Tag Archives: prayer

Spiritual Errand

Through the front windshield of the bus, I watch the painted white lines on the black pavement of the road passing alongside in mesmerizing, rhythmic order. Thwop, thwop, thwop, thwop, my mind lays down a soundtrack to accompany the hypnotic visuals of the center-line’s fragmented glow under the low beams of the bus’ headlights.

With almost everyone else asleep, I remain awake as we travel through one of the least populated and most desolately beautiful regions of the Four-Corners area of the American Southwest. The time is closing in on midnight, and the highway is relatively deserted. No moon is visible. And, although the interior of the bus is dimly lit, the world immediately around me is bright, filled with spiritual Light.

Spirituality
Spirituality

Sitting quietly, as I review events from the trip, I remain in a state of heightened gratitude for the Grace extended during this excursion of spiritual errand—the Light needed to be reaffirmed in myself and among those whom I visited. Travelling for such a purpose is always humbling. With the aid of Grace, the best and sometimes most unexpected doors open with simple ease.

Sitting in my own bubble of spiritual reverie, I hear the man next to me shift in his seat. The bus is almost full. Then, turning toward me, he leans over to ask a simple question—something about current events. It is an election year. Not wanting to disrupt the thread of connection that is part of the larger picture and my heightened sight, I politely change the subject. Then, after regrouping, he redirects his own conversational energy, asking a series of questions about my religious affiliation.

After a few minutes of polite exchange, where I try to ascertain the general purpose of his line of inquiry, I finally ask him outright, “Are you needing me to pray for you?”

“Yes,” he answers in a hesitant affirmative. Then, with more conviction, “I need you to pray for me.”

The man appears to be Native American.  He may be Navajo, Hopi or from another First-Nation group native to this region. One of the things I learned while living in the Southwest is that most Native-American Peoples, who are still in a state of receptive connectivity, understand the Way. They know how Grace flows and moves and are respectful of the nature of sacred contracts.

“Do you know this song?” the man asks me, beginning to hum quietly—slowly—as he adds a few lyrics.

“Yes,” I answer. “I remember that song. It has been a long while since I have heard it.”

“Yes, it is an old song. I only need you to pray for me when you hear that song, that will be your cue that I need you to pray.”

We lean back again into our individual seats. I am amazed at how respectfully he has put forth his request. The parameters of our agreement are clear, tidy and not overly demanding. I find myself filling with gratitude again; this time it is for this man’s respectful politeness toward my own manifestation of the Light.

Stuff It

One table away, at the Indian restaurant where I am dining, a little boy is crying. He is not crying loudly, though he has come to the dry, hiccuping phase in his tears which indicates it has been a long road to arrive at this stage of his demonstrated upset or grief.

Spirituality

As I sit down to eat, I notice that he and his mother are part of a larger family gathering. Buffet days at this restaurant are consistently busy because the buffet offerings are of enough variety to satisfy even the most persnickety of eaters.

“If you can’t stop crying, we’ll have to leave the restaurant,” the boy’s mother leans over to inform him. “Do you want that?” she questions him in a threatening tone.

Internally I sigh and, while taking a deeper breath, wonder why she has not asked him about the source of his tears, reminding myself that I am coming into the situation late. Sometimes the intellectual-emotional exercise of asking children about why they are crying is enough to stop the deluge, if only for a moment.

Finally, out of sheer exasperation, I overhear the mother tell the boy to stuff it, using the old maxim, “Big boys don’t cry.”

I cringe. I contemplate the antiquated maxim, “Big boys don’t cry.” And, ofttimes big boys—that is grown men—can neither identify their own feelings as adults nor can they draw up plausible cause-effect relationships between their personal experiences and those of their internal, emotional world. In this last scenario, grief, fear, abandonment, being slighted or otherwise hurt by life circumstances may end up being channeled into anger or rage—two of the more culturally “acceptable” emotions for men to exhibit.

Returning my attentions to the beautiful plate of food in front of me, I say a short prayer for the gift of my food, as well as a short prayer for this mother and child, while recalling—with profound regret—the less-than-optimal parenting skills I exhibited in my own youthful, child-rearing days. We are a work, are we not? And all of us are “in progress.”

Dear God, please let this small boy come to know that it is okay to cry.

Do You Need a Ride?

Moving into the city, where we currently reside, my husband and I were initially amazed by the generosity and open kindness of the local people. Whether we needed directions or help finding a phone number, complete strangers were more than willing to assist us, proving to be extremely patient and generous with their time. While walking our dogs, strangers have not been afraid to slow or stop their vehicles to shower compliments on our canine companions—for good behavior, glossy coats or general demeanor. And, among our closest neighbors, we were and are often treated to shared produce, jams, jellies and helpful local information.

