Pray....And Things Happen!
As I watch the film clips and photographs of the immigrants seeking asylum at our southern border, my heart cries not only for those people but also for their ancestors, many of whom were indigenous peoples who were shuffled around time and again while the white people stole their land.
Doesn't anyone realize that most of the immigrants are of Native American descent mixed with the Hispanic blood of the Spanish conquistadors? Thus current assault on them is but a continuation of the oppression of those who were here in the western hemisphere before the white Europeans came and savagely conquered and took the lands.
The United States of America purports to stand for freedom for all, however, it--we--if you are white, we have selectively excluded others who do not fit into our carefully manicured image of "Americans." These people are immigrants, but they are Americans, too.
Part of my husband's family was given a King's Land Grant from the King of Spain several centuries ago including what is now the City of San Antonio. Even their rights to that land are questionable because they became part of the conquering force. When that land became a part of Texas and then the United States, they had to come across the border from Mexico, what had been their land. Over the centuries, the Mexican people became a mixed group of both Spanish and Indian ancestry, with other ethnicities in there, too.
I, as are many in the United States and in the world, appalled by the cruelty with which the U.S. immigration laws or policies are being enforced. The practice of separating families at the border and sending children to distant places far from the parents is abhorrent, as is the turning away of those who seek asylum from horrendous gang violence in their native countries. Does anyone remember that we, the U.S., used to finance the wars of dictators in those same places?
The U.S. is not using its power and wealth kindly or civilly. We have become bullies around the world, especially along our own border, rather than the leaders of freedom, as we used to consider ourselves. We have allowed our own rights as determiners of national laws and actions to be surrendered by those who are supposed to represent us. We are not a "one nation under God" by any measurement. Whether viewed from a secular of spiritual point of view, what is happening now is unethical and immoral and we must demand that it stop now!
Even as we exercise our rights as citizens of the United States, we must also turn to Spirit to guide us in interceding in this hateful process. We are all one, and whatever we do or allow to be done to others, we do to ourselves.
I pray daily that our leaders' hearts be softened and their minds opened. Please join me in this effort.
As we look around at our world and nation these days, there is much work to be done, and most of us wonder what to do about it....
We wonder why others don't do something, and we complain that there is no social justice in the world. Many are worried about what the future will bring for the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and the children.
What is it that makes us forget our most powerful tool for change and empowerment? Why do we pray about everything in our personal lives and then leave the larger picture to just emerge as it will? What would happen, do you think, if we all seriously sat down daily and centered ourselves in the omnipresence and love of God and affirmed change in our political environment?
The word "political" means "about people." This is not just about worldly concerns that have no spiritual meaning. This is about love, compassion, justice, and strength--all the best spiritual qualities with which we are embued that we must demonstrate in our world. Our spiritual direction must be towards greater love and compassion, and our spiritual path must be a journey in which we all arrive at the full potential of our humanity. Anything less will not do.
I know that in A Course in Miracles, which I have studied since the middle eighties, says that this world is not real and that our bodies are not real either, just homes for our egos which must be extinguished. But I contend that if we cannot profess and demonstrate love for each other in this world, in these bodies, then we haven't got a chance in hell of coming to terms with being spiritual beings. This earth, this life, these bodies, these minds, are our opportunities to grow spiritually!
Whatever we do to the least of us is done to all of us. Whatever injustice, need, care is denied by us will be visited upon us. Whether or not you believe in a God or Goddess of love or vengeance, in your heart you know right from wrong, and letting children starve, seniors lose their income and medical care, letting the wealthy relinquish responsibility for the welfare of all, is WRONG! It is as wrong for a Christian as it is for a Buddhist, as wrong for an atheist as it is for a Hindu, as wrong for an Catholic as it is for a Jew.
Spirit of All, lead us down a path of love, compassion, and responsibility for each other. Reveal to us the way of health, wealth, and prosperity for all. Teach us to pray, knowing this is a Divine Idea whose time has come!
