Note to Self:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thoughts on prayer (and what it means to me)


This is the second in a series I started a little over a month ago on positive scripture (click here to read the first). But first I have to state a very short disclaimer. I've said this before but feel I have to say it again. My personal theology is...um, well. Scratch that. Actually I am not quit sure what my theology is these days. But what I wanted to mention is that I take the bible almost entirely as metaphor, and that while I do consider myself a follower of the teachings of Jesus (which I usually fail miserably on a daily basis), I consider Him and His teachings a way, not the only way. That said, please do not send me hate mail or try to "save me."

Anyhow, the scripture I wanted to highlight is Thessalonians 5:17 where Paul states that they/we should "pray continually." This is the NIV version; the King James version states to "pray without ceasing." Well that's some pretty serious stuff. Or is it?

Over the years, like most I would assume, not only have I changed but so has my spirituality. How I see this now is to really live in a place of gratitude and to be in awe of life in general.

This passage--to pray without ceasing--is often taken and quoted out of context, just as I did. But the couple phrases just before and after this one are just as important, I think. 5:16 tells us that we should rejoice always; 5:18 says to give thanks in all circumstances, and 5:20 advises not to quench the spirit.

My interpretation of this is to really look on the bright side of life and enjoy every minute, and to take nothing for granted because everyday and every moment is a gift. Personally, I do try to do this, and many days I do. But some days are easier than others.

Sometimes it's just simple things. Such as riding my bike at night and stopping to take photos on a cold night...feeling the wind on my face and being in touch with all that is around me. That to me is a way of praying; being in touch with the universe. Or talking to someone and looking in their eyes as they tell me a story and realizing that we, as everyone is, are all connected in some way. That to me is a form of praying as well. Sometimes at work while I'm juggling 10 or 12 pots on the stove and serving three parties at once and everything is running smoothly--and I am aware that it is running smoothly--I'll acknowledge this ability that has been given to me, and be thankful for it; that to me is a form of prayer. Heck, even as I type these words--writing and thinking about prayer--can be a form of prayer. Sometimes--I really believe--just saying thank you is enough.

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough."
~Meister Eckhart

So personally I really believe that everything we do can be a form of prayer if we are conscious of it.

"My life is my message."

And that is the most difficult part, I believe...is to be conscious of things. Being conscious of our connectedness to one another and what we do and think affects others in some way. Being conscious of the beauty that is all around us, whether you are in the city or country. And of course being conscious of the Divine Spirit, Universe, or Source (or whatever name you choose to use) that is not only our life source but also in what we live, move, and breath.

Prana (prāṇa) is the Sanskrit word for both breath and life-force.

Ahh...but this is the most difficult part isn't...being actively conscious of it. Sometimes this is so difficult. Sometimes--many times--I forget. And sometimes when this happens I may have an open--if not agitated--mind but a closed heart. I'll relay a very brief and abridge story about this.

For varying reasons, some events that have happened in my life over the past few days have been the perfect concoction--the perfect storm, if you will--to bring me down. Down so low that I could not feel or see the beauty around me, and the Divine Presence all but got up and went away..or so I thought and felt. It was not quite a feeling of despair but it certainly was not the feeling of gratitude that I so prefer. It was as if I were surrounded by a grey cloud and not sure whether I would scream or cry. 

So tonight I decided to go to the health club for a power swim (to release endorphins) and a steam, which I find relaxing. When I arrived at the club I saw that the pool was closed for repairs. "Perfect," my negative self muttered aloud, "why doesn't this surprise me." But I thought I'd go in and sit in the steam room anyhow. There was no one in there, which was a relief as I didn't feel like talking. After cranking up the steam I decided to meditate for a few minutes and repeat my personal mantra. This of course is a more formal type of prayer to me. 

And as I breathed in the hot cleansing steam I let it slowly permeate my body and then let it out into the universe. Doing this and slowly repeating my sacred word began to relax me. After doing this for about ten minutes I was lost in my head (so-to-speak) and no longer aware of my surroundings. But then I was brought back when a big hot drip of water dropped from the ceiling and landed squarely on my balding head (no joke). It startled me but also made me smile. Then, being aware of my surroundings but still with my eyes closed, I expanded my senses. I could hear the sound of the steam. Feel its heat and wetness on my skin. And hear the chatter of people talking beyond the door and in the locker room. I emerged from the tiny steam room cleansed in more than the traditional sense.

Shortly thereafter, on my ride home my pores were still open as I pedaled and coasted in the late autumn's night. The chilly air felt jarring at first, but good. I felt lighter. And looking up at the night sky watching as the clouds passed I realized that my grey cloud had lifted, too. Entirely, no, but some. Was I "cured" of my melancholy all together...of course not. But I did feel better in many ways. I felt connected. Connected to nature, to people, but most importantly to our Source.
I guess whet I'm really trying to say in this ramble is that prayer does "work." I really believe this. It can be transforming and at the same time can mean many things. All of life can be a prayer, the key is to be aware of this (and with this, I speak mostly to myself). And with this I leave you with a simple quote which I think sums it all up...
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“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
Søren Kierkegaard
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More Positive Scripture

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