Spiritual growth is like a log that’s been pulled from the ocean and is drying on the beach. Over a long time, the sun gradually dries the whole thing out. But sometimes a wave comes and soaks the log again, or rain comes and drenches it. Still, it then gets wet on the surface, but the deeper parts that have already dried remain dry. So too, for most of us, there is some wetness on the surface and some wetness really deep down. In between there is the felt effect of the sun.
The wetness is ego- that is, the self which is defined by the mind’s concept of what has happened and what will happen in time. When you’re all wet, you might think, “I am wet- wetness is what I am”. But you are not the wetness, you are the sensing of the wetness. When the sun dries you out, you can see in retrospect that there was wetness but it was not really you. You are not actually defined by time at all; you are happening now, you are Reality.
Meditation is like the log opening to the sun’s drying power. Stop creating time, stop the incessant involvement with mental activity and you begin to dry out. But there is another way. You can also generate heat from within and that will evaporate the water and dry you inside out; this is prayer. In prayer, you bring out all of your inner content- your terror, your longings, your faults, your desires, everything- and offer them up on the altar of the present. You say to Reality/God, “here is all of it. You know what to do with it, as it is ultimately all You anyway. I put it in Your hands”.
Meditation and Prayer are the refining practices for the two poles within which life happens: rest and activity. Through meditation and prayer, you can dry the log little by little, day by day. Eventually, you might notice- all of life has become meditation and prayer! This is the Hanukah miracle- a little fire and heat can ignite the whole of life. May this Hanukah season mark our own “rededication” the practice!