Do You Want A Math Whiz Or A Basketball Wunderkind?…
This question is more important than most think. The answer will color all you experience. Those who answer that they do not pray are mistaken, for they do not realize what prayer is and the extent and power of it in their lives.
Classically, prayer is, in essence, an act of communication. One communicates one’s desires to, presumably, some source-deity who has power over his life or power to help him. Prayer is also an act of communion with the Source for expression of gratitude and reverence, deemed necessary or recommended by the Source, and for the reception of guidance or other sorts of upliftment and inspiration.
Continuingto define prayer by associated meanings, the word “communicate” means to connect, to join, in effect to become one. In prayer there is always a desire to be aligned with the Source to which we pray. To align with one’s deity is deemed ultimately desirable and eventually if not immediately beneficial. In this age of spiritual renewal we are constantly working to align and attune ourselves with an ideal or an energy or some sort of Great Spirit that will bless our lives, and which many consider to be our True Self. Yet without realizing the real nature and extent of the act of prayer many are sabotaging just that goal.
In the many books and workshops available on spiritual practices and techniques, prayer is one that is often highly recommended. There are many related practices that are defined as forms of prayer, such as dancing, drumming, singing, artworks, rituals, even writing a prayer on a piece of paper or cloth and hanging it in the breeze. There is also a practice described involving what is called “constant prayer”, which sounds like quite a challenge considering the requirements of everyday life. Yet it is precisely this form of prayer that is the subject of this article. Surprise, surprise: whether you realize it or not, you are always in constant prayer!
As I said above, prayer is essentially communication, and in this soup of consciousness we live in, our every thought communicates to everyone and everything around us. It communicates our beliefs and desires and fears and loves and hates. Nothing is private and nothing is hidden. It is widely accepted in our age of renewal that the state of your consciousness affects every element of your life. Yet more to my point is the fact that just whom we are trying to communicate our desires to, consciously or unconsciously, moment by moment, is not fully realized.
What I am getting at is the fact that whenever you try to please someone, and are for some ego-based reason not being true to yourself, you are literally praying to them, attuning to them, and trying to become like them in order to please them and get their blessing – or at least be left in relative peace. The moment to moment content of our minds and hearts, and the acts that result, are this prayer. It never ends. What we are is a constant song of prayer, alignment and attunement to someone, and usually it is to someone who can neither hear nor help.
Why do people neglect this true Source within? Because of the persisting idea of there being powers outside of them. One has to decide that false is false and that there is no separation: that all power is united within, and all that appears around one is an extension of one’s being. We have held back out of fear. The idea of guilt and self-denial is founded on this fear, and the source of fear is the idea of separation, of some other power being able to affect us in a way we don’t prefer. Yet if you decide your consciousness is the source and generator of your existence, and that your aligned consciousness is the Divine source, you will know you have all the power that can ever affect your experience.
Involved in the confusion are the illogic and conflicts of our egos, all based on the idea of separation. If attunement means oneness with the Source we can say that prayer is an act of becoming one. Then why do we pray to those we steadfastly hold separate from us? We pray for approval, for validation, for permission, for forgiveness – all from outside “sources” that have no real power over us or to help. Prayer must recognize oneness as a fact, for to perceive separation is to create it, and power to create is always projected in the idea of separation. Teachings such as “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven within” speak to us of the Source being the Divine light of our own true self. Attunement to our limitless inner truth cannot but bring us all the happiness for which we have been praying. “To thine own self be true, for it must follow as the night the day that thou can’st not then be false to any man.” The ultimate of prayer is the therefore recognition of our oneness with Divine Will and with all love and power, and via this route, with all those we perceived as separate. You can’t have it both ways.
You can’t be a victim and a master – and you can’t be a victim at all. This is the key to freedom through constant aligned prayer.
My Experience of Truth
by Kimberly McCandless
Many years ago I was guided to Tranformational Breath Therapy. Keep in mind that at the time, this was very new for me and I was very unsure about what I was getting into. However, a friend recommended this to me and I felt the pull. I felt very guided and I knew I needed to try this.
Let me give you a little background. When I was about 12-13 years old, I felt very crazy. I thought I was losing my mind. I now know that the clinical term for this is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but back then I had no idea what was “wrong” with me and I was very scared. I had moments of complete despair, depression and blackness and I felt I was in a nightmare in which I couldn’t escape from. To make a long story short, (after being taken to a mental institution – which thank God my parents did not leave me at), I went to a psychiatrist every week through high school — as I grew up.
