A few years ago I wrote a letter to You which I recently re-read. In it I ostensibly talked about the use of a lot of words in praying to You. But as I went along in the letter it dawned on me that the number of words is meaningless. What matters is the loss of self; and then the epiphany hit me that the use of a lot of words may not be meaningless at all, but, in fact, may help in losing my self.
I got to thinking about this so much that I decided to write You again about it and about how the key to losing self may simply be the act of praying. If I struggle in seeking ways to diminish my self it is because I put so much self in my struggle. Losing self falls more in line with just “letting go.”
Naturally in centering prayer and contemplation we make efforts to ignore self. We cultivate methods with which to do this. We practice and we get better at letting everything around us and in us just go away. In our morning or evening prayers, or in prayers we say throughout the day, we form words in our heads and on our lips. Sometimes it’s just a few words. Sometimes it’s a lot of words. In the formation and communication of these words to You there is attached a period of time (depending on our number of words) when our self is pushed aside. This holds true, of course, when we’re praying for something or someone other than ourselves. The self is temporarily suspended. This is a strong demonstration of how praying suspends self. It falls in line with those occasional times when we lose ourselves in doing something totally for another.
If, in prayer, the quasi-artificial device of using more words suspends the self for a longer period – so much the better! If we use a mantra or special word or phrase in centering prayer we’re doing the same thing – removing the focus on ourselves. Thus, answers to “what’s in a word?” might be – peace, loss of self, and union.