Spirituality

Thus, when I first started my regular and extra-long walks in order to spend the afternoon writing in some of our community’s best coffeehouses, I was not overly surprised by the occasional vehicle that would pause, with the driver turning to address me directly and ask politely, “Do you need a ride?”

As a writer, I always decline these polite offers because I do not know these individuals and my long walks are designed to balance out the time I spend seated. Still, when this first started happening, I would think to myself, “Wow, the people here are so considerate.”

Then, one hot afternoon in mid-July or mid-August, after we had lived here for a few years, I am walking through a neighborhood between our own and the one where that day’s coffeehouse is situated. Across the street from me, two or three small groups of men are sitting outside of a not-so-large manufacturing complex, taking their mid-afternoon breaks in the outdoor heat. The temperatures inside of the buildings must be sweltering.

Suddenly, someone from among these men wolf whistles. Loudly. The whistle is jarring enough that I stop thinking about the book issues I have been mulling over in my mind and shift my focus back to the present moment and into the context of my body. Glancing about, I look for, perhaps, a new car, a custom truck or another situation or person who might warrant such vocal attention. There is nothing and no one else around.

Then, gazing down at my summer garb, I notice the jumper I am wearing. The linen or light cotton jumper is a practical, fashion nod to the day’s incredibly high heat index. In that moment, I also realize that with my being across the street, the man who has whistled probably cannot see my face and most certainly does not realize that I—in terms of age—could have easily be his mother.

“Hmmm. Odd,” I think to myself. My mind clicks and whirs. That wolf whistle grants me something of a non-spiritual epiphany regarding the probable nature of those previously “kind” offers for “a ride” which may have been code for something else entirely different.

Our postal carrier likes to refer to our small section of his route as “The Ritz.” In order to walk to the many coffeehouses I frequent to complete my book projects, I often pass through three, four or five distinct micro-neighborhoods, each with its own flavor, challenges and/or expectations. Interestingly enough, the offers for “rides” which I have received do not come in the evenings, as might be expected, but usually during the early afternoon—somewhere between one and four. So, it is not as though I am inviting this potentially questionable contact into my life by walking at “inappropriate” hours of the day.

After the wolf-whistle event, I return home to sort through my clothing, donating any potentially “questionable” skirts, jumpers and dresses to a local charitable organization for resale. I do not want to experience further future miscommunications due to wardrobe content. A tall stack of stylish, fun clothing in neutral to light colors is traded in for a stack of somber-colored capris, slacks and practical short—all in an effort to prevent confusion.

I wonder about clothing signals specific to this region. Still, even after the change in wardrobe, a few vehicles do pause, on occasion, stopping long enough to ask me whether or not I need “a ride.”

Over the years I have lived here, I have looked in the faces of men ages twenty-five to seventy-five, searching to fill the void of loneliness inside of themselves with the specter of love which commercialized, sexually intimate touch attempts to provide. Yet, Grace is the only thing capable of filling that chasm of emptiness which forms when we experience long periods of unwanted soul solitude. And, so, for now—I continue to pray that the hearts of these passersby become filled with God’s unremitting Light.

Chewing on Life

At a luncheon one day, an acquaintance begins a conversation with me about another person’s child, observing that she is disappointed in the manner in which this other person’s child is “turning out.”

I listen in silence as the speaker describes a list of goals, dreams and visions she had for this child, and I remain silent and quietly amazed as my luncheon companion concludes with an almost equally lengthy should-have, could-have and would-have set of statements for another person’s life.

Inside of myself, I ponder the sheer degree of personal energy we are willing to expend in thought and word on other people’s lives—wasted energy really—on gossip and daydreaming.

The one-sided conversation I had that day ended there because I was not willing to weigh in with an equally useless set of empty opinions.

Spirituality

Of late, I have taken this position on people and their very unique and individual paths: When I encounter a person and a set of actions which I do not understand, I hold that person in the Light, asking for all of the holy protection and the whole-hearted extension of sacred support which Grace has to offer. In doing this, I hope Grace will assist another individual in attending to the many quandaries and decisions to be faced and that, somehow, life will be made a little lighter and easier due to my simple, quiet requests.

Practicing Trust II

At some point into the third year of my intermittent guitar practice, I realize I will neither morph into Carlos Santana nor will I ever make the Rolling Stone’s top-fifty guitarists’ list.  Regrettably, this realization dampens my inclination to pick up and practice guitar rather than causing me to redouble my efforts.

