Sounds of Silence

Ways to Pray
There are almost as many ways to pray as there are ways to be religious. Perhaps this is because human beings have different specialities almost from the beginning of their lives. S. Therese of Lisieux began, as a child, by pretending to be a contemplative - and just look what happened to her! This page consists on a few shallow notes on 'how to' be contemplative.
Most of us use more than one way to pray, perhaps hardly even noticing the difference between one moment and another.  We range from the occasional 'arrow prayer' - "Help!", to rambling on at God about whatever is closest to our hearts at a given time. Some of us still 'Say the Offices'- this at least keeps us from treading a well worn path that may well be a hidden trap, bringing us into a set opinion about ourselves and our own way of thinking. We may use the Well known PACTS form of prayer, and attend to the liturgical forms - either as a well worn, and even half unacknowledged vessel for a devotional attitude, or as a group activity. If we were well trained we have learned to meditate on the gospels, and to reflect on our day at its ending, in the light of someone else's opinion than our own. Perhaps at some stage these pages may include more on the various kinds of prayer. But for now, we will stick with the beginnings of contemplative prayer, and the sounds of silence.. 
A Few Considerations
It might be easiest at first to consider that most of us prefer to use one or two senses rather than the others. So if, for some reason, the way you were taught doesn't seem to have ever worked,  you might think for a bit about whether you tend to describe things in terms of what you see, or of what you feel - emotionally- or of what you touch. 
Whatever you decide makes you feel most comfortable and devotional, there are some important rules to follow. 
* Keep your spine straight so your breathing is free
* Give yourself as much help as possible. 
       -a place and position you associate with doing this is a good start. 
       -as much freedom from interruption as possible. 

The Way We Are
If you decide that you are a visual person then you will make sure that what is around you tends to settle you. An icon, something to look at before you close your eyes, perhaps a candle. 
You may find that when you close your eyes, and begin to drift down, you will become aware in a relaxed way of the pleasant darkness inside your eyelids. Bring your 'sight' back to what a wonderful book once called 'The Dazzling Darkness', whenever you discover that your attention has drifted. But above all, don't fuss with the 'drift'.

If you decide that you are a verbal person  then you may well decide to use a mantra. You will find at least one on these pages. Use the words, but don't consider their meaning. There is a vast difference from repeating the same word or phrase over and over in order to still the mind, and give it something to distract it, while your attention goes toward 'That' which lies within and is transcendent to it, and the 'many words'. Come to that, there is a vast difference between a mantra, and between 'thinking your way through a famous prayer' - that is meditation. Try to remember that it is not that God needs help to hear us, rather that we need help to be quiet enough to hear God. 

Similarly you may find it much easier to become aware of your own breathing. 

Or you may use a combination of all these things, timing the word or phrase to your breath, or to your sight. 

Do not reject or censor thoughts, they may seem to be trivial, but it is almost certain that they contain what is really important to you. Similarly, don't follow them, as a puppy follows one smell after another. Very gently be aware of them, and let them float through you, as bubbles in a fish tank.. pretty and distant. You may feel that you ought to be praying for world peace, and find yourself praying instead about Aunt Ethel's bunions.  Be at peace then, and notice that for the time being, the bunions have priority, then gently bring yourself back to the point. 

Sometimes you will become aware that one of these thoughts is like an urgent message. A need to intercede, to hold a person, or a place in the arms of God with you. Then do so, either by picturing them, or by alternating their name with the Word or Phrase, or by holding their name in the Dazzling Darkness, until you feel the release or timing their name to your breath and the 'thought of God'.

Sometimes the most distracting thing will be a feeling. Perhaps your knees, like mine, are giving out (smile). Don't fidget, it only makes it worse. Just hold the sore bit with your mind, or imagine yourself breathing in and out through the affected part, and as you breathe in relax, and as you breathe out, feel the discomfort go into the earth. Then return your mind, and your vision to the word or the dark, and give yourself to the One who waits in the silence. Pretty much the same applies if your feeling is an emotion.

This is your time to sit with Him, to listen to Him. Even feelings of great love, or joy, or tears, or sorrow, are to be treated in the same way. Not for any of the gifts, not for fear, not for great wisdom or healing do we do this, but for love, and because we have been given the gift of wanting to be with him. 

After a little practice - (about as many minutes as you are old - twice a day at maximum, until you are twenty) - you will find that as you go about your business you are aware of that presence, within and without you. That you see the world differently. 

The practice of the Presence is infectious. 
Cenacle Prayer
The Jesus Prayer