Looking back on all of this, I felt I could talk until my face was blue (which I did) but the issues would remain. So someone recommended something completely different to me – Transformational Breath Therapy. I felt very strongly that I needed to give it a try. And I was glad I did!!! In these sessions, I really went back and felt and I released SO much energy that was of no use to me anymore. I could literally feel the energy (the painful energy which was keeping me stuck and was trapped in my body) leave my body! I would feel So much lighter when a session had ended. What a Release!!!
Anyway, I will never forget my first appointment with Veda – my Transformational Breath Facilitator. I was very very scared but I had an inner trust – an inner trust that Spirit was present and was guiding me and showing me the way. When I was in the session, I started doing deep breathing and I could feel the energy – there was so much energy! I started to get scared and I panicked. All of the energy was getting stuck in my throat and I feared that I wouldn’t be able to breathe soon. I was overwhelmed with fear and I honestly thought I could die. (looking back I think I was having a PANIC ATTACK). All of a sudden, because the pain was so overwhelming and I did not care anymore, I voiced in my mind to God these words. I said “Ok God, I trust you even if I die right now.” I had completely surrendered!! It was unbelievable. Soon, the energy lifted, started to flow out of me, and I found myself leaving my body. I completely surrendered and I let go. I moved into this incredible light that was so bright and so beautiful – it was like I kept moving into one plane and then another – I went deeper and deeper until I was in this incredible white light that was so filled with LOVE – like I had never experienced in this lifetime. For the first time in my life, I understood. I was the Universe – I was One with God and with all that is! I felt my connection to all things – I felt One with the Birds with all that IS! It was incredible and the Love was so intense! To be honest, I really did not want to come back to the earth plane but Veda had come back into the room (at the end of a session she would leave me to meditate) and I had to pull myself back. I continued to see Veda and I continued to experience the most incredible meditations! It got to the point in which I was not seeing her to heal or do breath work but to get back to those incredible truth meditations.
Unfortunately, these words cannot accurately describe my experiences – the words don’t do it justice. But It is my wish for all of you to experience the LOVE that the Universe truly is! And to experience it, first hand.
On Life and Truth
by Simon Hunt
I read some powerful words concerning life and truth the other day, and they effected me greatly. They didn’t come to me through the any of usual channels… an esteemed or enlightened holy person, a venerated teacher, my life mate, or my spirit guides. They came to me via Michael Hunter, an inmate of San Quentin. Michael Hunter treasured these words; they were written by his friend, Tom Walker, another inmate of the same institution . I do not know the circumstances of how either Michael Hunter or Tom Walker came to be on San Quentin’s Death Row; I’m not sure that I want to. The following powerful words are excerpts from Tom Walker’s personal journal, bequeathed to Michael Hunter upon his passing.
“One of the few values, functions of my life at this point is to write about what I see from my perch on death row. What value my observations are I can’t say, I only know I feel the need to write as much for myself as anyone else. You must understand when you read my thoughts, my view is through the distorted lens of my functioning dysfunctional beliefs. I’ll try to be as sincere as I am capable, but I’ll be the first one to advance the concept that truth can be selective, and I want to own up to my own limitations of truth before I proceed.”
“When I was young, thirteen, I was impressionable, confused, and direct experiences led me to devalue human life. By twenty-three, I was at rock bottom, my life was ruled by anger, loneliness, and fear. At twenty-four, I was put on trial for murder.”
“It wasn’t the prosecutor, judge, jury, or the possible penalty of death that made such a huge impact on me. It was the cardboard boxes stacked high inside the courtroom that so deeply affected my life. My whole life had been gathered up and placed inside those boxes, no stone left unturned, no fear or secret of mine left undiscovered. I was the contents of the boxes, the contents of the boxes were me.”
“Each day at trial as yet another box was opened and the ugly contents revealed to the light, viewing what I had made of my twenty-four years was the emotional equivalent of slamming into a brick wall at a hundred miles per hour. Nightly, lying awake in my cell in chaos, I wondered how I was going to survive the opening of the next box, and then the next, and the next. . . . the boxes had forced me to look squarely at my worst enemy — me.”
