A Word Person, a Silence Person - Greg Barrette
"I am a 'word person', but Mr. Fillmore was more of a 'silence person'."
James Dillet Freeman, Unity's Poet Laureate and Director of Silent Unity for many years, was explaining to me the methodology of his prayer life and how it differed from that of Charles Fillmore.
He shared with me that many individuals for whom he and the workers at Silent Unity had prayed had healings that the medical community considered miraculous. He also had witnessed this in his younger days, when Charles Fillmore did prayer treatments. But there was a distinct difference in how they prayed when these results occurred.
Fillmore would go into deep meditative silence, in which he would center the person being prayed for. But Freeman said that he needed to speak his affirmations aloud to get similar results.
I remember him saying "I have found that silent prayer does not have the power to control my mind that speaking aloud does. This is especially true when I am in a troubled or anxious state. When I speak the word aloud, it commands the attention of my mind. Speaking aloud helps me to do what I am trying to do in my praying. It focuses my thought, and instead of letting it turn on itself, moves it to where I want it to go, turning toward God."
Both kinds of prayer, spoken and silent, were modeled for me by my dad. Every morning at 7:15 a.m. I would see him sitting on the couch in the living room with his stack of Silent Unity affirmations, whispering them and then closing his eyes and silently meditating on each thought. He did this sacred practice for decades.
My mom had used an affirmation from Silent Unity, "You are God's whole and perfect child, aglow with God's light, life, and wisdom", to affect the healing of my sister, who was born with serious birth defects. She was expected never to walk, but using the power of spoken affirmation, my parents were led to a doctor who tried an experimental treatment on my sister that resulted in a complete healing. The doctors said that the treatment alone might have allowed my sister to walk with braces, at best. They had never heard of anyone who had regained their full mobility. And they attributed this to prayer.
As a teenager, my Unity minister, Mabel Carlin, gave me a copy of Florence Scovel Shinn's book The Game of Life and How to Play It. From it, I learned how to use affirmative prayer to make contact with my Source.
The effects were startling in my life. I had always been shy and withdrawn, but after using these affirmations, spoken mostly as I walked home from school, I found myself coming out of my shell and attracting a new kind of life that was almost intimidating to me in its vibrancy!
Meditation, which is the silent kind of prayer, came later to me when I was elected to a position in the International Youth of Unity that required me to write meditation guides for the groups. At first, when I put my pen to paper, the words came out stilted and trite. Then I realized that I needed to intuit what I wrote from an inner source.
I rode my bicycle to a nearby park each day, where a creek meandered through eucalyptus and bay laurel trees. The scent in the air was intoxicating and the sound of the water was beautiful. Later in life, I learned that this had been a sacred place for the Ohlone tribe. I took a book that I borrowed from my dad's library of spiritual books and would read a paragraph or two and then close my eyes and feel into the sense of what I had read. I did this there for years. This kind of passage meditation allowed me to enter a silent reverie out of which the insights would flow.
Like Freeman, I am primarily a "word person" and sometimes struggle mightily to quiet my mind. Still, I meditate every day and often feel the Presence and touch the hem of the divine garment.
I use both silence and spoken prayer, depending on my need. It must be like what the physicists say about subatomic particles. If you try to observe an electron as a particle, it behaves as a particle. And if you try to observe it as a wave, it behaves as a wave. Both are paradoxically necessary and true. And so I am grateful for both the silent meditation and the spoken word, the two sides of the divine equation.