Soon, the fine dust, which sifts through every room of active living, begins to collect on the curvaceous edges of my old friend’s body and her polished surfaces. The only time my old friend is dusted off is when we have our irregular dates which tend to fall on three-day weekends and during the holiday season, when I still like to muddle through several of my favorite Christmas carols.  

Spirituality

Less guitar practice produces more time for devotional meditation. Almost daily, during my devotional practice, I sit in silence waiting for some type of assignment to arise—whether it is an errand of selfless service or something having to do with selfcare. And, as these nudges regarding the directions of my time arise, I attempt to fulfill them.

Devotional work produces a tremendous amount of joy—whether it is handing-off a burrito to a homeless man, opening a door for someone with overly full arms or simply working in my yard to plant flowers. And, life experience has taught me to heed the wisdom of the timing, direction and instructions provide by Grace over my own limited and short-sighted sense.

Then, on one Christmas day while I am taking a quiet, solo walk through our neighborhood—five or six years and three states away from the time and place of my guitar’s acquisition, I happen upon two Latino men who are hard at work, putting the finishing touches on a front porch of intricately laid stone masonry.  

The neighbors and neighborhood are tucked in and out of the cold, while enjoying friends and relatives-either here or afar. Thus, it is amazingly silent. My connectivity to the Universal Thread remains undisturbed amid the silence and what feels like an open channel, without a trace of static.

I wonder to myself whether or not I should return home to fetch these men some of the scones I have just baked, when another directive comes through quite clearly, “Go get your guitar.”

In terms of Divine guidance, this is one of those instances where my Adam’s apple does an actual chin up and a large cartoon bubble appears above my head with the word G-U-L-P spelled out in all caps. Stunned by the relative magnitude of the request, I decide to walk home quickly and follow through on my leading, before I can over think it. On the way home, I remember that earlier this morning I asked God to help me become a reliable agent of Christ’s Grace. If handing my guitar off to these men causes me to fulfill my own request, then this is what I must do.

At home, I dust off my guitar and place my old friend in her case. With the guitar and case in hand, I walk briskly back to the house where the men have been working during their off hours, laboriously rehabilitating this once damaged structure over the past several months. Without almost any words, the guitar is handed off. I watch as one of the men places my old friend in the semi-heated shell of the house. Then, walking more slowly, I make my way back home.

After reentering our front door, I peel off my coat so that I may return to my meditation cushion. I need and want to understand what has happened.  

Intellectually, I know that the guitar is technically only an object. And, my guitar had certainly become an under-used and much neglected object. Yet, the degree of attachment that I had to the guitar was far more profound than I had anticipated, given the emotions I am dealing with upon its relinquishment. In working through some of my heart’s emotional discomfort, I remind myself about the importance of needing to trust—of practicing Trust.

Then, in a sliver of space between my milling thoughts, the Divine reassurance that I need comes, “The guitar will keep someone from seeking comfort in drugs or alcohol.”

With this reassurance, everything becomes a little brighter and my Spirit finally settles down. Happy Christmas to All!

Pray Without Ceasing

Everything possesses at least two appearances:  the physical and the spiritual.

Spirituality

Most of us attempt to judge or discern things about situations, circumstances, neighborhoods, homes, people, plants, objects and animals based upon their surface or physical appearance. Yet, except for the physical items where surface appearance may be altered by–say–a coat of paint, most of us do not have a great deal of choice about our given, physical form.

Spiritual appearance is that aspect of something or someone, which is the more important of the two “appearances” to observe.  It is also the more changeable form of appearance and, potentially, the most able to becoming bright or fully luminescent.  Spiritual appearance is capable of changing in a heartbeat, depending upon the place we find ourselves abiding—in our consciousness—and in our activities, as well as depending upon the purity of our intentions.

Spiritual appearance is a little more difficult “to see” with the naked eye; but, it may be glimpsed as a form of radiance or glow, permeating and sometimes extending beyond a physical form. But, before concerning ourselves with the physical or spiritual appearances of others, we need to work on growing our own Light.

One of the most accessible means through which we may grow our Light is by establishing a dialogue of well-wishing and positive intentions toward ourselves and others.

There are a great number of recommendations and books devoted to prayer and “how to pray.” Yet, what if we were to simply make our greatest care and focus the continual wish, for ourselves and others, for that which is in everyone’s greatest good or highest Light? There is nothing—no prayer or wish—simpler than this. Right action follows closely on the heels of an open, unencumbered and working heart.

