Saturday, March 15, 2014

Prayer and Subjective Well-being

Researchers at the University of Illinois studied the correlation of prayer type with subjective well-being.
Participants were assessed for the types of prayer they engaged in: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, reception and obligatory prayer. They were also assessed for subjective well-being, using measures that included spiritual support, optimism/pessimism, meaning of life, life satisfaction and self-esteem.
Prayers of thanksgiving, adoration and reception were statistically significant predictors of positive subjective well-being, while prayers of confession, obligation and supplication were significantly correlated with negative well-being.
 Prayers of adoration, thanksgiving and receptivity are aimed at allowing things to be as they are without referring to needs and outcomes. Prayers of obligation, confession and supplication are aimed at a desired outcome or an obligatory measure to avoid an outcome. With relationship to the Self, the latter (negative well-being) prayers are self-focused versus the prayers associated with positive well-being are God-focused. The authors noted, “To a large extent, these egoless forms of prayer are an attempt to give something to God.”
In the Abrahamic traditions, prayer is the medium through which union with God in the Spirit of love and adoration takes place. Many of the non-Abrahamic traditions, Buddhism and Hinduism for example, include meditation/prayer practices with an objective of negating ego-self. Meditation and mindfulness practices are being widely used in behavior therapy as a means to reduce anxiety and treat certain cognitive disorders. Neurophysiologic studies are demonstrating  physiological evidence of brain activity during stress and during meditation that correlates with awareness and emotional arousal and  inhibition.
Prayer, or the process of being in quiet reflection, give us time to let go. It provides a space for us to bring our presence of mind and receptive heart together in alignment in a way that can limit thoughts that impose negative energies, opening to a thoughtlessness that allows God or Ultimate Reality to hold a benevolent and positive space with us. It "heals." It facilitates “right relationship,” whether you perceive that as being with God, or with Self, it is the elimination of ego-barriers to positivity. 
True orthodoxy or “right ideas” is akin to the Wisdom (Panna) and Concentration (Samadhi) aspects of the 8-fold path in Buddhism. It is not about correct doctrine or intellectualism, but about correct holistic thinking or non-thinking, using both objective and subjective mindfulness in order to attain “right relationship.”

1 Corinthians 2:10-16
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord

    so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

What does it mean to "have the mind of Christ?"

May your mind and heart find comfort and serenity in the stillness of your prayers. 
Peace and all goodness to you, Peggy _/\_

Orthodoxy -from Greek orthos ("right", "true", "straight") + doxa ("opinion" or "belief", related to dokein, "to think."

Whittington, BL and Scher SJ. Prayer and Subjective Well-being: An examination of six different types of prayer. International Journal of Psychology and Religion, 20:59-68, 2012.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Knowledge, Love and Suffering - the Paradox of Passion

The image of the cross to Paul is what opens the mind to the spirit. Richard Rohr says there are two things that lead us to transformation (that is, redemption/metanoia/changing the way we see things) love and suffering. Love opens the heart space and then the mind space. Suffering opens the mind space and then the heart space. This latter path is what Paul describes – 

“But the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved (enlightened), it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:18.

The goal of spiritual life, according to John, was more about agape (love) than gnosis (wisdom) as with Paul. This is not affective emotional love, however. It is the love exemplified in the cross, the washing of the feet, the caring for the unlovable. It is compassionate love.

One thing we will discover is the way in which knowledge and love vary in importance as the manifestation of the presence of God in the person opens to his grace. In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries, knowledge will prevail. In the 11th through 14th centuries, love will take over.

New Testament Images:
Metanoia = Mind of Christ
Cross = Love in total Humility
Purity of Heart = Logos – emptiness (poverty) which allows for enlightenment and union (apophatic explanation) OR Kierkegaards definition, the ability to will one thing – to see the light of God (kataphatic explanation); these can also be likened to transformative suffering (opens the mind, then the heart) and love (opens the heart then the mind).

As I reread this, I realize that both the Cross image and the Purity of Heart image can converge the concepts of suffering and love or receptive (apophatic) and active (kataphatic). Truly, one of the most profound interpretations of the Cross is the union of love and suffering, the two occurring at once, the reduction of paradox into one symbol that includes everything!

One Christmas while writing an advent devotional on Joy, I discovered paradox. I realized the unity and the paradox of love and suffering, and the word, Passion, that captures both. We often think of passion as romantic, ardent love. In Latin, the verb patior means "to suffer."  I then understood the Passion of Jesus the Christ. Love in humility suffering willingly for the greater good. These mingle all the time, every day. They are. And they are not. All of reality is paradoxical (the point of parables and koans). 

When Ireneaus said, "The glory of God is a human fully alive." He was referring to the paradox of being human. Everything exists as both positive and negative, good and bad, matter and energy, what is seen and what is not. We coexist like particles and waves. We tend to see objects and concepts linearly and either one way or the other. But they are exchanging places all the time. And our awareness simply catches them at one point in time and another and another...indeed, how would we know light without the darkness? 

In part, adapted from Urban Holmes, A History of Christian Spirituality

If I remain silent, paradox will reveal itself to me. It is in silence that I can hold the tension of either - or. And once I realize that either/or is both/and, I have discovered something very special. I have eyes to see! I have discovered the Unity of Life, the Oneness of all things.

Blessings, Peggy