Praying

September 25, 2012

Someone was asking me about how to pray, especially how to begin.  Here’s how I translated for that person what I do.

First I put on my hazard lights.  That is, I call a little attention to myself, I say “Here I am [, I’d like to communicate].”  While it’s a little like raising my hand in class, the gesture is not important so much as a way of getting others’ attention as its reflection back will make (makes) me ready to hear.

Then I start communicating as if giving a public talk and addressing those in the balcony I can’t see but I know are there.  It’s not that I’m a polytheist but I think there are all kinds of layers between ourselves and the highest levels of the universe, and sometimes I find that talking to some intermediate layer is what suits (and I think the highest levels especially get put into formats we humans can understand, a translation on the other end before we hear it, in a way.)  I throw my internal voice as far as I think it needs to go.

And then I reveal a little of what’s in my heart, as translated through what’s on my mind.  And I listen for what is communicated back.  (It usually feels as if it’s welling up from within.)

I’ll just add two little footnotes in case they turn out to be important to someone.  (1) Some people get a lot of emotion, including crying, welling up through them as part of praying.  It happens, it passes.  I notice it, I may name it, especially as a prelude to my trying not to interfere with its discharge.  (2) I’ve encountered situations in spiritual work when I’ve felt my capacity to tolerate a feeling was inadequate to what I was being asked to feel, and in that kind of a situation I ask for spiritual help.  For example, in one case, I politely but firmly explained that I could not hold that much distress safely and would have ask for that experience to end (it felt like saying I would have to ask a person to leave).  What I found was that the distressful part resolved and the rest of the connection continued — it felt to me as if at least part of the distressful part had been handed off and handled by the universe in a different way, not through me.  I add this note as a reminder of one tool for staying safe — when in doubt, ask for help.  Why we don’t get “help” “automatically” when we need it is another topic, but regardless, in the moment I’d go for the being safe rather than try to test the spiritual dynamics of the universe.

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