Spiritual Seasons II

In the space of my devotional practice, I place my concerns before the Light of God. A clear leading comes through, “Simplify.” In Quaker tradition, a leading is the nudge granted to us by the Spirit.

Considering this gentle command, I have to admit that, of late, caring for our household inventory has become less joyful and more of a chore. On some days, I feel like a warehouse queen rather than a spiritual being.  Internally, I postulate that this overabundance of inventory is probably one of the reasons I have spent so much time in the garden over the summer. Even though I know logically that avoidance does not solve problems of excess.

Spirituality

As a life experience, sorting through items stored in a large closet is nothing like kneeling in a yielding, freshly turned plot of earth, where living plants will soon produce incredible rewards. After all, I have never seen a bucket list where the sorting through of one’s personal belongings is in the top ten.

Committed gardeners know that working in the soil, directly with the earth, is capable of warding off feelings of disconnectedness, as well as banishing a sense of the mundane. Overstuffed closets seem to produce the opposite emotional impressions. Yet, if the answer to my query is to simplify, then—for this winter season—closets, cabinets and drawers it is.

Approaching the process of going through our personal belongings, I decide to think of each area as I would one of my garden beds. What would I like to give to someone else, so that another person might benefit?

My heart reopens with the prospect of another and decidedly unique season of giving. I crave the experience of largesse.

So, I decide to envision each space in my home as a potentially empty piece of acreage—a garden bed, where I will be able “to cultivate” what I most desire. This approach to the work at hand prompts me to ask the question: What do I want to plant and grow in my interior, domestic life?

Sifting through the belongings in each area of our home, I feel a welling sense of joyful anticipation. The possibility of unbridled spiritual living is returning to my heart. With each donation and regifted item, given to a charitable organization, neighbor, friend or acquaintance, my heart experiences an expansion, spaciousness and a renewed lightness of Being.

Before approaching an area, I say a short prayer for guidance. With this prayer, decision making is decidedly easier.  It is as if the items sort themselves.

Spiritual Seasons I

Coming into late fall, I pause to look out of the large window in my bedroom, to ruminate on the work I have done in the various garden beds of our backyard. Over the past two weeks, I have been working to prepare all of the beds for the winter ahead.

The self-seeding, annual flowers have had their faded and dried blooms cut, broken open and scattered. Perennials are appropriately trimmed, thinned and otherwise rearranged. The vegetable beds are empty now, with the fruits of those plantings long since harvested. A handsome layer of nourishing and protective mulch covers everything. Everything (or “everyone” in my backyard world) is properly tucked in and cozily secured for the cold months ahead.

Spirituality

As I stand looking out of the window, I feel somehow unprepared for the upcoming season. To some extent, there is the sense that I have buried my heart, somewhere, in one of those garden beds.

Flowers and garden produce, I have come to learn, are some of the best ways through which I am able to relate to people—both friends and strangers. And, the zinnias, daisies, cox combs and other miscellaneous annuals I cultivate allow me—during the peak of season—to clip, arrange and give away two or more modest bouquets weekly.

In one of my kitchen cupboards, I even maintain a shelf of miniature, secondhand vases, uniquely designed, former juice bottles, as well as a selection of dark-green glassware for give-away purposes. Being able to deliver small bouquets to grateful neighbors, favorite baristas or local postal carriers is an even more joyful act than giving away an occasional tomato.

Nothing opens the heart like a bunch of well-presented flowers. Even the occasionally (initially) gruff, service workers visiting our neighborhood are happy to take a small vase home to a beloved partner. Homegrown, carefully arranged groups of confetti-colored blossoms are an instant, amazing pick-me-up. The flower-good feelings are not just an in-the-moment occurrence but can actually produce a radiating joy over the course of time.

Small kindnesses plant themselves in a person’s heart, becoming experiential touchstones, bearing fruit when a person revisits such a memory during times of emotional need—not to mention the good that it does for the heart of the person giving. And, when a person’s heart is touched in this way and reopens, the recipient’s  initial, natural inclination—and the heart’s true desire—is to share and give liberally. Kindnesses begin to ripple.

Standing at the window, I consider these themes and the shift in season. Concerned that my heart will go into hibernation with the end of flower- and tomato-gifting season, I wonder to myself, “What is there left to give, with the garden beds put to rest for the next five months?”

The Space of the Heart

While attending a dinner, I ask a woman what comes to mind when she considers the phrase “the space of the heart.”

“Confusion,” she replies, answering quite quickly.  Then she continues her list, “Unreliable, feeling without discernment, illogical.”

