An Experiential Exploration of Relaxation, Meditation, Prayer and Worship and its Benefits to Soul, Heart, Mind and Body
(This is a presentation given by Robert at the 2022 Tasmanian Conference)
All formal religions and individual spiritual pilgrims have, at their heart, a basic desire to connect or become one with a greater good. It lies somewhere at the core of their belief system, perhaps smothered by a greater or lesser amount of superficial ritualistic practices.
Western religions appeal to the intellect and promote desirable moral practices through examples given in the scriptures. Outsiders, and members of the church, often complain that, try as they may, it really doesn’t seem if there is anyone listening ‘up there’ as the realities and stresses of day-to-day living become increasingly complex and difficult to manage.
Eastern traditions take their adherents by the hand, sit them down and teach practical techniques for clearing the mind, being present and aware, and simply ‘listening’. These highly effective techniques have made their way to the West and developed into various forms meditation that have continued to evolve into practices to meet specific needs, and they have been scientifically demonstrated to achieve results1.
Philosophy speaks of everybody being an individual ‘Self’ making up a part of a greater whole. It is a concept much akin to the Holy Spirit of the Bible or that of the evolving Supreme Being of the Urantia Book. Philosophy calls the Self ‘Atman’ and the Supreme Self ‘Param Atman’ of which every individual is a part.
Supreme or Universal is a good name to use, particularly as such a term does not align itself, or show preference for, one religion’s terminology over another, yet embodies the concept that each religion’s preferred name for its own deity also implies universality and supremacy. The fundamental premise that we are all part of the Supreme and that the Supreme resides within us, and that we all seek permanent and infinite union with this Supreme.
Tools to Enjoy a Religion of Personal Experience
Most religions have volumes of scriptures, and secondary writings by their most respected masters, adherents or disciples, but, at the very heart of their core teachings, it is about cultivating a relationship of love, respect, or worship for a Universal Supreme who resides within, or permeates and binds, all of humanity, the entire world, as one. However, adherents of particular traditional religions are usually required to believe in their specific scriptures, often to the exclusion of others, and to faithfully follow their creed usually requires a belief in the unseen or the unprovable. Most intelligent individual spiritual seekers find this off-putting, and really desire nothing more than to discover and participate in a religion of personal experience.
Blind faith can be hard for some, for example scientists who prefer factual observations and concrete theories, however a religion based on personal experience goes far beyond that. It is something that is actually felt or experienced within the self. It is based on actual feelings of happiness, joy or love that are personally experienced when one acts or thinks in a particular way, or interacts with others in a particular way, or, perhaps, interacts the Universal Supreme in a particular way. It is a relationship in which you don’t have to believe, you simply have to feel and experience it personally. The Universal Supreme is known by many different names, depending on the religion that is followed, be it Allah, Yahweh, Almighty, God or simply Father, but any thoughtful person knows them to be one and the same, and a religion of personal experience allows direct access to the vast storehouse of love emanating from that Source who, in fact, resides within each of us, waiting to be discovered, tapped and shared.
Communication with the Universal Supreme is not experienced in the mind, which is the usual space in which we operate on a day-to-day basis, but instead it must be personally felt within the heart and soul. That is why the technique is not so easy to capture at first. It requires a little practice and patience to attain focus; a sense of stillness and equanimity within. The mind must first become stilled and calm; it must be present in your body, it must be there in the room or place where you are, attentive to your needs, and not wandering about aimlessly in the past or the future—not thinking about where you were and what you did yesterday, neither in the future plotting and planning for things to come, nor worrying about the trials and tribulations of life. Once the mind is calm and still, the heart and soul are free to communicate directly with the Universal Supreme that is found within and all around. Communication is not done via words or thoughts, but by feelings and emotions which, unlike a specific language, are universal and common to everyone. Feelings of joy and bliss and thankfulness can then emanate from the inner self shooting into the heavens like searchlight beams. Once the feelings and emotions are completely expended, freely given up to the Supreme, there comes a profound and deep silence within. This silence may last for a shorter or longer time, or perhaps only for a brief moment, but it is a moment of communion, complete oneness of the individual Self with the Supreme Self.
Appreciating these ideas is one thing, but putting them into practice requires some discipline and practice each day, morning and evening. Familiar religious practices or social rituals in the company of like-mined souls can help, like comfortable, well-known acquaintances; be it slipping the shiny well-worn beads of the Rosary between your fingers to the melodic chant of the Hail Mary, or perhaps the familiar calls to prayer in the coolness of the pre-dawn in eager anticipation of the coming day, or perhaps the rhythmic rocking of the body to the Torahic verses, or the congregational singing of full-voiced hymns of adoration and praise.
