IS PRAYER STILL A THING?

Someone asked me a while back if I still pray since I don’t believe in God. One would think that I don’t pray. After all, it’s a religious thing isn’t it? But the fact is, that I do pray. I still pray a lot. It’s just that my notion of what God is has changed so much since my youth, that I don’t want to equate it with the God of the Bible or of the Roman Catholic Church in which I was raised.

I don’t see God is a magician who makes things appear and disappear. I don’t treat him as my last hope, turning to prayer when it seems that there’s no way out of an impossible situation. Nor do I see God as some sort of a Santa Claus who has lists upon lists of who is naughty and nice. God doesn’t measure my ‘faith’, nor are my petitions granted only if I attain a certain level of devotion. God is not Facebook and doesn’t respond to the number of likes he gets.

My understanding of a “Higher Power” has changed over the years and I believe that trying to define God, puts limits on whatever “It” happens to be. Sufficient to say that as long as my “God” doesn’t stare back at me when I look in the mirror each morning, I’m good. So if I don’t pray to God, then why would I pray?

The function of Prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Søren Kierkegaard.

Recovery literature says that if you have anger toward someone, to pray for them every night for two weeks. This same literature says that whenever we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, we need to look at ourselves for the cause of our disturbance. Finally it says that we cannot control people, places or things; our response to something is the only thing that we can control. In a nut shell: I am the one who needs to change and I pray in order to make that change. When I take the focus off of the other person, the offense or a need, I open myself up to change. I would have a small god indeed if he needed my help to influence his actions.

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I pray because prayer changes me. Whether it’s rote prayer, meditation, or contemplation, when I pray I move away from my Ego-centrism. Slowly I begin to focus, even just for a second, on the present moment and my connection to something other than myself. It doesn’t matter if I call it my spiritual nature, or my connection with others; prayer takes me away from, well, me. When I do that, when I step away from myself I start to see things for another perspective and that opens me up, little by little, to make a change, a change in me. So, yes, I do pray. I pray for understanding and I pray to accept things as they are.

Prayer allows me to step away from the world around me and quiet my mind for a moment from the challenges I face each day. In these moments I can unite my mind and my heart in a moment of peace. I can do this at a church or temple, by a stream or ocean, in a chair or on a cushion. The how is not important. Being present in the moment and being one with one’s self is prayer however you do it.

I don’t need a Biblical God in order to accomplish this. I only need to acknowledge that I am not the “be all and end all of everything.” In prayer, I connect to the “Spirit of the Universe” or “Higher Power” which more closely aligns with my current understanding of God. This also connects me and keeps me conscious of other people as well. And that, for me, is prayer.

FINDING PURPOSE

I remember saying, when I was in my teens trying to figure out what to do with my life, that I wanted to be ‘there’ and not have to go through all the crap to get ‘there.’ Some of my classmates had their lives already planned out, knew what they were going to do, how they were going to do it and were on track to making that life vision a reality. I, on the other hand, really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I entered a Catholic seminary because I thought I would ‘fit in’. Later, I went to teacher’s college because I knew I needed a ‘saleable skill’. And, while I know I’m an excellent teacher, it has never been my life’s purpose. I was always a bit jealous of those who ‘knew’ what they wanted and went for it.

Wikipedia.com

I have been looking into passion and purpose for several years now. There are a lot of ideas and theories about how we develop and maintain them. There´s no lack of success literature and YouTube videos on how to achieve it. But despite the quantities of material I’ve consumed online and on paper, I still haven’t found the ‘thing’ for me. My career over the past forty plus years is more like the ‘one piece at a time’ car that Johnny Cash sang about years ago: a cobbled form of many and varied things.

I know that I wouldn’t have fit into neither the corporate, nor the blue collar world. I’m not an artist nor an entrepreneur. And I know I’ve been fortunate, but I’ve often dreamed a regular 9 to 5 job with a regular pay cheque and a retirement package: work, go home, forget about work. And then I give my head a shake because I know that a regular day in, day out routine was never for me. Factory work one summer cured me of that. I know I like variety and challenge. I like trying new things and implementing new ideas. I have developed a lot of skills over the years and I have always had to hustle to keep it all together.

