The Practices of the Community

The practices of the Thomasine Community are not overly difficult and yet can prove powerful when practiced daily regardless of feelings, desires, or spiritual dryness. These practices are Prayer, Passage Meditation, Mindful Diet, Charity, and Japa. While anyone may practice any of these practices, it is expected that all initiates practice most if not all of these things to lead a God conscious life. Non-initiates are free to practice or not practice these.

Prayer is the ritual prayer and foundational practice performed by all initiates in this satsang. Prayer is performed three times a day – in the morning upon rising, in the afternoon or evening and at night before bed. Prayer is preceeded by a ritual cleansing which represents a shedding of the lower mind and darker tendancies and a turning from all sins and mistakes. At least one unit of the prayers are performed during the three prayer times. The prayer is the ritual of our community, a practice that brings us back to the center and into the present moment. It is a mindfulness practice of union with the Beloved, where that of our spirit takes precident and the soul and body are brought into union with the Spirit. This prayer may take the form of the ritualized prayer found in this handbook, or a time of undistracted personal prayer.

Personal prayer is a living conversation with God that happens throughout our day. We should desire a living, vital relationship with God. It should be as real as a relationship with with a spouse or family member. It is only through regular communication with the Beloved that we can experience that longing for union and reunion. Without the building of the relationship, there can be no love affair.

Passage Meditation is a spiritual practice that is a distinctive practice in our satsang. This practice begins with reading a piece of spiritual writing, whether scripture or writing by a teacher, saint, or prophet. We read it several times, more slowly each time. We stop and ponder what God is speaking to us in this passage. After this period of pondering, we return to slowly read the passage a few more moments. Then we allow a word or two of the passage to stand out to us, and we repeat the word or words in a prayerful contemplation. We allow the words to be meditated upon on like a cow chewing the cud. When this time is complete we offer the passage to be transformed into a prayer to God. The period ends with a time of silent meditation. This passage should be worked with again and again. This practice should be done regularly, if not daily then a few times a week. If not a few times a week, then at the very least once a week.

Mindful Eating is not done because some animals are good or evil. Just as ritualized prayer reminds us to return to the center through the periods of the day, mindful eating reminds us to be conscious what and when we eat. It offers our most mundane action to God, making the sacred present even in the act of eating. Through following mindful eating we are declaring that we are not animals eating only what is set in front of them or only based on base wants..but rather bringing our bodies and desires into the mindfulness of our relationship to God. Before we eat we remember where our food came from, considering the lives of the workers, the treatment of the animals and the earth, and the web of life that contributed to its life. Though there is no rule for or against vegetarianism, we must be mindful that our eating does take the life of an animal or plant, and we should aknowledge this as a sad fact of living in this world of forms.

Charity is simply giving every time you receive a paycheck. We ask that each person give out a portiontheir excess to those in need to a charity- whether to an individual or an organization who provides care (physical, mental, or spiritual) for those in need. Spirituality without works of compassion are a sham. Of course, if one does not have money to give there are other ways to give in charity. In other words one does not need to have financial resources to earn the reward of charity. There are many deeds that qualify as charity with God. In addition to those listed above the following ordinary practices are also charity if we do them with the intention of pleasing God with them. These can easily be interpreted for a modern audience.

1. To pursue social justice is charity.
2. To help those who are differently abled is charity.
3. To care for an animal is charity.
4. A good word is charity.
5. Every step taken toward prayer is charity.
6. Your smile for your brother or sister is charity.
7. Planting anything from which a person, an animal or anything eats is charity.

Japa is the chanting whether verbally or internally of the sacred word given upon initiation by the Abba or Bishop, or a name of God. This practice can be done walking or driving and creates a mindfulness of the the Divine no matter what one is doing. Eventually one will notice that the japa continues throughout his or her day regardless of what is being done, work or play. This creates a God consciousness that is ideal for opening to grace.

These practices are not monitored by anyone but the practitioner and God. If he or she does not do them, there is no spiritual police who will issue a citation. Rather one just turns around (repents), renews one's vows to God and begins again. These practices are designed to keep the murid conscious of God throughout his or her day regardless of whether one feels like it or not. Often in times of spiritual dryness one will find later that the practices were conduits of grace that they may not have noticed at the time. Thus it is important to stick with the practices even through this dryness. This constant consciousness of God awakens the heart to the Beloved, opening it to his grace like a flower opening to the sun.


Popular posts from this blog

A Second Coming Out - Eros United

The Lessons of Aphrodite - Pleasure: Lesson 2

The Lessons of Aphrodite - The Body: Lesson 3