Have you ever repeated a single word or phrase over and over until you suddenly forget what it means? When I was kid, I had an obsessive-compulsive habit of repeating a single word in my head. I would lock onto one word and say it nonstop until I forgot what it meant. It amused the hell out of me.
Granted, I was sort of an odd duck as a child, but I know many people who have experienced this strange occurrence. It’s called “semantic saturation,” a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to become temporarily meaningless.
Repetition of anything can become dull and meaningless, much like words in your head. Eating the same food every day can become boring very quickly. Listening to the same music without variety can become very tedious. Doing the exact same exercise at the gym every day is not only boring but also becomes less and less effective over time. In fact, if you want to build a stronger, healthier body you absolutely must change up your routine, otherwise, your muscle and cardio improvement will plateau.
Prayer and meditation are no different. It’s important to occasionally change things up. You don’t have to do something drastically different every day, but there are times when variety in your practice is essential to keeping it fresh, interesting and effective.
Over the years, I have tried many different styles of meditation. These include sitting meditation, walking meditation, reclining meditation and yoga meditation. I’ve even practiced fishing meditation, my personal favorite, which I will discuss in a later chapter. But the point I want to make is this: you don’t have to do just one type of meditation or prayer, or a combination of the two, all your life. I encourage you to try a variety of methods over time. Some you will enjoy, while some you won’t. But keep exploring, because that’s half the fun.
All the major religions have developed some form of meditation. Of course, the most famous is Buddhist meditation, which offers a wide variety of styles and methods. But there are many other forms of meditation including Hindu meditation, Christian meditation, and Sufi meditation. In almost every community in Western culture you can also find various guided meditations without any religious connection.
The same thing holds true with prayer. In the stereotypical image of prayer, we often see a child on her knees, hands pressed together, staring up to heaven. This is a wonderful way to pray, and one I often use, but it’s by no means the only way to pray. I often pray while lying in bed. Walking prayer is extremely effective and often allows for a much deeper level of contemplation. Prayer during exercise is one of my favorite methods. Yoga in particular can be one of the best times to pray.
You can pray and meditate indoors or outdoors, in a crowded room or an empty room. You can do both in a mansion or homeless shelter, in a tree, on a rock or on a yacht, on a beach or in a forest. Anywhere and everywhere can provide an opportunity to pray and meditate. I’ve often slipped away from a party or crowded event and found an empty room to spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation. Since I sometimes struggle with social anxiety, this is often the only way I can get through certain situations.
I once read about a woman who would place a cushion on the sidewalk in the middle of Time Square in New York and meditate for up to an hour. Think about that! Thousands of people pass through Time Square every day, tourists, business people, street performers. Cars are honking. People are talking and sometimes yelling at each other (we are talking about New York). All the while a woman is able to sit in the middle of all the chaos and successfully meditate and find tranquillity amidst the mayhem. Now if that’s not a way to keep it interesting, I don’t know what is!
I’m not suggesting you need to go sit in the middle of a crowded street every time you pray or meditate. But it’s good to change things up occasionally. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Variety in prayer and meditation will keep you more interested and will enhance your experience.
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