Scripture ~ “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Spiritual Focus ~”The more we learn to pray as a whole person, the more meaningful prayer becomes, and the more it can serve as an instrument of transformation in our lives.” Fr. Tom Ryan
Breath Prayer ~ Inhale Silence, Exhale Silence
Devotion ~ We have many wonderful ways to enter into prayer: prayer chains, prayer boxes, private prayer, corporate prayer, written prayers, spoken prayers, silent prayers. Sometimes we keep or hold on to our prayer; sometimes we release our prayer in the smoke of a bonfire. We have prayer bracelets, rosaries and mala beads. We pray in sacred spaces inside chapels and outside in God’s natural sanctuary. Yet even with all these different ways to pray, we may find ourselves locked into one way of praying and limit ourselves in experiencing the gift of prayer.
Prayer is important to any spiritual journey as it offers a way to be in relationship with God. Over the last few months, Yogadevotion has been leaning into poetry as yet another way to pray. For the next few weeks, we will look at the whole-body prayer of yoga and its potential as an instrument of transformation.
Yoga philosophy teaches that the poses, or asana, liberate us from our thoughts, but perhaps a better way to think of this is that the poses liberate us from thoughts which are less important in the present moment. Being totally without thought may not be realistic but creating space for intentional thought or prayer can lead to transformation. Yoga asana offers many opportunities to guide us and help create that space.
This week let’s consider the prayer gift of drishti. Drishti is a “focused gaze”. Drishti is connected to the fifth limb of yoga, pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses, and the sixth limb, dharana, or focused concentration. How interesting that drishti can help us withdraw our senses from external stimulation and focus our concentration at one time, thus setting up an opportunity for meaningful connection with God, or prayer! We often use an external drishti in balance poses. We have probably experienced a form of drishti prayer without noticing it when we find ourselves gazing for a prolonged time at an object such as a candle or icon. However, drishti can also be an internal focus. Drishti can be meaningful any time we want to pause, withdraw from a plethora of thoughts, and be present and aware of God’s presence in prayer.
Drishti, also known as a long loving gaze, is one way of praying without ceasing. One spiritual teacher describes centering prayer as gazing at a loving God who is gazing back at me. This gaze turns our senses and concentration inward, incorporating the whole body, strengthening our relationship with God, and transforming our lives.