“Amid the turmoil of this experience, I discovered a yearning, not for freedom because I knew I’d forfeited my right to walk within society; but a desire to reconnect with humanity. I wanted to find inside myself something I had lost, I wanted to once again to feel in full awareness — love.“
“Now at thirty, after years on Death Row, I find myself beginning to feel the value of life growing inside me. This, of course, does nothing for those whom I have killed. But then again, unless I kill myself today, I must either stagnate and regress toward chaotic emptiness – or progress toward humanity, and I very much want to progress.”
“I want to leave San Quentin, even if it is in death, a better man than the day I walked on to Death Row. I am ready to pay my debt. But in the meantime, while my legal appeals wend their way through the courts, I want to give back what little I can and also find out if I can develop into someone I can live with. Simply, I’d like to find out if the capacity for humanity is within me before I die. “
“I know I will not ever fully understand the sanctity of life, not like normal people do — do they realize how lucky they are? I will die long short of the mark, but until that day I intend to be a work in progress, forever with a hope to get as close to the truth as I can.”
Tom Walker departed San Quentin on November 18th, 1997. Michael Hunter has exhausted all his legal appeals and is now awaiting the same fate.
All through history there have been so-called religious fanatics, people who have marched to the beat of a very different drummer, who acted as if they had lost all sense of reason when teaching their version of the gospel.
The cartoon character of the shabby preacher standing on the street corner year after year, holding an “End of the World” sign comes to mind. All of these people were not necessarily mentally ill. At least some of these folks were Crazy Adepts — spiritual teachers who act in an incredibly bizarre fashion in ORDER to teach us the Crazy Wisdom of spiritual truths.
Crazy Adepts often seem irreligious or unspiritual, but they do so in order to shock us awake — a kind of spiritual shock therapy, according to Georg Feuerstein, an expert in esoteric wisdom. In YOGA: THE TECHNOLOGY OF ECSTASY, Feuerstein explains that Crazy Adepts are “enlightened iconoclasts.” Their “mad” behavior serves to reflect the false worldview that people are separate from each other. Crazy Wisdom says in truth, we are all CONNECTED.
The separations in the physical world such as human bodies, houses, communities are merely illusions. Crazy Wisdom seeks to unearth and heal all the false beliefs that people have about themselves, and the world. Crazy Wisdom antics are often at the core of spirituality though they usually offend secular and traditional religious organizations. Not so in Tibet and India where the Divine Madman is a venerated teacher. In Tibet, the “saintly madman” (lama myonpa) has been recognized as a legitimate spiritual teacher all through history. In India, the holy “avadhuta” has also cast off all concerns to teach in a highly unconventional manner. But crazy teachers are not just found in the East. There have been Crazy Adepts in other lands. Europe in the sixth century seemed to be big on Crazy Adepts. For instance, there was St. Simeon who liked to pretend insanity for effect. Once he found a dead dog on a dung heap. He tied the animal to his belt and dragged the corpse through town. People were so full of outrage they couldn’t see St. Simeon’s message. He was trying to show the useless “dead weight” of excess emotional baggage that people drag through their lives. The town’s uproar didn’t seem to phase the Crazy Adept, though. The very next day, St. Simeon entered a church and just as the liturgy began, he threw nuts at the congregation. St Simeon confessed on his deathbed that his life’s mission was to denounce hypocrisy and hubris.
Another example of sixth-century spiritual silliness was Mark the Mad, a desert monk who was thought insane when he came into town to atone for his sins. Only Abba Daniel saw the method in the monk’s madness, and declared the monk the only reasonable man in the city. Little-known figures like St. Isaac Zatvornik and St. Basil were the designated holy fools of history who spoke of the wisdom of God. There was even a FEMALE Crazy Adept — St. Isadora. But the messages of these crazy teachers unfortunately seemed insane to most the world.
Crazy Adepts live to turn convention on its ear by challenging and confronting established dictates. They bring a sense of chaos to shake up the STATUS quo.
Feuerstein says that Crazy Adepts, “…are a perpetual reminder that our whole human civilization is an attempt to DENY the inevitability of death, which makes nonsense out of even the noblest efforts to create a symbolic order out of the infinite plastic that is life.” Feuerstein adds that the Crazy Adepts’ bizarre teachings ultimately smash through the false beliefs of the egocentric universe and its feeling of separateness.
