French philosopher Simone Weil defined prayer as “absolutely unmixed attention.” Such attention allows for multiple foci of awareness, as practiced during pranayama. It is somatically empowering to know how to hold space for more than one thing occurring simultaneously. This is useful practice for situations that are alarming. One goal is to stay inside of oneself while responding to external stimuli. Consequently, one need not push back against reality through denial or avoidance. Embodied mindfulness allows one to allow the different kinds of information we are constantly receiving to co-exist, maybe even integrate into one total experience of awe.
The human place in the universe has been augmented by a series of intellectual blows to our sense of omnipotence. The first from Copernicus: the earth is not the center of the universe. The second from Darwin: we are not especially privileged among earth’s creatures, rather, we are animals in a process of d/evolving along with everyone else. The third blow comes from Freud: “the ego is not the master of it’s own house,” that is, we are id-ridden, socially constituted beings that are driven by unseeable bestial unconscious wills all their own. The fourth can be found in posthumanist, new materialist work: we are not even our own bodies. No, we are porous, chemically and substantially so.
We are materially altered by not only others, but even inanimate objects, environments and our own waste. We share “our” bodies as ecologies with viruses, bacteria who live in our gut, our skin, and materials we can’t categorize. American virologist Nathan Wolfe says 40-50% of all the genetic information in our gut is unclassifiable—he calls it biological dark matter. This dark matter is in our breath and in our blood. Whether we like it or not, we are in an ongoing symbiotic relationship with other beings that we constitute as they constitute us. Our postmodern religion (science) can demonstrate how we are deeply intra- and inter-connected. We make sense. We fit in our time and our place, oddly entangled and open, an inter-organic prayer.