had to lay in his prayer mat diagonally in what was already a small floor space. I don’t think he expected me to stay, I think he expected me to leave. I resumed my posture and centred my attention to the breath once more, but this time the young Muslim was in the centre of the tiny room prostrating and uttering phrases under his breath.

I’m pretty sure he had no idea what I was doing, or why, and I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was uttering and why. Nevertheless, in that room, with an assumed capacity limit of 1, there were 2 people creating an atmosphere. He left before I did. But, as I looked back on that moment, I realised that my meditative practice was not less because of his prayer, and I like to think my presence offered something a little different to his noon prayer. I don’t like to try to verbalise precisely what we were offering each other, I don’t think it would do it justice; but, maybe, his praying was offering me to contemplate humility, and my mediating was offering him some balance. He was moving a lot, I was still; he was speaking, I was silent; he was reaching far out, I was reaching far in.

But then again, maybe, maybe he’s thinking, what was that weirdo doing just sat in the prayer room. 

A week in Hell #05

A week in Hell #05

Terror, if you subscribe to it, will open up the Gates of Hells. You may be sucked in. For playing along with those living in Hell, or bound to it, will suck you in. There is no need to suscribe to terror, what are you scared of? How helpful is that fear to accessing happiness and liberation? 

What to do then with those exercising torment unto themselves and others? Completely stuck. They believe the only way to escape Hell, may be to dig further into it. That, I suppose, is the delirium of those without groundedness, those who create their own noise. Unaware that silence is the ground of being, and that being silent is to recognise emptiness as empty of a defined, fixed self, freedom could not be further away even though they’re in it. 

There is a large emphasis on what the family of a person, dying and destined for a Hell realm, can do in scripture. Empowered to do. But let’s widen scope, let go of family boundaries and fixed, rigid concepts of death as the only opportunity for rebirth. What can I do now for those of Hell anywhere and anytime? To me, that is more pragmatic, more to the point and of the moment, more useful. The answer, for me, lies in boundlessness…

To sit with love for love and of love.

Maybe one of the best, pragmatic thing we may do living a contemplative life is to meditate on True Love, on the Four Immeasurable Minds “brahmavihāras”.  If we cannot love ourselves first, free of guilt and, and just plainly free. To love is to understand. To understand is to listen deeply, in silence of mind. Listening deeply to ourselves, we learn to listen deeply to others, the cries of the World, the screams of Hell. Then we can act in a way that nourishes ourselves and others, with equanimity we wish to soothe  the torment of those in Hell. 

That’s the aspiration, and there have been moments in my life when I felt I was in some way close to this, but the bar is set. We know what must be done, for as long as there are those suffering in Hell, suffering will beget suffering, and samsara will continue to turn. 

“If with kindly generosity

One merely has the wish to soothe

The aching heads of other beings,

Such merit has no bounds.”

-Shantideva 


Thank you for reading,

-dharmacaterpillar 

Just ask. 

Just ask. 

Life can be sticky, it’s easy to get stuck. You feel like there is no way out and this is often accompanied by hopelessness. 

Ask the correct questions and find out the nature of the stickiness. What are you stuck to? And how for how long? I hope that by asking and enquiring into the nature of how you are stuck, you can unstick yourself! 

Why would this be the case? This may happen because what you are doing when you ask these honest questions is that you exercise one of the most magical faculties you have; imagination. The very phrase “I’m stuck” derives from a place of imagination. Extrapolate. By exercising the imagination, solutions become available, and asking is a great place to start this process. 

Who are you asking? You are not alone. No one is. Not truly or absolutely. You may, or may not, feel alone, or experience periods of loneliness. I don’t deny you of that experience. But fundamentally, you are not alone. So when you ask, even if there is no person you feel you can ask and explore your life’s trends with, ask outwardly. Ask the Cosmos. 

Some people would call it prayer. You may also, but you needn’t give it a name. What’s important is the process. Get grounded, sit with a confident and open posture, sit with silence for a while and then just ask “what am I stuck to?”. 

Be patient, be diligent, be receptive. 

Kind wishes,

dharmacaterpillar