Occupy Blogosphere January 24th, 2013

I have a question for you. Well, actually I have several questions. What is prayer? How do you pray? What are you attempting to do? Are you doing it right? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you wasting your time? Does it do any good?

My Prayer Hands, Credit: Photobucket

These are peculiar questions coming from one who used to pray in the traditional sense rather a good bit. During those times of prayer I was attempting to pray for someone or something, I had a goal and prayed for that goal. Because of my relationship with God at that time I would attempt to pray for the things that I believed God wished me to pray. This was a bit like attempting to know God’s mind. The easiest prayer time was when I was a young girl before I turned fifteen and left the Catholic Church. That act just happened to coincide with Vatican 2. As a young Catholic I just said my Hail Mary’s and whatever else was prescribed at confession and that was it. Job done. Of course everything in those days was in Latin. This did not create much of a sense of spiritual understanding or commitment within me. There was definitely something “missing.” And so my path began at quite a young age.

I have had two significant spiritual experiences each of which radically changed my life. After the second experience in 2005 I found myself online in a writing forum. This was a site where ideas were traded, stories told or politics discussed among other things. I saw that there were often two opposing sides especially during an election. The loudly professed Christians were a wild bunch. Truth be told I have never experienced or seen so much vitriol and pure hatred come from anyone towards others as I saw coming from them. I had spent many years working with those who had AIDS/HIV. This was the most rewarding work that I have ever done and I shared stories about the work. It was also something that these Christians did not like at all. These experiences had a very unsettling effect on me. I stopped referring to myself as Christian. At that time my prayer life radically changed. I am the sort of person who engages 150% and then I need a break, I am grateful God has always accepted that in me, understanding I guess, that I was tired and worn out.

I have been fascinated by the spiritual disciplines of the world for a long time. I have studied them much of my life. As a result I pretty much view religions as languages that God has given to different cultures as a means of communication between God and the culture. Meant to be languages of love they have too often become tools of war. The aspect of each discipline that held my attention was always about healing. Thus I have studied healing techniques from across the globe. I found shamanism to be the most interesting of these disciplines. It is the oldest system of healing in existence. I was prompted into formal studies of shamanism. It is a fifty thousand year old system of healing with the same techniques practiced in Lapland that are practiced within Amazonian indigenous cultures, North American indigenous cultures and around the world. They are techniques that work. Could they be a form of prayer? Is healing a form of prayer? Surely one is involved in healing because they care for others.

Many formal and scientific studies have been executed in medical settings measuring the effects of prayer upon patients. These studies can be fallible as the groups of patients who are not prayed for by study prayerists (my word) may be prayed for by family members oceans away when they were not to be receiving prayers. This is not something that could be controlled within the control group. There are studies that show prayer to be beneficial. But there are studies that show prayer not to be beneficial at all and found at times to appear to be detrimental.

I have come to believe that prayer is the channeling of love or loving energy from yourself to another or the channeling of Gods love through you to another. And I mean this literally. When in prayer I used to put my hands together. A bit later in my spiritual journey I held them upward, I think to receive energy from God. Today, I rub my hands together generating energy and then channel it to another.

Is this prayer? I don’t know. But for me at this time it is. So what is prayer to you and how do you do it?

As always linking with Soul Dipper’s Occupy Blogosphere Thursday

39 thoughts on “Occupy Blogosphere January 24th, 2013

  1. An excellent post, Liz. Congratulations!

    I would ditto it: top to bottom. I think in the end, each of us defines “God” “Prayer” “Healing” in our own way, much as the various clergies might not like that.

  2. I agree with Jamie. This is an excellent post. I love how open your mind is to different ways to pray. We moved to Texas and got a culture shock because we joined a huge homeschool group of Evangelists. We had no idea what we were in store for and a year later, left the group with our heads shaking and our hearts hurting. So many rules to follow in their world. Everything was so click-ish, we felt completely stifled.

    We decided to embark on our own “quest” if you will as a family. Nothing fancy. We just had lot of discussions, watched lots of documentaries on all sorts of faiths, and went to several denominations of Churches.

    For me, went I leave the house early in the morning with only my eyes and my camera, I feel like that is a form of prayer that works for me. It is so peaceful. I observe so many people. I gain much needed perspective. I usually have my deepest thoughts and prayerful moments there.

    I, too, grew up in a huge strict Catholic family. I can see where some people really need that structure for their faith. It doesn’t work really well for me and I had to struggle to not feel like a maverick but to just accept how spirituality works for “me”.

    • Sarah, oh yes! Your photography is prayer, it really is. Thank you for your comments. At first I looked at this comment for it needed approval and I wondered who you are. This is a natural response in my blogging world for in my writing up until now (most of which is poetry) I have a small and contained group that I trade comments with.

