Rowan Williams: how Buddhism helps me pray
By John Bingham, 02 Jul 2014 Former Archbishop of Canterbury reveals intense daily meditation ritual influenced by Buddhism and Orthodox mysticism former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has disclosed that he spends up to 40 minutes a day squatting and repeating an Eastern Orthodox prayer while performing breathing exercises as part of a routine influenced by Buddhism.
He explained that he draws daily inspiration from the practice, common to both the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, of meditating while repeatedly reciting the “Jesus Prayer”, which says: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”.
“Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” he explained
“So: the regular ritual to begin the day when I’m in the house is a matter of an early rise and a brief walking meditation or sometimes a few slow prostrations, before squatting for 30 or 40 minutes (a low stool to support the thighs and reduce the weight on the lower legs) with the 'Jesus Prayer': repeating (usually silently) the words as I breathe out, leaving a moment between repetitions to notice the beating of the heart, which will slow down steadily over the period.”
Far from it being like a “magical invocation”, he explained that the routine helps him detach himself from “distracted, wandering images and thoughts”, picturing the human body as like a 'cave' through which breath passes.