Starting at the bottom

Sitting here today I am distracted. My head is all over the place. I didn’t pray first thing and I have been walking, writing, talking, reading, cooking and eating breakfast. I’m feeling a bit sleepy. It is difficult to settle into stillness and silence. I am elsewhere.

I have forgotten how to pray and instead I am trying to achieve prayer.

Good prayer starts at and with the bottom: the flesh we sit upon, and specifically the anus, pelvic floor and genitals: this place of elimination and generation. This bottom serves us well.

We often consider this part of this body shameful and dirty and it tends to be forgotten – the felt-sense of it repressed – or fetishised. It is imperative to bring the shameful before the One who made this body and wants, delights in, and needs, all of who we are.

It is a principle in spiritual life: the more we are able to admit (let in, accept), and admit to (own), the more we are able to open and surrender to God in complete transparency. (‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished.)

The bottom is the fundament. It is the foundation, the solid base. To bring focus here, to relax, to settle, to open, is the basis of being and being present:

  • breathe, relax;
  • feel into your bottom;
  • relax the pelvic floor;
  • do not just ‘pay attention to’ the bottom, but realise this bottom is you – not that you are only your bottom, but your bottom is not other than yourself;
  • let your being sink down to this place;
  • breathe, relax;
  • breathe, relax;
  • breathe, relax;
  • allow your bottom to be yourself, for to deny this is to deny you.

When you head starts to spin off, as surely it will do if you are alive, thoughts circling like vultures seeking whom they may devour, do not worry. Breathe and relax again and return to this bottom.

If you want you can let this awareness spread through the rest of this body.

And, just in case you are wondering when I am going to start talking about prayer, stop! This is prayer. This is praise. This is reverence. This is serving God our Lord. This is saving your soul. (Exercises, 23)

Be here: there’s nowhere else.

Next: Starting at the bottom (part 2)

4 thoughts on “Starting at the bottom

  1. Ah I like this. The word anus does not usually turn up in a piece about prayer. I’m sure focusing on our bottoms helps us with all sorts of pomposity, self-aggrandizement, foolishness. In grounding us in our animal nature it also, by extension, faces us with the reality of our own death. It debunks loftier spiritualities and helps us really to start where we’re at.

    1. This puts one or two place names on the map Nicholas Zernov was referring to when he said ‘God always approaches us from beneath, and we must always stoop to meet him.’

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