      There is that blogging world and then there is my “de Rigeur” blogging world. I rarely comment in that one. I read fervently. I have 3 folders of them: Style 1, 2 and 3. I share this with you as I sit here chuckling having run across you last night for the first time and put you into Style-1.

      As a result hearing from you is really special to me. As you know your voice so captivated me that I did comment upon your blog. Anyway this is a lovely surprise. I did grow up Catholic with my mother always telling us how disgusting the Catholic Church was. So awful was it that I never again after moving to New England from New York as a tot was I allowed to see my grand parents whom I adored. Mummy was Episcopalian, church of England (she was not British). Of course she never set foot in a church. Funny my first spiritual experience was “born again,” so unlike anything that I had ever known. It really changed my life. That life had to be rebuilt from the bottom up on my own. I was a part of a prayer group for 2 years, something that at the time was very helpful. But I have never been able to cut it in any church. My husband is a non-practicing Jew. So my path has been alone – but isn’t everyone’s?

      Sarah, I think your food might even be prayer. I am not joking. I was once a wonderful cook. But I lost my sense of taste/smell 3 years ago and along with it my love of cooking.

  3. defining prayer is like defining art….brother lawrence wrote a book called Practicing the Presence of God…and he talks about his best prayer time being doing the dishes…i think that there are many way to connect with god…or the energy of the universe…and one way def does not seem to be the way…and what seems to work for one does not necessarily work for another…

    • Brian, thanks for the tip on the book. I will look into it as this question has been and continues to hang out in my head a good bit lately. I agree with all that you said.

  4. Fabulous post, Raven. In the past, I thought I had to solve the world’s problems, then ask for the appropriate solution. I thought it was the RIGHT solution since it was so full of “goodness” (yike!) Now, prayer for me, is simply intention and attention. I can be doing dishes, walking, pre-sleep, or in the midst of a raging resentment. Where is my intent? I visualize a wash of healing light over & through myself and/or direct it to others.

    When I am going to “pray” or send light to another, I clear first.

    I believe I’m a shaman at heart! I just nestle right into the folds of philosophies I’ve read or heard. What I read here is no exception, Raven.

    Praying for others? I don’t know what I need most of the time. How would I know what anyone else needs – even if they are ill? Perhaps they don’t really want to heal. Maybe they get a good slice of life by being ill?? So, as taught in my healing disciplines – I conduit light as I think Love – and leave it up to them.

    As a First Nations Medicine woman told me, “Oh, leave the healing to them. That’s between them and the Creator.”

    • Amy, you just give me so many ideas! So many, or better said you, through your own words open a cage and let mine out. The one thing that I did not say in this post was: “Oh by the way I just read “Soul Dipper” and now I know that it is time to write about my own question of prayer.” Hm, double quotes, Liz. And another item on my mind has been “intention.” Ha ha. This tells me that you and I are rather in sink. Guess that is no coincidence eh? It is the “We are all one theory.”OK, OK, back to responding.

      Clearing yes, that makes absolute sense – something that I know That I should be doing. Actually it is a habit of old, just forgotten. But oh my, my friend this is actually just fodder for my piece on intention. I am going to stop and just tell you that I love you and that I am so grateful that you are in my life.

    • Amy, you just gave me so many ideas! So many, or better said you, through your own words open a cage and let mine out. The one thing that I did not say in this post was: “Oh by the way I just read “Soul Dipper” and now I know that it is time to write about my own question of prayer.” Hm, double quotes, Liz. And another item on my mind has been “intention.” Ha ha. This tells me that you and I are rather in sink. Guess that is no coincidence eh? It is the “We are all one theory.”OK, OK, back to responding.

      I agree with all that you say. Clearing yes, that makes absolute sense – something that I know that I should be doing. Actually it is a habit of old, just forgotten. But oh my, my friend this is actually just fodder for my piece on intention. I am going to stop and just tell you that I love you and that I am so grateful that you are in my life. And to say thank you for your words here.

      • Something sure is going on, isn’t it, Liz?! I like it a lot. I feel our soul-family-love-connection big time and it’s a delight to let it unfold all on its own!

        I just got off the phone with a man newly diagnosed with kidney cancer. Earlier, I had talked to his wife about Adam (self-healing) so I told John, “Just picture the healthiest kidney you can in your body. Stick with that intention and you’ll help your body go through the surgery so much better.”

        Yep, we’re on the same page!