"Our own life has to be our message" is how Thich Nhat Hanh puts it.
I say, "Our life is our prayer."
It really is the same thing, though, isn't it? How we choose to live our lives is both the message and the prayer we send out to the world. For when we pray, we believe, and when we believe, we act, and when we act the world observes, and our actions become our message. It is the law of cause and effect, the law of mind action, no matter how rocky and steep the pathway.
When someone asks, "How is your prayer life?", I may say to them, "What do you see?" Whatever actions you see me taking are a direct response to prayer, so I broadcast loudly what my prayer life is like. I remember reading that Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you are speaks so loudly I can't hear a word you're saying." It doesn't work if we just talk about praying, but we don't have to formally prayer, because prayer is our continual awareness of our connection with the divinity inside us. When we act from that point of reference--or point of reverence--then our whole lives become prayers.
A wonderful songwriter, Lucile Olsen, wrote "Our thoughts are prayers and we are always praying."
When we understand that our thoughts transform into actions, then we are praying unceasingly by what we do. Brother Lawrence prayed while scrubbing the pots and pans in the abbey. We pray when whatever we are doing is centered in Spirit and in Love.
Sweet Spirit, let all my actions come from that inner place in me where you reside, so that I am praying always in all ways in everything I say and do.
So here are the praying hands which I was avoiding in the first part of this prayer series.
As I thought back over my reticence to portray prayer in any traditional way, I realized I was denying access to many people, a tenet which would never suit PATH Ministries. Since I was raised Episcopalian, and may have stayed Episcopalian if they had ordained women in those days--or at least given us some hope--I have to admit, there is a signal to the brain from the physical body when we kneel and fold our hands that something sacred is about to occur. Whatever your prayer position, traditional or not, it will become that signal to your whole self that it's time to pray.
Many people like to meditate or focus on a mantra or a lit candle or mandala as a way of centering themselves. I can still remember when I was a young girl growing up in a turbulent family that I would go to my room, pull the covers up over my head, and say the Lord's Prayer over and over to block out the yelling and screaming that was so upsetting to me. I found my comfort in the repetition of a familiar prayer; it somehow connected me with a power bigger than myself that could absorb the anger and rage in my household, and I felt safer.
As a writer, I am working on a book on sensory meditation, the introduction to which you can read on the meditation page on this website. As the book unfolds through me (and that is how it is happening), I am learning more and more ways to let my body be not only a signal but also a gatekeeper and welcoming committee to a state of prayer consciousness. Rather than trying to ignore all distractions incoming from my senses, I am using my senses to direct and enhance my prayer and meditation. It seems more in a natural flow, and I'll tell you more about it later as it grows.
Sometimes, my prayer is a song which I allow to sing through me. Perhaps it is a known chant, or often it is just a word or phrase that becomes my mantra and melody...sort of a song of my soul. It beats running around with "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner," from TV circulating through my head!
Whatever brings you to that awareness, to that interface with the Divine in you and in the world, is prayer for me. When I reach the point where I feel suspended in time and space in a consciousness of pure love, I try to stay there for as long as it is possible. I almost hold my breath, for fear it will leave or I will fail to maintain it. I suspect that true enlightenment is being able to walk in that Presence at will, or even perhaps all the time. In the meantime, there is that potential and possibility of frequent visits to this peaceful, loving land of prayer.
Divine Presence, I give thanks for my growing awareness that you are with me and accessible at all times as I remember to turn unfailingly to You.
What does a picture of an eclipse have to do with prayer?
After searching, searching on a quest for a visual symbol for prayer, and ruling out praying hands and angels, I came upon this. Prayer for me is an activity in which I let my own ego self be eclipsed by my higher spiritual Self and thereby touch the hem of the garment. Prayer is a state in which we are able to interface with the Divine and feel its presence take us over, blocking out all negativity, conflict, judgement, and doubt.
