#7: Communal Consciousness

The Prompt:

Five times a day for the next five days, wash your hands and say a prayer or other positive statement while facing your home.  Reflect on this practice and on any ways it impacts your life or your thinking or your state of mind, body, or soul.  This could be a short daily journal entry, or a longer one at the end of the five days. 

The Context:

“…finally He said, ‘O Muhammad, it shall be five prayers each day and night, but each prayer service I will count as ten, so that will make it fifty prayer services.  The fact is that when a man intends a good deed but does not perform it I write it to his account as a good deed, but if he performs it I write it as ten good deeds.”  –A Hadith of Muhammad

The quote above is from a record (Hadith) of Muhammad’s mystical journey to heaven, in which Allah told him to have his people perform fifty prayer services each day.  At Moses’ recommendation, Muhammad repeatedly requests this number be reduced until finally it is settled at five.  In God’s infinite magnanimity, He reveals that He will count each prayer as if it were ten, and that even an action that is intended but not performed will count as a good deed.

In Muslim traditions, these special communal prayers or salat are performed five times a day.  They are said after a ritual washing, accompanied by a sequence of postures, and facing the holy city of Mecca.  For this journal activity, engage in a similar activity five times a day for five days and reflect on any ways this practice impacts you.  Ideally, choose times together with another person or group of people, so that you will know you are doing salat in community, even if you are not in the same physical space.

What might your salat look like?  You might think of a short prayer that you can say five times a day.  If you are a Muslim, do your normal salat.  If you are Christian, you might use “The Lord’s Prayer” or “Hail Mary.”  If you are Jewish, you might use a tefillah from the Siddur.  If you are Buddhist, you might chant “Om mane padme hum” or “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” or some other Buddhist chant.  If you are Hindu, you might say the words of a Hindu chant or a bhajan such as “Vaishnava Jana To.”  If you are a humanist or agnostic, create an expression of gratitude or wonder, or find a short poem, stanza, or affirmation that is inspirational to you.  In other words, stay true to your own tradition.

A note on prayer:  Prayer can be almost anything we would say to another person, only directed at God instead.  Just think about the things we might say to someone we love:

 “I love you.”

“You’re awesome.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Please forgive me.”

“Please help.”

“Thank you.”

“I trust you.”

“I want to be with you.”

“How are you?”

Plus, (and maybe most importantly):

Just listening attentively.

Being present in silence.

There is also just talking, about whatever comes to mind.

Of course, we don’t say all of these things to someone the first time we meet them.  It takes time to build a relationship.  Please don’t think you need to say any or all of these things in prayer, even if you choose to engage this prompt in a prayerful way.