So the next time you see a very strange person acting in a very strange way, trying to give you a message from God, don’t immediately assume insanity.
Perhaps he or she is a Crazy Adept trying to do you a favor by helping you pull the little-ego back in line with YOUR Higher Self, even if they have to
get in your face to do it.
Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human EXISTENCE. You know, all mystics -Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion — are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.
Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son’s door. “Jaime,” he says, “wake up!” Jaime answers, “I don’t want to get up, Papa.” The father shouts, “Get up, you have to go to school.” Jaime says, “I don’t want to go to school.” “Why not?” asks the father. “Three reasons,” says Jaime. “First, because it’s so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school.”
And the father says, “Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is YOUR duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster.” Wake up, wake up! You’ve grown up. You’re too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys.
Most people tell you they want to get out of kindergarten, but don’t believe them. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys. “Give me back my wife. Give me back my JOB. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.” This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.
Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It’s irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, “Wake up!” My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it, fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, “The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and FLOWERS IN THE gardens.”
A woman of modest means and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband’s employer’s home. The boss was very wealthy, with an estate home and several CARS costing more than the average house.
The woman delighted to experience first hand the life of the extremely wealthy. The boss indulged his guests both at home on his estate as well as out as exclusive dining establishments.
On one occasion as they were about to enter an exclusive restaurant, the boss was walking slightly ahead of them. He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment.
An awkward silence folllowed. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, a few cigarette butts and assorted litter. Quietly, the rich man reached down and picked up the penny.
He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man have of a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?
Throughout dinner, the penny bothered her. Finally, she causally mentioned that her son once had a COIN collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been rare.
A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see.
“Look at it.” He said. “Read what it says.” She read the words “United States of AMERICA.”
“No, not that; read further.”
“One cent?” “No, keep reading.”
“In God we Trust?” “Yes!” “And?”
“And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a COIN. Whenever I find a COIN I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it!
God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by?
When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!”
A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports CAR in a dealer’s showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.
As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study.
His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautiful wrapped gift box.
Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man OPENED the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man’s name embossed in gold.
Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, “With all YOUR money you give me a Bible?” And stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go visit him.
He had not seen him since that graduation day. Before he could make arrangments, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son.
When he arrived at his father’s house, sudden Sorry, your browser doesn’t support Java. sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father’s important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn THE PAGES. His father had carefully underlineda verse,
As he read those words, a car KEY DROPPED from the back of the Bible.
It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words…
It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were filling the church to its full capacity! As they entered, each were given a bulletin filled with announcements, topic of today’s sermon, what songs they would sing and who to pray for.
At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy and you could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered with whiskers, for he had not shaved for a very long time. When he reached the usher, he removed his tattered old brown hat in respect. His hair was long, dirty, and a tangled mess. He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled black socks to cover the sores upon his feet. The Usher looked at him turning up his nose at the old man and said, “Uh, I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid we can’t let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don’t allow anyone to disrupt our service. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.”
The old man looked down at himself and with a puzzled look on his face, he placed his old brown hat back upon his head and turned to leave. He was sad as he loved to hear the choir sing praises to the Lord. He loved to watch the little children get up in front of the church to sing their little songs. He carried in his pocket a small worn out Bible and loved to see if the minister preached a passage from the Bible that he had underlined. But he was respectful, and didn’t want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church.
He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the church yard and strained to listen through closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. Oh how he wished he could be inside with all the others.
A few minutes had passed by when all of a sudden a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing? He answered, “I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was to filthy, my clothes to old and worn, and they were afraid I would disrupt their service.
Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is George.” The two men shook hands, and George couldn’t help but notice that this man had long hair like his. He wore a piece of cloth draped over his body tied with a royal purple sash. He had sandals on his feet, now covered with dust and dirt.
The stranger touched George’s shoulder, and said: “George, don’t feel bad because they won’t let you in. My name is Jesus, and I’ve been trying to get into this same church for years — they won’t let me in either.”
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation and talked about so many things and various subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the customer.
“Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.”
The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers do not exist.”
“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber.
“I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!”
“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.
“Ah, but barbers DO exist! That’s what happens when people do not come to me.”
“Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, DOES exist! Because people do not look to God for help is why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.”