I also love the darkness and the light in this picture. It expresses for me the the Womb of the Universe and the Birth of the Light into the world. For me, this is the process of prayer in which we encounter the fullness of Creation in ourselves--the light and the dark of us--and the unlimited connection we have with Spirit.
How do we pray? There are as many ways to pray as there are ideas of God. I can only share what i have come to understand, and if that touches you, try it. Whatever you read in this blog is for your consideration and the not the truth of the universe. No one can dictate your prayer life to you, only encourage it.
How do I pray? I pray in several ways. I pray in many places, in many states of mind, and at all times. Even in the midst of turmoil and anger, I pray that my Higher Self will prevail. When I see someone else in trouble or despair, I pray that they may feel the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding and comforting them. When I am in Nature, I pray feeling my oneness with all life. When I am sitting in my living room, I center myself in the Silence, letting go of every distraction that enters my mind.
Often, in the middle of the night, I will pray the ancient prayer of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, descending with my mind into my heart and there encountering God. There it is safe to confront my demons, my pain, my negativity, my judgement, and my grief and losses.
The greatest and most constant path I pray is gratitude and thankfulness for all the blessings I have in my life...even those that feel like trials and tribulations. For I know, without a doubt because it has always been so in the past, that there will be a lesson that will prosper and bless me, and in turn, others as well.
I have a friend, Joanie Levenson, also a singer and minister, who professes to be a "promiscuous prayer," meaning that she will pray anytime, any place, with anybody. I feel the same way as she does. There is never a time, place, or occasion where prayer is not appropriate. Prayer honors everyone in every situation, no matter what their beliefs or lack thereof. At times, it may be a silent prayer for guidance, or a positive, powerful prayer for Divine Order or Intervention. Sometimes, it is an inner assertion that I am one with God and God is one with me and others.
Since I am a singer, I have a song for everything, according to my friends. When I think of prayer, I think of a line from an old Buffy Ste. Marie song...."Magic is Afoot...God is Alive." When we affirm the Presence and Power of that One Universal Creative Force, then there is a seeming magic. Of course, it isn't magic at all, but Divine Order and Power being displayed and demonstrated for us. But it often feels miraculous and magic, which brings us the elation of Oneness with something greater than ourselves.
Do you remember a song Michael Jackson recorded called, "Smile?" Let's replace the word "smile" with "pray."
Pray, though your heart is aching
Pray, even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by...
If you pray.
Pray through through your fear and sorrow
Pray and maybe tomorrow
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just...
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Pray, what's the use of crying
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just...PRAY.
At the end.
Today I'd like to share with you an acronym written some years ago by a spiritually aware friend of mine from Kansas. I like acronyms because they help me remember important concepts that might otherwise slip out of my mind. This one is especially pertinent for this ministry and a good guide to pray or meditate upon. Thank you, Annola Charity for sharing this with those on the PATH.
Pray with passion and love and be ready to receive,
And allow magic and miracles to happen in your life.
Things will appear in wonderful ways from Spirit. Let it
Happen and be aware of the beauty of life and see
With new eyes, open-hearted as a child, so you will be
Abundant in all you ask and desire. Because Spirit
Yields according to the faith and measure of your belief.
It is the PATHWAY.
Annola M. Charity copyright 1999
Divine One, with your guidance I will stay on my PATH, wherever it may take me, as my life unfolds before me.
(Annola will soon have this available for purchase in a few days, and I will be sure to post the link where you can find it.)
What do you write when your heart is heavy? What do you say when a tragedy occurs? Where are the words that will comfort and explain?
This beautiful family has just lost their father, my friend and former colleague, Jon Lacquement, from Hemet, CA. Jon drowned while boogie boarding near San Luis Obispo in CA, leaving his wife and two adorable children. I remember being at he and Laarnie's wedding. Jon was a dedicated teacher and father. He wanted nothing more out of life than to have a family and to teach. His whole life revolved around his family, his church, and his work.
