Think of life like a river. When you relax into the current, it flows easily. But if you decide to get out of the river and go ashore, you’ll have to work against the flow to get yourself out of the stream. The path won’t be as smooth or comfortable and you’ll find it’s a whole lot more work to move forward. When you slide back into the river, you rejoin the flow and things are easy again. Taking Step 11 allows us to live in the divine flow of the river of life.
The Bhagavad Gita states that in order to become who we are meant to be, we must let go of self will. In Step 11, we finally get to give up trying to run the show. In this step we ask to know divine will, so we can practice coming into alignment with it and becoming willing to carry it out. Prayer and meditation are ways to surrender self will and attempts to direct life. The body needs nourishment from food and the soul needs nourishment from the light of God. Prayer and meditation give us access to this light. When we nourish our souls, we thrive.
Prayer or meditation? It’s the intention that matters
Some say prayer is asking, while meditation is learning to listen. Whichever you choose, seek to improve your conscious contact with divine will on a daily -- and moment-to-moment -- basis. This is necessary to maintain freedom from raga, addiction and attachment, and to move beyond the kleshas, or afflictions in life. Pray first for viveka, or discernment, to choose to be in God’s will, then the courage and awareness to carry it out will be there.
Prayer was not something I took to right away because I didn’t understand it. The mere thought of praying brought up tremendous resistance. When I finally got to the end of my rope exerting my self will, I had to release the rope entirely and look for something bigger to guide me. I still don’t understand prayer, but I have the direct experience of it working so I use it every day.
Many use the prayers of St. Francis to create an atmosphere for meditation where we might open our hearts to the sunlight of the spirit. Any prayer works if you feel it creates a connection within. Chanting mantra externally or internally can also serve this same purpose. Repeating a mantra or prayer will clear clogged energy channels and get prana moving again when you are angry, agitated or experience any disturbance. Try using a mala to repeat the mantra or prayer 108 times. This divine number lifts you out of self will and into connection with something greater. Meditation has no boundaries and can always progress to expanded levels where you can improve your conscious contact with the God of your heart. It is an unlimited arena.
With commitment and a consistent schedule, prayer and meditation can become your foundation. When you give yourself to divine will through this type of communication, you’ll see greater emotional balance, peace of mind and connection to the stillness within. Constant fear becomes a thing of the past, replaced by the understanding that you are a part of humanity, no greater nor less than any other person. We are all sharing the same riverboat, the divine at the helm serving as our loving guide.