As a child, I was never really taught how to pray. We did not pray at home, before meals or before bed, though I think my mom prayed silently and still does, for protection of her children and for the best outcomes for each of us. And at the schools I attended, prayer was often less about gratitude and more about asking for this or that—getting a good grade on a test, for victory at a speed-skating meet, or for sanity to prevail in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
And so at some point I grew up and grew out of praying. On the occasion when I would be inclined to, I felt inept. I didn’t know whose name to invoke or what to say. Looking back, I feel that was a sad state, one that lasted far too many years.
Only in recent years have I begun to pray again, but this time, it’s more about gratitude, and if there is an “ask,” it’s really about letting the highest good manifest. We cannot know the highest good because we are generally constrained by space and time and our own biases. What looks good to us today may, 2,000 years from now, appear to be wrongheaded or wronghearted. I recall last year, when the BP spill happened in the Gulf, how it saddened me to remember all the days of my youth spent on the beach in West Central Florida looking at the western horizon, swimming in the shallows or examining the barnacles on the sea walls. What would die? I wondered. Not long after that time, Jim Pathfinder Ewing and his wife, Annette Waya, reported on the numbers of people contacting them to ask what they could do energetically for the spill. The Ewings live in Mississippi, not too far from the Gulf, and Jim Pathfinder has written several books on healing land and animals—distance healing. Their response can be read here: http://blueskywatersblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/p-rayers-for-oil-spill-by-jim.html
Essentially, as Pathfinder wrote, “Allow Creator to work for the highest and best good, lending our thoughts and prayers toward that, and let it go.”
We can apply this to any aspect of our lives: our relations with other countries, with our governments, with our neighbors, friends, family—even with ourselves. And rather than be caught up in the “what’s wrong,” let’s choose to focus not only on “what’s right,” but what we would like to see, to experience. The “what’s right” encourages us to choose something that we really appreciate about another country or another person. This can be incredibly difficult and can feel taxing. After all, how do we deal with people who have no apparent concern for others, who lack regard for the well-being of the whole? The “what we’d like to see” requires us to stretch our imaginations, to put away self-limitations.
With this in mind, one of my dreams for 2012 is to start a visioning group—maybe a small group of folks who would be willing to spend some time sharing their visions for themselves, for their family and friends and for their communities. I include the land, the waters, the plants and animals among our communities. Who knows, but that we might create something beautiful not unlike Appelemando in Patricia Polacco’s Appelemando’s Dreams, a children’s story, but one that we adults might do well to read from time to time.
And as for prayers? Here are a few:
Gratitude for the beauty of Earth, something we can experience every day, especially in small ways: a smooth sumac that has taken root in the space between sidewalk and brick wall on State Circle; the amazingly knowing look of a baby whose smile feels like sun drenching the depths of your soul; the blessings of relatively good health and access to wholesome food; the kindnesses of so many who go unnoticed and unthanked (though the Universe observes and that is acknowledgement enough); for growing self-knowledge and willingness to examine long-held assumptions and beliefs; for the steadiness of loved ones; for all of our many teachers; and for so many more things the Internet is not vast enough to contain!
For allowing to the highest good: courage for all of us to get out of our comfort zones, to explore those things that will truly make us whole, integrated beings; to acknowledge the value of ego—and then to let it go, no matter how wildly its dukes come out swinging; the strength of character to forgive ourselves and to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged somewhere along the way; recognition of and reverence for all those living beings that sustain our very lives—and the willingness to do what we need to support their existence just as they support our own; an unabashed drive to evolve beyond our fears that privilege security above all other things; and most of all, an earnest exploration of what the world would look and feel like, taste and smell and sound like, if we made love our guiding principle.
This post was inspired by the prayers of one of my favorite teachers, Kathleen Maier; by the book Courageous Dreaming by Alberto Villodo; and by my friend Jenn’s in-traffic practice of “giving them the peace sign” instead of the middle finger.