To my dearest family, some things I’d like to say, But first of all to let you know that I arrived okay.
I’m writing this from Heaven, where I dwell with God above, Where there are no tears or sadness, there is just eternal Love.
Please do not be unhappy, just because I’m out of sight, Remember that I’m with you, every morning, noon and night.
That day I had to leave you, when my life on earth was through, God picked me up and hugged me, and said, ” I welcome you”.
“It’s good to have you back again.
You were missed while you were gone.
As for your dearest family, they’ll be here later on.
I need you here so badly as part of my big plan. There’s so much that we have to do, to help our mortal man”.
Then God gave me a list of things he wished for me to do. And foremost on that list of mine, is to watch and care for you.
I will be beside you, every day of the week and year, And when you’re sad I’m standing there, to wipe away the tear.
And when you lie in bed at night, the day’s chores put to flight, God and I are closest to you in the middle of the night.
When you think of my life on Earth, and all those loving years, Because you’re only human, there’s bound to be some tears.
One thing is for certain, though my life on Earth is over, I am closer to you now than I ever was before.
And to my many friends, trust God knows what is best. I am not far away from you, I’m just beyond the crest.
There are rocky roads ahead for you and many hills to climb, Together we can do it, taking one day at a time.
It was my philosophy and please I’d like for you, To give unto the world, so the world will give to you.
If you can help someone who’s in sorrow or in pain, Then you can say to God at night, my day was not in vain.
And now I am contented that my life it was worthwhile, Knowing as I passed along the way, I made somebody smile.
When you’re walking down the street and I am on your mind, I’m walking in your footsteps, only half a step behind.
And when you feel a gentle breeze of wind upon your face, That’s me giving you a great big hug, or just a s oft embrace.
When it’s time for you to go from that body to be free, Remember you are not going, you are coming home to me.
I will always love you, from that place way up above, I will be in touch again soon.
P.S. God sends his love.
When confronted by some minor emergency, we would not expect to quietly reflect on our situation and then calmly request assistance of someone. Nor, with emotions high and adrenaline rushing in our systems while we face some perceived crisis, would we expect to serenely commend our concerns to God. While we might be able to think clearly and make good decisions under pressure, we communicate differently with one another, and with God, according to the intensity of our experiences.
We cannot always be as calm as we would like, since we are subject to thoughts and feelings associated with turmoil as well as those of peacefulness. Therefore, we can expect to pray in ways that are appropriate when we are agitated, stressed or anxious as well as when we can pause for quiet reflection.
During times of stress, some of us grow quite composed externally, but with much turbulence within. In speaking with others, we would likely control the level of our voices, use few words, and speak only whatever seems necessary rather than give expression to our feelings. If we pray at such a time, we are not likely to express our concerns at great length or to carefully choose what we say, but rather, we would relate with God spontaneously and directly, more from our hearts than from our minds.
If we tend to think that prayer is only possible when we are physically and emotionally in a settled condition, as is appropriate for meditation or contemplation, we would leave out of our relationship with God the majority of our life-experiences. God loves us in all the moments of our lives, not only the occasions when we feel especially consoled. We might prefer and more deeply treasure some of our more significant interactions with family members or friends, but we value too, especially when we reflect a bit, the laughs, surprises, tensions and difficulties that we have shared over time. God accompanies us by choice, not obligation, at every moment of every day, and is absolutely attentive to all our thoughts, feelings and decisions.
We readily share the highs and the lows of our lives with those we trust. We find it fitting to share weaknesses, doubts and even some failures with those we trust most deeply. With God, it is wholly fitting to communicate everything that is of real concern to us – by words when they help, but more often by intention or inner direction.
We might, as we do with others, find ourselves “censoring” thoughts and feelings prior to consciously admitting them to God. Trusting is always a choice, and for us it often seems to imply the risk of being misunderstood, or worse, receiving disapproval. We could tell ourselves that “God already knows” as an excuse for not sharing our condition or our responses to events. But even our friends and all those who are somewhat perceptive often know when we are confused or enlightened, in pain or at peace. When we recognize that our present general state is known, we are often more prone to entrusting others with the particulars of our experiences than if we believed that our feelings and thoughts were totally opaque. God certainly knows all that takes place within us and around us, but only becomes one with us in our experiences when we freely disclose them.
