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The Hesychastic Centres of Prayer

The Hesychastic tradition in the Eastern Orthodox or Byzantine church was one of the very few movements in Christianity which actually developed a meditation practice comparible to the techniques of the "East" (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Sufism).  This combined breathing techniques with prayer, especially the "Jesus Prayer": "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner", with sometimes the last two phrases being dropped.  There spontaniously developed within this contemplative Christianity the idea of points of attention or concentration on different  parts of the body.  These were sometimes comparable to the Tantric chakras.  Four in particular were specified (the following is taken from Mircea Eliade's Link to Amazon com Yoga, Immortality and Freedom; p.410):

(1) the cerebrofrontal centre: in the space between the eyebrows
(2) the buccolaryngeal centre: "the commonest thought, that of the intelligence, expressed in conversation, correspondence, and the first stages of prayer."
(3) the pectoral centre: "in the upper and median region of the chest"; "stabilty of much greater than in the preceeding cases, but it is still thought that defines the emotional color-ing and that is modified by it"
(4) the cardiac centre: "near the upper part of the heart, a little below (or "a little above") the left breast"; "It is the physical sight of perfect attention".

 Note that, as with Tibetan Buddhism, this sequence starts with the brows and descends down to the heart, which represents the highest grade of consciousness.  It will be recalled that the Tibetan Buddhists provide similiar attributions.

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 29 November 1998, modified 18 May 1999