Advent in The Flow
I stumbled across something recently that, I think, will help me immensely.
The spiritual masters consistently admonish listeners to spend time in prayer, even if it's arid and nonproductive. The general gist is: "Put the effort in, but don't worry about how it goes." It's consistent with wisdom from across the spiritual plane: "Work hard, but don't worry about the results. Just work on what is in front of you, without thought to progress. The progress will come, and if it doesn't, hey, don't worry about it."
That's the theory, which is easy enough to grasp, but how does one apply it in the nitty gritty practice: while on the kneeler, or while at the office, or while studying? What, in other words, does the theory "look like" in practice?
I think the answer is: The Flow. Here's how I explained The Flow in an earlier TDE post:
“Flow” has been called an “optimal experience.” It's a state of “effortless concentration so deep that [the persons in the flow] lose their sense of time, of themselves, of their problems.” There are two forms of effort: “concentration on the task and the deliberate control of attention.” When you're in the flow, the deliberate control of attention comes naturally: it just occurs without trying. The “resources” that would be spent on trying to control your attention can, instead, be spent on the task at hand, thereby making you more effective when dealing with the task at hand. Adapted from Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
When you go to pray, make your first goal to get into The Flow. Once you're just concentrating on [insert prayer aid], not worrying about distractions or whether you're doing it right or whether you're concentrating hard enough or anything else, you get into The Flow. Once you're in The Flow, you're in the state of mind advised by the spiritual masters: Just doing, without thought of the doing.
Like I said, this connection between the psychological truth pointed out by Kahneman and prayer dawned on me just recently (last month), so I haven't had much experience with it, but so far, it holds true. Given that it's Advent, I thought it might be worth passing along.