Harried Prayer, as honest communication with God, is likely our most realistic kind of prayer when we are under stress.
A Jesuit, who is very knowledgeable in many languages, showed me that the word “repent,” is best understood as “take another look.” When we look again at a sunset or a work of art, we are liable to receive more than the initial experience we had, which might have been primarily visual. And when we reflect on a first opinion or judgment, we might very well come to recognize a better way to proceed than if we had not looked again within ourselves.
“Repent” usually means to turn back from some form of negative or inappropriate thought or behavior, whereas “look again” does not pre-judge behavior, but encourages our use of the beneficial human power of reflection. By taking another look at almost anything we have in mind, we often gain new or deeper insight into either the subject we are considering, or ourselves, or perhaps both. After one look, we can turn away from a beautiful sight and perhaps be satisfied with what we received. But even if we do not literally look again at what our eyes had beheld at first, we still might “look again” within ourselves as to the meaning we receive, the joy we notice, or the depth of our feelings.
To look again is a relatively easy practice. But, like many good and helpful options that are available to us all, reflection becomes habitual only after we consciously choose to engage in looking again regularly, and when we begin to subsequently experience some recognizable benefits. Many of us have experimented with taking a few moments at a particular time of day to look again at some of the previous events of our day in order to appreciate or learn from them. Others have trained themselves to pause before any kind of meeting so as to consider at that moment the purpose they had in mind when they first decided to become involved.
Busy persons are continually moving from one moment to the next, fully occupied with the events before us, desiring to accomplish as much as we can in the time we have available. If we do not have a practice of reflection in the midst of, or in company with, our ongoing activities and decision-making, we might be missing much of the value and even the efficacy of our efforts. We do not always have to stop what we are doing in order to look again, as if we were vehicles moving in traffic with signal lights to guide our movements. We are amazingly, wondrously equipped to change the focus of our attention to an interior check on the value of our behavior even while our bodies give no outward signs that we are doing so.
Most of us have had the experience of walking determinedly towards a door while also considering whether or not we are well-prepared for whatever situation awaits on the other side. We can recognize that this ability is a gift of God and consciously apply the practice of reflection to much of what we do and observe.
When we become aware that something has caught our attention, it is likely an invitation to look again.
At times we use titles when we refer to people, such as: dad, daughter, doctor, professor, nurse, etc. At other times we use formal names that include a title, such as “Mrs. Orfington,” or “Senator Szcyx.” Our reasons vary for using titles, but some more common ones are: respect for the position that the person holds in relation to us, courtesy to an individual in a public situation or lack of familiarity with someone. We also have habits that are stronger or weaker among us, as one daughter might call her mother by her first name, and another son can only refer to his father as “dad;” one person addresses most professionals by their first names, others almost always use titles.
When we relate with God, in public or in private, we likely make use of a variety of titles according to our understanding and sensitivities in different situations. As with all our other relationships, cultural and societal customs and traditions have an influence on which titles we select at any particular time and on our decisions about when not to use a title at all. Whether we have many rules or few in how we address God, our choices all have to do with our immediate sense for what is appropriate in each particular moment.
When we consider who God is and who we are we might feel the distance between us and therefore choose titles that express reverence. At other times when we are not consciously thinking about God, or attempting any form of prayer, we might become aware that God is present, and be literally speechless, with no need to use titles of any kind. In public worship, no matter what feelings of God’s closeness we might or might not experience, we make use of different titles according to the songs and spoken prayers that are chosen, all of which are intended to match sentiments that we could have, that would be in keeping with some of our personal thoughts and feelings. In public situations we use titles for God according to common agreement, often determined by rituals that support our human-divine contact. In private, we decide, based on our present experience of God.
Praying with any of the many titles for God available to us enhances our experience of relating with an unseen person. At one time, calling upon God as “Dear Lord” might, for example, help us begin to relate from a sense of deep need. Most of us have favorite titles that seem appropriate for us when we are expressing personal concerns for ourselves or on behalf of others. Titles are not the same as names, though “Jesus” might express familiarity on one occasion, and at another, help us to relate with the Son of God.
Just as we might enquire of someone whether he or she is comfortable with our using a first name or prefers to be addressed by a title, so we can ask God. The answers we receive will not be direct, that God feels more comfortable being called by some title or another, but rather we will find within ourselves quiet inspiration for recognizing what best expresses our feelings of closeness, reverence, trust or love.
