By Anna Bowness-Park
A recent article in the Vancouver Sun regarding a UBC study on the link between asthma and antibiotics in children offers a thought provoking opportunity for us all.
The article does not deny that antibiotics are useful, but it asks an important question. Why is our society so determined to persistently use these medications even when there is substantial documentation that overuse of antibiotics is a bad idea? I suggest the answer is the level of our fear of disease.
Society is terrified of disease and yet fascinated. We watch movies, tissues in hand, about someone slowly dying of a disease we dread, or in horror about some terrible contagion introduced from outer space. Media discuss disease daily, its causes and consequences. Television commercials are now dominated by the assertions of drug companies promoting the answers to our fears. Yet are we any less fearful as we rush in increasing numbers to these answers?
Perhaps it is time to stop our rush to the medicine cabinet, and begin to address the underlying problem of living in a fearful society, and how to alleviate the fear. What is it that we fear? Is it is real fear or a habitual way of thinking? And how do we get off the incessantly turning wheel of fear?
What if, through the practice of quiet, contemplative prayer we could feel a connectedness to God that brings more confidence, peace, and freedom from fear?
In many ways prayer is not unlike the Eastern form of meditation so popular today. In fact some would argue that prayer and meditation are the same thing. While some prayer forms are meditative, from my perspective, as a Christian Scientist, there are some interesting differences between the two. The main one is that contemplative prayer tends to look AWAY from oneself and towards a God that is pure, unconditional Love. It is a time to still the nagging, ceaseless voice of fear by looking towards divine Love; to feel secure in the presence of Love. To feel God’s hug, is the way I think of it.
Christ Jesus described prayer to his followers this way,
“Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.”
There is one important and helpful step into this “secluded place.” It is the act of “remembering.” I remember the times I have felt God’s divine embrace, and the effect that it had on me. I do this remembering every day in little moments. It also is the start of my prayer practice, whether I am having a good or bad day. This remembering is more than gratitude. It is the practice of a recurring sense of good. This begins to silence the repetitive imaginings, fears, and events that would haunt my every day. In the stillness of God’s presence, fear melts, confidence is renewed and healing ideas flow.
In the clamour and cacophony of everyday life, a contemplative prayer practice is a quiet but effective medicine for fear. The wonder of it is that we can all learn to practice it and to feel its benefit.