Spirituality

Her response catches me off guard, as I have been working on approaching life more and more from the space of my heart, though admittedly I stray when challenged.  Then, upon further reflection and in all fairness, I have to remember the first time my spiritual teacher/trainer told me that I needed to mind my emotions before making decisions–to learn how to listen to and trust my heart.

At the time, when my teacher advised me to begin attending to my heart, I thought, “She is out of her mind.”

For years, I had worked very hard at burying my seemingly irrational emotions in favor of a relationship with what I viewed as my more logical self.  The idea of suddenly having to pay attention to my emotions and “heart” seemed like it might lead to significant backsliding.

But, to return to our dinner conversation…

“Okay,” I say.  “Fair enough.  What do you think about listening to or relying upon the hunches granted to you by connecting to the essence of who you are?”

“Uh, well…more reliable perhaps, though that sounds too difficult to do,” my dining companion responds dubiously.

Jackpot.  That, it would seem, is how most of us move through our lives, finding the pure treasure of our own Knowing too difficult to access.  Our own Wisdom remains largely undiscovered, unrecovered and buried at the core of the heart.

This is where three, swash-buckling heroes named Reverie, Meditation and Receptive Prayer enter our tale, complete with long, lustrous and wavy locks of flowing hair and loads of bon-vivant sex appeal.

The purpose of minding our emotions does not mean we act on or react to every initial emotional impulse crossing the screen of a moment.  Minding the heart means we pay attention to the general direction of the wind–the way things are blowing–in our internal, emotional weather-world, while remembering that this is indeed a reliable way to travel, because it is the way of the Spirit.

Minding Spirit grants us the freedom to discover who we are–in our hearts.  And, we are so much more than our next shopping list, the contents of our closets, the itinerary of a chosen excursion or distracting selection in entertainment. We are capable of profound, life-affirming change, transformation, Love, forgiveness, resolutions and world-changing solutions.

So, the next the next time you feel the urge to go “somewhere” or to do “something,” consider a date with one of our tale’s swash-buckling heroes.  You might be surprised by your sudden change in plans, what you discover inside or what you will then choose to do.

Spiritual Passages

“…if he did not exactly sympathize with her temperament and point of view, at least he included her with the largess of his affection.”  –Theodore Dreiser

Standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, “Pray for Prince,” is the leading that comes through one evening.

Spirituality & Prayer

“Hmmm,” I think, “that seems to make sense, as I have been on a Prince music kick for the past couple of weeks–though leadings and logic are not always closely married.  The more appropriate marriage would be between guidance and Faith, or intuition and Trust.”

The marriage between intuition and Trust would be the one, long-term relationship deserving of a hard-knocks, country-western song about, “They didn’t think we’d make it, but we did…and forever…you and me.”  (I think there is a truck in there somewhere.)

So, praying for Prince is what I begin to do.  In the most generic, humble and straightforward manner possible, I begin to ask Grace to please “grant to Prince that which is in his highest Light.”

And, I continue to offer up this prayer and other prayers, granted to me by Divine guidance, over the course of the next ten days. Then, I learn that Prince has transitioned.

The news of Prince’s death both does and does not surprise me. I finish the prayer work granted to me, hoping that Prince’s passage is eased by these prayerful meditations.

When this phenomenon first occurred, my yoga students were the ones who took notice, remarking that it was uncanny, the way I would play a full hour of Micheal-Jackson music for yoga class the day before Micheal died. This, as it turns out, is not uncanny; this is connectivity. As a person who believes in all that is seen and unseen and as a person who offers up kindesses to those in need through the medium of prayer, I feel fortunate to be granted the ability to assist another individual with one of life’s passages or with passage from this realm to the next.

In a sense, we are all in transition “all” of the time. We enter this realm. We pass through life phases, birth, maturation, marriage(s/?), anniversaries, parenting (?), death. We gain a body, live in a body and, then, lose a body.

Contemplative life has taught me, mostly, that we are here to aid one another, if at all possible, through stages of passage or transitions, as well as, ideally, working together to alleviate suffering where and when we can. We are here to help one another “get through” life. In addition to beginning the process of thinking more kindly about others and wishing people and the planet well, concrete, physical actions in the forms of charitable works and shifts toward simplicity of lifestyle are critical.

In my experience, we–as individuals–are usually assigned tasks most suitable to our specific gifts, temperments and circumstances.

So, the next time you are in line at the grocery store and you feel nudged by your conscious to say a few kind words, silently, on behalf of the frazzled parent with two small children ahead of or behind you, just do it.  This meditative action is thoughtful kindness, and this behavior may be the one meditation tipping the scales toward a safe passage.