In choosing which titles, or none, that we use with God or with others, we manifest our own sense of each relationship at that moment in time.
No two friendships are the same; each is a unique personal relationship. We may have some long-term friends, and some whom we have met only recently; we might share almost anything of our thoughts and feelings with a small number of close friends, and also experience the benefits of a variety of interactions with others. When we reflect on our friendships, we might be able to recall how one or other person became a trusted friend, but we attach greater importance to the value of our friendships than to their origins.
Good friends grow closer to us when we are in need, just as we find ourselves more closely bound to friends when we accompany them in times that are challenging. We can readily appreciate that a trusted friend is a treasure that money cannot buy. Our lives would be much poorer if it were not for one of more of the friendships we have in which our concerns for each other are sincere, and in which we discover a capacity for giving active caring assistance that we might not have otherwise known was within us.
No friendship is ever founded upon equality, since no two individuals give and receive exactly the same to and from each other. We might be in particular need of receiving support at one time, and later be able to help that same friend who then requires our help. But with friends, we do not count what we give, looking for it to be equaled, but rather we find in our hearts that we want to give as much as we are able. We appreciate reciprocity of affection, but without an expectation that it will be expressed in the same ways as our own.
If we consider the many levels and kinds of friendship we have in our lives, we might find the exercise of reflection about them to be encouraging and consoling, especially if we are willing to include our relationship with God as also having many qualities of friendship.
God has cared for us as a friend in many ways, even though we are so very far from being equals. We can ponder how God cares for us as we are, as do our friends, and that we can also depend upon God to be present with us no matter what is happening within us or around us. As friend, God wants what is best for us, but does not manipulate us or bend us to his will. We might hesitate at first to accept that we have something to give to God that only we can offer. What really makes a friendship – the things we do, or the persons? Of course we have to manifest our care in words and actions, trying to please the other in the ways that we creatively devise. But the miracle of friendship depends upon the spiritual gift of love that each of us offers to others as we choose, and which satisfies us so deeply.
God made us for friendships.
Jesus said that he wanted his joy to be in others. (John 15.11) Can we “give” experiences of joy to people, or, can anyone cause another to become joyful? While we might not literally be able to take our joy and directly initiate the same response in someone else, true joy is positively infectious. That is, when we spontaneously manifest an experience of joy in the presence of people who are aware of the circumstances to which we are responding, they are quite liable to become joyful themselves.
When we desire to share joy, not as a projection of control, we certainly cannot cause harm, whether or not anyone actually resonates with the positive energy that moves within and beyond us. Joy is an honest and whole-hearted response to external and internal perceptions of reality. Joy is of God. We cannot directly cause it even for ourselves, but our attitude of openness, and even our expectation of God’s goodness to us, has much to do with how often and to what degree we experience joy. And if we are joyful persons, we want others to share in the goodness that is not under our control to either receive or to give.
God not only made us capable of experiencing joy, but also arranged that our bodies, minds and spirits would, unless we deliberately restrain ourselves, give witness to the movement of grace within us that we call joy. The flow of the living water from the gift we have received readily irrigates nearby hearts that are receptive. We do not have make a special effort to inform people that our joy overflows, though we surely might give voice to our experience, and freely express it in some of the many ways that we communicate with one another.
When Jesus remarked that he wanted to share his joy, what might that mean for us? Clearly, he must be experiencing joy, much joy, if he desires that we have the same gracious movement of the Spirit within us. We could imagine that one source of continuing joy would be his relationship with “Abba” as he called God the Father, in which the ongoing communion is so personal as to be identified as the Holy Spirit. We cannot exactly share in that particular joy, since we are not God. But Jesus also takes great joy in every least bit of trust and love that we have for him and for one another. To share his joy would be for us to consciously engage in thoughts, words and actions of trust and love.
If we cannot create joy directly, we certainly can make decisions that are within our present capabilities of trusting God’s love for us. We can reflect on the daily small and occasionally great gifts of God’s love at work in us, and open ourselves to the “ordinary mysticism” of inspirations that move us in creative love for others.
The words of Jesus about sharing his joy become real and effective in us the more we accept the reality of his love directed towards as if we were dearly important to him – which we are.