What I have done with my work life has allowed me to try a myriad of things that have kept me off the streets and rather comfortable. I have time to read, think, write, chat and generally enjoy my life. What more do I need? I’ve been thinking about what happens for the next 30 years of my life. What should I do so that I’m not wasting my mind and body sitting in front of the ‘boob tube’ and life passes by?

There’s no ‘right’ answer. There is no ‘thing’, no ‘there’, no ‘arrived’.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that my purpose is to enjoy life. Simple. Welcome each day, each event, every challenge and every triumph as it come along. Stand up after you fall and move forward. Enjoy that too, it’s part of life. Falling short isn’t a loss if I learn from it. I don’t think it really matters what one ‘does’ in life, as long as you enjoy it. One size never fits all. It’s important to make things work for you and not what works for others. Trying different things in life has a cost, but it is one that I would gladly pay again and will continue to pay in order to keep exploring this incredible life and to enjoy what happens to me along the way. Yes, I plan for the future and I know that I need to be flexible enough to modify, change or toss those plans when new information comes along. What matters is enjoying today. Whether you’re the CEO of the company or the producer on the line, life can be enjoyed.

I guess I never, ever got ‘there’ in my life. I know that I never need to get ‘there’. The important thing, I believe, is to enjoy being ‘here’.

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I AM ENOUGH!

Morrie Schwartz

I think a lot of people beat up on themselves, punish themselves emotionally because they’re “not good enough” or they haven’t done enough. They berate themselves for not living up to their own or somebody else’s expectations or for not having taken a different route in life or for not getting better grades in school or a better job . . . . Once you get into that state of mind, you continue to be mean to yourself and hurt yourself in ways you may not even be aware of. It’s very important to be kind and loving to yourself. You’re the only self you’ve got, so to speak. Befriend yourself in the same way you feel compassionate and gentle with other people. If you practice the principles of grieving, accepting, and forgiving yourself, you will be making a start in that direction. Morrie Schwartz

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It is so easy to find fault with ourselves. Many of us have a PhD in Self Incrimination and Degradation. We could’ve, should’ve and would’ve ourselves into self hatred and loathing. And in so doing, we mark ourselves as losers in the game of life. This sense of not being good enough can affect us mentally, spiritually and even physically. In the same way that emotional stress and worry can cause ulcers, medicine can now demonstrate that there is a direct connection between how we think about ourselves and our overall physical health. Auto-immune diseases, heart disease, and even cancers have been shown to have a psychological component. And once we let ourselves slide into the abyss of self-deprecation, the challenge to rise out of it is formidable.

I’ve heard from a young age that ‘to err is human.’ and it’s true. I cannot be right 100% of the time. It’s impossible. There’s no way that I can know all of the variables that create perfection. It’s important to give yourself a break. You can’t do it all and you can’t win every time; you really are only human. One my favourite definitions of success reminds me I only need pick myself up off the ground one more time than I’ve fallen in order to finish the hike. So forgive yourself. Give yourself a pass on this one, stand up and move forward.

Expectations are not results.

Every scientist tests a new theory with experiments. Sometimes the results confirm the expectations of the scientist, and sometimes they disprove the theory. I’ve learned to plan for the best outcome and at the same time keep myself aware that my expectations may not materialize. If something didn’t work out as expected, that is a reflection of the process, not on me personally. And then I can change what I’m doing because I know that the last way didn’t cut it. Would we still be in the dark if Thomas Edison stopped his light bulb experiments at 9,999 attempts?

I am enough!”

I have this written on my washroom mirror. It is a reminder that I am fine, just the way I am. I am not the work I do or the people I know. I don’t need anything else today. The mirror artistry is a powerful suggestion from Marisa Peer, a hypnotherapist from Britain. Much of her teaching is based on the truth that many people mistakenly believe that they fall short in some way or other. “I am enough” is a reminder to me that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone else or even to myself. Yes, “I am enough“, just as I am!

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Saying it once, isn’t sufficient. We have to say it over and over to reinforce this new belief and to destroy the old tracks that say otherwise. These recorded tracks that have been in place for decades don’t rewrite themselves overnight; scratch the record enough and it can never be played again. That’s why we need the constant reminder to reinforce this new attitude because we all, despite the challenges of the day, deserve a break. And a greater sense of self-worth can do a great deal to maintain and help heal us physically, mentally and spiritually. Enough with the regrets. We can give ourselves the benefit of any doubt.

Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. You really are Enough!