Thursday, February 27, 2020


NOTE: I am a member of a Facebook group called the Unitarian Universalist Hysterical Society Coffee Hour. It's replete with spiritual humour of all kinds, but for Lent, they've come up with 40 words, one for each day, and asked us to reflect on them and share images related to each word. I don't do images, but I do do words. And so, I'm going to actually commit to something for Lent: a bloglet each day. Some will be very short, others less so. Today's word:


Science has studied prayer. It has found -- and anyone who prays or meditates could have told you this -- that prayer reshapes your brain and your reality.  

For a very long time, I had a narrow, juvenile idea of what prayer was.  As a child, the first multi-line thing I ever learned to recite was

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Night, night, sweet dreams, and oh, yeah, you might DIE. But at least if you do, you've asked God to take your soul.

I didn't know what death was. I didn't know what a soul was, or whether I had one or not. I sure as heaven didn't know what God was. (Still don't, but I have a lot of very strong opinions on what She ISN'T.) 

If we're being honest, we're all agnostic: you simply can't know these things, because knowledge is of the mind and, as Conversations with God has it, to meditate or pray properly, you have to be "out of your mind". Atheists would have a field day with that statement, but it's true: when you're in your mind, you're restricted, closed off, and resistant. That's why gurus tell you that you should think of nothing, i.e., stop thinking. 

I've since come to understand that prayer is a lot more complicated than the silly nursery rhymes I used to recite. I haven't said an Our Father for many years, or a Hail Mary for several decades. But I pray every day, and often. 

I don't pray to a god sitting on a cloud somewhere, assessing all the incoming prayers and deciding which ones to honour. That's a child's prayer: gimme. I learned before I left the Christian church that the only effective prayer is a prayer of gratitude, and nothing I have seen or felt in my spiritual explorations since has gone against that. Gratitude is vital. Count your blessings, and be grateful for them, and you will experience abundance. 

Simplified: don't ask God for anything. Thank God for everything.

(My oft-repeated disclaimer goes here: if you hate that G-word, no problem. Say "love, Life, joy, freedom, the Universe". It's all the same thing. Devout Christians might take issue with that assertion, but even their faith states that God is "indwelling" -- the All in All, present in all that is, including you, me, your worst enemy, and that rock over there.)

Prayer is how I get in touch with something bigger than myself...and it's also how I grow. Each day, I thank the universe for everything in my life, especially the so-called "bad" things. This helps me reframe challenges as opportunities, and reminds me how far I've come, making it easier to walk a few steps further. And even though I don't consider myself a Christian, I take care to close every prayer with "amen"...because "amen" means "so be it". That's a powerful, powerful statement, "so be it". 

I find prayer to be immensely calming. It's a big part of why I am regarded as even-keeled. And it has certainly increased my capacity to love and be loved.

Y'oughta try it. There's no right or wrong way to do it: some of you might sit zazen, some of you might run marathons. You might be doing the dishes or laying in bed or...or...or... Music can be helpful (it certainly is for me), but it shouldn't be music that demands your attention. Likewise, I don't think anybody's ever managed a coherent prayer in front of a television, although I might be wrong.

As to what to pray: try, to start, to think about the things you're thankful for. Really picture them, and then really picture your gratitude for them. Let the things drop out of your head, and focus on that gratitude. The more I do this, and the longer I do it, the more it suffuses everything and becomes almost a force unto itself. As you get proficient at this, practice being grateful for more and more things, including the things that most people wouldn't be grateful for at all. I'm thankful for evil, because it gives me something to stand against, for instance. 

Really, though, it's up to you. It's hard enough for so many people in this world to spend a few minutes alone with their thoughts....taking the thoughts away too might be too much of an ask. But why not give it a shot? You've got nothing to gain, love, joy, the universe, freedom, peace, and (just maybe) some kind of god. 

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