A Religion of Personal Experience, as the name suggests, is an even more intimate experiential relationship and there are a set of established spiritual tools or practices, tried and tested over the millennia of human existence on this planet, on which countless books have been written, and which I have distilled here for your immediate practical use. From here onwards you are asked not to believe what you are reading here, but to try for yourself, and feel through experience if such an approach has merit. If you do experience hints of calmness, oneness with all, joy, happiness, or the slightest glimpse of universal understanding, you are invited to continue to practice these techniques on a daily basis. Like exercising your physical body for good health, you must continue to hone and develop your heart and soul’s ability to express themselves—to give and receive freely.
What are the Spiritual Practices in The Urantia Book
The Urantia Book3 describes traditional religion, with its ritual, sacrifice and outward displays of piety as hollow and empty compared to the religion of personal experience. Spiritual practices in the Urantia Book place high importance on practices described as relaxation, meditation, prayer, or worship.
Although these terms all fall within today’s sphere of meditation with their objectives being similar,
the Urantia Book specifically defines these terms and places them in in a hierarchy from ‘relaxation’, ‘meditation’, ‘prayer’, and reaching a crescendo in ‘worship’.
The following quotes from The Urantia Book shed light on the meaning of these terms:
Prayer and its associated worship is a technique of detachment from the daily routine of life, from the monotonous grind of material existence (144.4.5, 1621.4)
The contact of the mortal mind with its indwelling Adjuster, while often favoured by devoted meditation, is more frequently facilitated by wholehearted and loving service in unselfish ministry to one’s fellow creatures. (91.7.1, 1000.2)
Paragraphs 91:7:2 and 125:4.4 show us that meditation is considered distinctly from prayer:
Jesus often took his apostles away by themselves for short periods to engage in meditation and prayer, but for the most part he kept them in service-contact with the multitudes. (91.7.2, 1000.3)
When this, his second day in the temple, was finished, again he went to Bethany for the night. And again he went out in the garden to meditate and pray. It was apparent that his mind was concerned with the contemplation of weighty problems. (125.4.4, 1382.2)
The word, ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’ is used more frequently in The Urantia Book, appearing 107 times. It is used in the sense of asking for something, and it is used distinctly from the word ‘worship’
When man learned that prayer could not coerce the gods, then it became more of a petition, favor seeking. But the truest prayer is in reality a communion between man and his Maker (91.2.3, 996.1)
When the prayer seeks nothing for the one who prays nor anything for his fellows, then such attitudes of the soul tend to the levels of true worship. 91:4.3, 998.1)
…prayer is designed to make man less thinking but more realizing; it is not designed to increase knowledge but rather to expand insight. (143:7.4, (1616.6)
Worship on the other hand is used 419 times in The Urantia Book. Worship is the highest note in the escalating musical scale of devotional activities beneficial to all individuals—beginning with rest and relaxation, then through reflection and meditation, then prayer, and finally worship, with worship being the ultimate act of devotion to the Father and the ‘ideal soul rest’.
At all times and during all ages the true worship of any human being—as concerns individual spiritual progress—is recognized by the indwelling spirit as homage rendered to the Father in heaven. (142:3.8, 1598.9)
The distinction between prayer and worship is emphasised on numerous occasions.
…prayer is spiritually sustaining, but worship is divinely creative. (143:7.5, 1616.7)
Prayer is self-reminding—sublime thinking; worship is self-forgetting—superthinking. Worship is effortless attention, true and ideal soul rest, a form of restful spiritual exertion. 143:7.7, 1616.9)
As prayer may be likened to recharging the spiritual batteries of the soul, so worship may be compared to the act of tuning in the soul to catch the universe broadcasts of the infinite spirit of the Universal Father. (144:4.8, 1621.7)
And consider the extraordinary reach of worship over that of simple prayer in the following paragraph in Paper 5 – God’s Relation to the Individual
Prayers, all formal communications, everything except adoration and worship of the Universal Father, are matters that concern a local universe; they do not ordinarily proceed out of the realm of the jurisdiction of a Creator Son. But worship is undoubtedly encircuited and dispatched to the person of the Creator by the function of the Father’s personality circuit. (5:3.2, 65.4)
In the Bible meditation is also describes as a focus for keeping one whole steady and centred. It is referred to some 23 times, for example:
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Worship is mentioned over 180 times in the Bible and also considered the highest form of devotion, that is the giving of one’s entire self, thoughts and emotions for God’s use:
Romans 12:1 I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
Meditation as a Spiritual Tool for Walking the ‘ROPE’
Popular types of meditation practices today are used to build stability of mind over time and the different approaches can be blended naturally until the perfect combination is found that suits your individual needs.
Below I order the modern meditation techniques into a progressive series of exercises according to the practices of rest, relaxation, meditation, prayer and worship.
- Mindfulness meditation
- Focused meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Progressive relaxation meditation
- Transcendental meditation
- Spiritual meditation
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Pure worship
For further information on the Practical Applications of meditation click here to view the entire PDF document. Here you will find a very helpful set of instructions on a variety of mediation techniques.