Presence Through Prayer
How effective is your prayer practice? Has it become mere routine and ritual, or is every experience a beautiful journey deeper within? With a conscious approach, you can make your prayer practice a powerful catalyst for change, for personal growth and for communion with the Divine.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of routine and ritual, particularly when we have maintained a practice for an extended period of time, and especially when we’ve been performing this practice for years or even decades.
Yet a daily prayer practice is an essential tool to catalyzing spiritual development, maintaining a life of balance and preserving focus in a world of endless distractions.
In fact, a daily prayer practice such as the five daily prayers known as salah which is performed by Muslims and Sufis can be an invaluable exercise in cultivating presence, the essence of spiritual practice that leads to awakenng and transcendence of the self.
By being mindful of and applying the following five pillars of prayer practice, you can instantly transform your daily discipline from mere routine into a powerful experience quickening your spiritual evolution. After all, this is the purpose of prayer.
1. Set and Declare Your Intention
The value of an action is determined by the intention. — Prophet Muhammad (S)
By consciously declaring your intention for the few minutes you will be spending in prayer, you set your focus and thereby determine the value of the practice. This can make a significant difference in the experience, and a prayer session which is begun with a clear and conscious intention can be infinitely more valuable than one that is performed unconsciously. Additionally, by declaring an intention, you automatically bring yourself into presence during the exercise as it becomes a valuable activity in itself rather than just a ritual to be performed for the sake of getting it done.
Use an intention which feels good and effective to you. It’s important for this to be personal and based upon your understanding and personal experience. Here are a few examples:
“Great Lord of Heavens, I am going to stand in your Divine Presence in a state of prayer. Envelope me with Your light.”
“I am going to allow myself to melt and dissolve into the will of the Universe. I am letting go.”
“I am re-connecting with the Source of all goodness, beauty and light. Creator of all that is, shelter me.”
Such intentions can be incredibly powerful tools for exponentially increasing the value and joy of your prayer practice. When setting your intention, always make sure it is reflective of a belief in a reality which is based in benevolence.
2. Enjoy the Experience
Rush is from Shaytan. — Prophet Muhammad (S)
Once you’ve set a beautiful intention, one which feels good to you and aligns you with your most pressing need in the moment, now allow yourself to enjoy the experience.
Do not rush. Slow down. There is no need to exaggerate this — simply perform your prayer fully enjoying and experiencing every posture, every movement, every verse. Fully experience each posture, moving on only when it feels right to do so.
Become aware of any tension within yourself, and let it go. These are a few minutes in your otherwise busy day where you can treat yourself to a rejuvenating and relaxing experience, reconnecting with your Divine Source.
Simply perform your prayer for the act itself and not to complete it. It will complete itself. And you will be refreshed and rejuvenated.
3. Don Your Divine Dress
Perhaps nothing communicates to your subconscious who and what you are more quickly than does your physical appearance and attire. There is truth in the statement, “The clothes make the man (or woman),” and for this reason, it is recommended when possible to wear clothes that communicate to you your divine nature and origin, clothes which are reflective of nobility, beauty and truth. A good choice in clothing is conducive to spiritual practice and presence, and can make a significant difference in your state of consciousness.
Proper spiritual dress can be equated to royal regalia, reminding oneself of the honored position humanity has been granted in creation. Following are some articles of clothing which have been historically noted as especially conducive to a state of spiritual presence and effective energy flow, often referred to as sunnah clothing, each one of significance and increasing one’s immersion and the manifestation of sublime character:
- Loose, Comfortable Clothing. Appropriate attire is something which is loose and comfortable. Tight, constrictive clothing which accentuates the form is not only uncomfortable, but reinforces the egoic identity by highlighting the border between the individual and the rest of the Universe. Loose, gently flowing clothing naturally diffuses the form with which the ego identifies into the surrounding space, effectively diminishing its energetic force.
- A Head Covering. By covering the head with either a cap, a scarf or a turban, you help to protect yourself from lower frequency negative energy which is more dense than subtle positive spiritual energy. The crown of the head is the most sensitive part of the body and shielding it is not only practical, but also equates to an act of reverence, which is essential to spiritual development. The turban was described by the Prophet Muhammad (S) as a crown for a believer, and has been used throughout history not only by Muslims, but by the faithful of other traditions as well. It has traditionally been worn by prophets, messengers and saints. The cloth should be wrapped in a counter-clockwise direction around the head, reflecting the natural order of the cosmos.
- A Spiritual Cloak. Traditionally referred to as a jubba, khirqa or chappan, a spiritual cloak is simply a traditional cloak or robe, perhaps not unlike the robes worn be the Jedi spiritual warriors from the Star Wars universe. Alternatively, a shawl may be used as well. Again, by shielding and covering the form, one can effectively enter a deeper state of presence almost as if entering a private, personal cave secluding you from the rest of the world. It has been noted that the Prophet Muhammad (S) often covered himself in a shawl when receiving revelation. This tool creates a very real and intimate space for private communion with the Creator.
4. Engage Your Senses
Your visual and olfactory senses are some of the most powerful mediums with which to increase the efficacy and immersion of your prayer practice.
By controlling the lighting in the room and adjusting it so that it feels appropriate in the given moment, you facilitate the natural harmonizing of your soul with your current needs. Pay attention to what feels right and conducive. Brighter? Dimmer? More natural light? Adjust the light in the room accordingly. Your soul knows what you need in every moment, and it is always seeking presence, peace in the now, so pay attention and accelerate your spiritual development and healing.
Also, aromatherapy can be a very effective tool to cultivate greater immersion and presence during your prayer. Traditional natural scented oils are ideal, and scents such as rose, jasmine, sandalwood and the like are best. Either apply to yourself or evaporate with a diffuser. Alternatively, incense may be used. Use as natural quality as possible so as to not create an unnecessary burden upon your system from artificial chemical products.
5. Leverage Your Environment
Create a space conducive to spiritual practice and presence. An altar, relics and artwork are great tools to use. With artwork, tend towards more abstract forms rather than definitive material representations which will subconsciously re-inforce egoic identity by equating consciousness with physical forms.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep an item which has special spiritual significance for you upon a small altar in the area in which you practice. It will serve as a focal point and channel for spiritual energy.
- Use a prayer rug. A natural material such as wool is best.
- On occasion, make it a point to pray outdoors in a natural environment. Feel the breeze, the gentle chirping of birds and the sound of rustling leaves in the background. This is the presence of God. By changing things from time to time, you re-awaken the mind from its tendency towards slumber. By introducing something new, a new environment, you call your mind to consciousness.
Set your intention. Relax and enjoy the experience. Dress appropriately. Engage your senses. Leverage your environment. And make each experience unique and special, as if it may be your last.
To your divine success.