As some of us were discussing the strange feel of this life with social distancing, we expressed both a sense of gratitude for being safe and healthy, and a deep pang of sorrow for those many souls who are suffering. Those in my immediate circle of friends are relatively unaffected, but we all know that there are millions struggling to survive or find a foothold of peace as their lives are being swept away from beneath their feet.
We may find small ways to serve our local communities, but how do we offer support to the many others far away who are in dire need? One of the most powerful things we can do is to send prayerful energies. In doing so, we open our hearts and express our compassion on a spiritual level where we truly are connected with everyone.
When I was young and searching to really experience something instead of just accepting things on faith alone, I rejected the whole concept of prayer. The idea of sending my love to others or reaching out to some Supreme Being that would hear and respond to my thoughts was just too abstract for me. Now, through the teachings and practices of Yoga, I have come to a much different understanding and experience of prayer.
It helped me to understand that our minds have a limited capacity to know the truth and to comprehend our interconnection with each other and all of life. Prayer is an action taken from a deeper place within ourselves that is unaffected by the fears and doubts in the mind. When we willingly step outside the confines of the mind, as we do in meditation, we touch the spiritual ground of being we all share. It is from here that we can consciously send our sincere prayers for others to suffer less, to be protected and to find peace.
Those of us living in the New York Integral Yoga Institute when the twin towers came down in 2001, found praying to be a powerful way to express our heartfelt intentions to serve when there was little else we could do. Now, this current crisis is showing us in ways that no other event has, that we must come together as a global family to face this pandemic and support the already marginalized populations that are suffering the most.
Sri Swami Satchidananda suggested that we use whatever form of prayer comes naturally to us and engage our whole being in sending it. It may help to feel that we are generating a sense of peace or a healing energy within ourselves, and then sending these prayers outward through the heart. Creating such intentions circulates these energies throughout our own systems first, and directing them outward makes them accessible to all who are able to receive them.
I have led many gatherings of people in prayer this way and found it to be, without fail, a tremendous healing experience for those praying, and I feel certain for those being prayed for as well.
Soon after we began sheltering in place, the residents of the Integral Yoga Institute here in San Francisco began to gather each evening to send prayers out to all who are suffering from the pandemic. The group transmits this intention by chanting 54 repetitions of the Tryambakam mantra, a traditional mantra used for protection, healing, and rejuvenation.
I’m glad for this but I still wonder: When the immensity of suffering and loss from this virus is eventually revealed to us in tragic detail, are those of us who are safe and secure going to ask ourselves if we did enough? Though it may seem insignificant to the mind, let us all make time each day to think of and send out prayerful thoughts to those in need. I feel sure this will bring solace to many in ways we’ll never know.
About the Author:
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.