There is never an explanation when these things occur...no words to lessen the shock and grief. We can hold these souls in the Light of the Christ Spirit in our hearts and minds, and hope that time will help heal the pain and loss.
My husband Richard and I served as hospice chaplains in New Mexico some years ago, and I'll never forget visiting one man on the anniversary of losing his wife to cancer. He said the pain never stopped and he was glad for that, as it reminded him of how much he had loved and been loved.
May Jon fly into the arms of the God he so loved, and may Jon's family find strength and comfort in their faith.
I can reach out--
I can reach out and heal.
I can grow myself up,
I can make myself real.
I can get through the pain.
I can turn deep within.
I can let go the reins...
I can let God in,
Let God in.
I am willing to let go...
I am willing to let go...
Willing to let go and let God heal my heart,
Willing to let God heal my soul, heal my soul, heal my soul.
I am willing to be whole,
I am willing to be willing to be whole,
Willing to be whole in body, mind and soul.
I am willing to let go, to let go, to let go.
I am willing to be free...
I am willing to be free...
Willing to be free, to be all that I can be.
I am filling to be free, to be free, to be free.
These are the words to a song I wrote some years ago, but I still find the idea inspirational. The process of letting go is an ongoing task for anyone on a spiritual path. Joseph Campbell said that we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
If letting go is such an integral and continuing part of the unfoldment of our spiritual growth and development, then why isn't it easier? Several reasons come to mind. First, most of us cling to the past because of the memories we hold. Also, many people cling to a future we ourselves have envisioned and hoped for. Then, too, a lot of us cling to our egos, insisting things must go our way.
Letting go is a spiritual journey of adjusting our attitudes and intentions and not insisting that we be the central character in how that unfolds. It takes great faith to let go and let God/Spirit be in charge without us being in the middle trying to orchestrate things. In our world today, we are programmed to worry, enable, assert power, and fix things and people. Those on a spiritual quest soon find out that this method doesn't work. And it's true that a mind and its thoughts and tongue are hard to control, but there really is no one else in charge of that but you. In your own mind is where you assert the power--the power of letting go!
Spirit, today I surrender to you and let go of my need to control.
I put you in charge of my thoughts, words, and deeds,
knowing that as I let you express through me,
I will be a blessing in this world,
and I will, in turn, be blessed.
On pavements and the bark of trees I have
found whole worlds.
I like to think of this quotation as coming from the mind of someone looking at the world through a microscope, although I have little information on Mark Tobey, its author. I find that when we examine anything up close it reveals to us the reflection of our own inner world.
This amazing photo of tree bark shows my own roughness, my hills and valleys, my myriad colorations. I see notches and pits and places that aren't pretty to look at individually, but together they create a patchwork of protection. It reminds me of what the dark side of the moon might look like and what my own dark side is. I see light and shadow and a plethora of hiding places. I see the scars from many ancient wounds that have been healed but still symbolize the experience of living. I see something that grows on the outside as the inner also grows, stretching and extending its boundaries to encompass more and more of its expanding self. I see the texture of life and the beauty of living.
Sweet Spirit of the Universe, let me look upon all Creation as a reflection of myself, and see there the beauty of both the rough spots and the smooth plains of being.
French Vietnamese monk Thich Nat Hahn is a model for conscious awareness in our lives. He teaches how to be in this life but not of it, as Jesus did. I have found great comfort and solice in his walking meditations that focus on constant awareness of one's footfall on the ground and contact with the earth. With each step we connect with all beings who make our planet their home. Now living at his community Plum Village in France, this Spiritual Master is a Divine Messenger of the way of peace in our everyday lives, in every breath and every step. As the leaves fell from this tree and landed softly on the ground below, so are our footprints to leave a gentle footprint on our sacred planet.
Let me be aware of every step I take and its impact on the earth and all its inhabitants. May I remember that I am standing on holy ground wherever I am and honor my connection with that presence of the sacred.