“If you have a spirit, lose it,
loose it to return where with one word,
we came from.
Now, thousands of words,
and we refuse to leave.“
Our headline today is timeless spiritual wisdom and—after our provocative portrait of mega-best-selling preacher Rick Warren yesterday—we want to return for a day to this timeless inspirational power that most of our readers share in some form.
You may call it meditation. Prayer. Reflection. Centering.
In the traditions of India, including Hinduism and Buddhism, a string of 108 beads called “mala” is a widespread practice for centering meditation. (To read more, here’s Wikipedia on these strings of beads and there also are instructive Web sites like this one that focus more on Buddhist practice.)
Catholic and Muslim readers will instantly recognize the spiritual value of this concept from their own traditions of using beads in prayer. Protestants are less likely to have tried beads, although a small-and-growing number of creative evangelists are touching on this idea.
In a moment, we’re going to tell you about a great new book that provides 108 mala reflections in a single small volume. It’s callled, “Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems.” The Rumi poem in blue, above, is the first prayer in this new book from the New World Library.
ReadTheSpirit offers this same kind of daily discipline of reflective reading. Right now, for example, you might find your mind, heart and spirit recharged by reading Dr. Wayne Baker’s reflections on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—or, if your mind is on Haiti this week, take a look at Rodney Curtis’ moving story of his own journey to Haiti for National Geographic some years ago.
I love small prayer books like this. It’s a pleasant volume to hold with its soft, matte dust cover and creamy pages. The book is comprised mainly of 108 prayer-poems—or perhaps we might call them “moments of meditation” penned by more than 30 poets. The number of pieces chosen by the editors matches a string of mala beads, a practice familiar to Hindus and Buddhists—and a first cousin to Catholic and Muslim prayer beads.
The editors of this volume teach Hindu practices ranging from Vedic studies to Yoga. The foreword is from Buddhist scholar Jack Kornfield. But the poets in the volume form the actual community of teachers here and they stem from a broad array of traditions.
You’ll find the extremely popular Rumi here along with the universally celebrated St. Francis of Assisi and William Blake. But you’ll also find Navajo wisdom. And, you’ll hear from Dante Alighieri (of “The Divine Comedy”) and the Sufi poet Hafiz and the legendary Kabir, who mingled Indian traditions (and who we profiled in “Interfaith Heroes”).
If you’re like me, you’ve got a shelf (or perhaps shelves) somewhere in your home with well-thumbed prayer books you pull down occasionally and integrate into your life for a season. This new collection will carry you well through a day, a month, a season. You may have read some of these lines before in other collections—but these beads are arranged in a beautiful and spirit-provoking new way.
NEXT WEEK, we plan to continue our series of interviews with men and women from our “10 Spiritual Sages to Watch in 2010.” We will bring you a special “Conversation With Barbara Brown Taylor.” Her book, “An Altar in the World,” is about to be released in a new paperback edition
and also celebrates spiritual disciplines.
Finally, here’s one more sampling from “Mala” to help enlighten your journey through this week.
From St. Francis of Assisi:
“I think God might be a little prejudiced.
For once He asked me to join Him
on a walk through this world,
and we gazed into every heart on this earth,
and I noticed He lingered a bit longer
before any face that was weeping,
and before any eyes that were laughing.
And sometimes when we passed
a soul in worship
God too would kneel down.
I have come to learn:
God adores His creation.”
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)