Inside and Outside
Occurrences of grace and inspiration take place within us, but quite often the occasion for these experiences is from without. A word or a glance from someone, the way light strikes a familiar object in a new way, and any number of incidents that we contact through our physical senses are frequently the direct links that open for us graced insights, inspired thoughts and other spiritual interior movements.
Experiences of grace and inspiration are not necessarily accompanied by intense feelings, but they are as important for our well-being as commonplace drinking water and meals. We can take them for granted, but life is much better for us when we notice, reflect and even give thanks for at least some of the frequent helpful connections that take place between the movements inside ourselves and all that is outside. Much of our joy, and many of the causes for gratitude in our lives, originates from our ordinary interactions with the people and events that we encounter every day.
God made us whole persons, beautiful in the complementary interaction of our spiritual selves and our physical bodies. If we give almost exclusive attention to the inner workings of our minds and hearts as if that were somehow the only worthy and valuable part of ourselves, we become separated from the gracious entirety of God’s creation and we become less able to resonate in our spirits with the music of God’s presence that is outside us. Alternatively, if we focus almost all our awareness on the actions and beauty of the world about us, the effects are deadening to our spirits, similar to an extravagant but superficial party in which everything is about appearances and nothing about relationships among those who participate. God composed us of both spirit and body, in a beautiful unity that functions best when we think and act from a conscious acceptance and love for the kind of beings we are.
Even though our bodies will certainly die, we will continue to exist as unique persons of spirit who have an appointed destiny for resurrection of the body. We will not metamorphose into angels or other disembodied spirits when we die. We are a unique form of creation, beautiful as God makes us: spirits enclosed with flesh. God, in Jesus, is fully human, and, having gone through human death, lives with a human body, but one that befits resurrection. His present state is the model for how we are intended to be. The continuation of our “inside and outside” aspects after death is a mystery that is far greater, and of much more significance to us, than all the still unknown workings of the universe. “The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” resonate deeply within us, whether or not we use those exact words to explain the natural affinity we have for such a truth.
We can reflect upon and appreciate the beauty of how inside and outside are for us complementary rather than being somehow in opposition to our well-being. Though we cannot fully understand the mystery of the unity of body and spirit that defines us as humans, we can still be grateful that we are indeed “wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
We usually distinguish “work” from “play,” with the former being considered as more meaningful and significant, and the latter being thought of as a leisure activity. Without work, it seems that nothing will be accomplished. But play is also essential for adults. The Bible describes God as doing work in creating the world, and resting afterwards. But God also plays. And might some of what we call work, also be play?
For us, even when we thoroughly enjoy being creative, whatever we do requires some effort, and we generally call that “work.” For example, when we speak about paintings and sculptures, we refer to them as “works of art” rather than “results of play.” But when our work is quite rewarding, we give no thought to the efforts required, and when we play, we might become exhausted, but consider our tiredness a mark of enjoyment. Perhaps work and play are not opposites as we use them, but are instead descriptive categories that reflect our viewpoints at the time we use them.
The specific event of Creation appears to us as a huge project. But for God, just to want the universe and all it contains to exist is enough for its creation. No effort required; no blueprints, plans, or time to completion. From God’s perspective the act of creation might be play. And yet, helping us to fulfill the purpose of our existence as creatures, looks like the most extreme kind of work: Jesus enters fully into our human experience of limited time and energy, and labors on our behalf even through suffering and death. It does not look like play to us. But whether we call what God does either work or play, it seems that God’s concern is only to love, and so both categories and neither suffice to describe the beautiful mystery of love that encompasses all of creation in general and each of us in particular.
When we relate with God in personal prayer, is it work or is it play? In English, “pray” sounds very much like “play.” Sometimes we might even have said “play” when we meant “pray.” There is more to the similarity of the words than sound and spelling. When we pray, it often requires effort on our part just to be present. Yet, when a word of Scripture, a beautiful scene or a moment of deep peace lifts our hearts, we are wholly unaware of any work on our part. In such moments, all seems like play, as God moves in our spirits with perceptible affection. And is that “work” for God, or is it more like creation, God playing with us, quite personally and lovingly? Prayer, relating with God person to person, connects us with the saving work of Jesus. But that “work” has been completed.
Both work and play are meaningful concepts in our lives. But when we pray, we participate in God’s love, where both work and play merge into one and the same experience.