Daily Meditations


As our practice deepens we see that thoughts are as porous as screen, porous to their grounding Silence. Realizing this, we are not quite so compelled to react or push away or grasp. Yet the externals of our practice remain basically the same; whenever we are aware that the attention has been stolen, we bring the attention back, whether or not we need to repeat the prayer word.

While the externals of our practice are the same, the practice has become, seemingly of itself, a spacious sort of thing, a place of refuge, indeed a space to move into and out of, a space to be in the midst of however life happens to be at any given moment. This is so even if we find we do not have to repeat the prayer word anymore. At this doorway of practice our relationship with distractions changes.

Whether distractions are tumultuous or tame, this inner spaciousness is able to receive all. Whereas before we may have had a sense of being tight, shallow, and reacting to noise, now we sense that our very awareness itself (not the objects we are aware of, which awareness can never be) is vast, receptive, open, and generous.

Receiving and letting go are one and the same. If there is an inner commentary that says, “Oh, wow, look, I’m receiving” or “Look, I’m letting go,” we simply meet this and receive it in this flow and are not snagged by this commentary (though that, too, is part of the flow). What happens at this doorway of practice? Mostly nothing. We simply listen as deeply as Mary to Gabriel (Lk 1:26-38).

Our search for God, who has sought and found us from all eternity (Jer 1:5), is shown to be nothing but this deep listening to the alluring knock: “Behold I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:2). “I am the Door” (Jn 19:9).

As our practice of silent prayer matures from place of refuge to place of encounter, what is our practice like and what is our relationship with thoughts? The external circumstances of our lives continue to be whatever they happen to be at any given moment, but now we experience these circumstances differently.

At the same time we have long begun to take account of and make amends for the many ways in which we set ourselves up for much of our misery by deriving our sense of identity from and acting out of this inner chatter. But the real value of this doorway of practice is that no matter what happens while we are praying, whether miserable or marvelous, we encounter freedom, even in the midst of the reactive chatter about life.

At this doorway of prayer it is often the case that we do not need to repeat the prayer word while praying; an eagle does not always need to flap. With even the simplest impulse to pray (or even when the body happens to adopt its posture of prayer—whether sitting, walking, standing) we are immersed in the luminous expanse of awareness. Moreover this “we” that is immersed in awareness is itself a vast field of awareness that has no boundaries. This formless vastness bodies forth as prayer.

~ Adapted from Martin Laird, A Sunlit Absence:  Silence, Awareness, and Contemplation