  5. Yes, I agree with you. Prayer is the channeling of God’s love through you to another. Or the channeling of your love to another. Or for me prayer can be just talking with God. Or prayer also can be listening to God…whether this is through a preacher, a fellow traveler, a book, or nature. I think that prayer does good for the one who prays. It helps him/her feel connected with God or connected with the one(s) prayed for. I cannot say that I believe that prayer actually can heal someone, as I know many people pray for a person who dies anyway. And some who do not pray are healed! But then again there is a chance, so why not pray! Feeling connected with God is what prayer is all about. It can happen anywhere at any time. But it does FEEL good to pray WITH others.

    • I like your words Mary. They are expansive and give me a wider view of prayer. Thank you. About healing, I want to share something with you. One shamanic technique that I used to do with persons who had end stage AIDS, was “soul retrieval.” Now, I knew full well that no one was going to be healed of AIDS. But these men were unable to die. There had seen so much trauma within their lives that each was unable to cross over. They were each in a coma, unable to die. So I did soul retrieval and this allowed them to cross over, to die.

      So, what is soul retrieval? In shamanic culture the soul is ones “vital essence.” Anything can be construed as trauma, for example: surgery, mother yelling at you, a car accident, a divorce, falling off a horse, being ill or alcoholism or drug addiction. When a soul encounters too much trauma it goes into a coma. Trauma is encountered by the soul and that little piece of the soul which has been hurt breaks off and goes into the void. Too many pieces break off and then one is in a coma – unable to function in this world. In the technique of soul retrieval the shaman through a series of actions goes into that void, searches for those pieces of the client’s soul, retrieves them (sometimes through coaxing), brings them back and places them into the person. The actual healing came when the client had enough of himself back so as to die or cross over. I share this with you because within our culture healing means “not dying or getting well. But in other cultures it will mean something else.

      Another reason that I decided to learn shamanic techniques was that the client does not have to go through any pain in order to heal. The client just lies there. Mary I really appreciate your sharing, thank you.

  6. What an interesting – as always – post and following discussion. Loved it. I was raised Catholic, too, and the rigidity and inflexibility of it scared me off of organized religion. So I call myself spiritual as opposed to religious, and feel most spiritual in the forest or at the sea. Nature fills me with gratitude and it is what I most thank God for.

    I have read widely in a lot of disciplines and find some truth and beauty in each of them, resonating strongly with indigenous cultures and Buddhism.

    I love your description of how using your hands has changed and evolved over the years – interesting. A First Nations medicine man once told me, “your greatest pain is your strongest medicine”.

    I need to be praying more these days. Thanks for the nudge, kiddo.

    • Sherry, we established a good bit ago that we are sisters. And that thanks to Eileen. It was so lovely, it happened so quickly – well the only reason that I am saying this is that your words here, your sense of spirituality just echoes mine. Period. here is something to think about, prompted by your remark: “I need to be praying more these days.” As I age, I forget a lot of things – like to pray. I wonder where aging falls into all this? (((hugs))). Liz

  7. “Raven” – this is a post worthy of deep thought and pondering … but on an immediate level of response … prayer to me is the open communication between me and the Divine … it may come in a variety of forms — none specifically within the confines of a building — photography, digging in Mother Earth, picking up a brush for meditative art, out in nature with its symphony of sounds and art show of colors and form, at the beach or in the mountains … however, on the other side, I do find comfort and solace being in the quiet reverence of a Catholic church — although I do not routinely attend (they are scarce where I live). I find comfort in the rituals and the formed prayers — as they become another form of meditation for me — I realize this because just like meditation — at times I “travel” and return, and upon return, I may lose my place because of the surprise return. Where did I go, and why don’t I remember (that is my immediate goal of discovering) … when I go to church with my husband — I do not “feel” like I’ve been to church — too much chatter and disruption. I realize I’ve been to a worthy service, but not direct communing with God.

    I find throughout the day I have a running conversation with God and with my angel guides. Sometimes, I don’t even remember when the. conversations starts. So I feel this is another form of prayer or communication. Now I am trying to see more of the Divine within me — so that the avenues are always open with mindfulness, fellowship and harmony.

    Thank you for sharing ~~ xo

    • Becca, you have been such a beacon of love for/to me since I ran across you here in the blogosphere. Always. As you know I live about 6 houses away from the Cathedral Basilica. And you have just given me this huge gift. HUGE. When we moved here 30 years ago I was so pleased to be next to (well, practically) this incredibly beautiful church that I can’t express how happy I was. I went inside and knelt down, then looked up at the mosaics. What I saw was several women kneeling in front of a man.

      Now I have always been a feminist but I am not rabid – or so I thought. I took one look at these women kneeling in front of this man and I was “outta there.” And I have not been back. And then came the opening of the History of pedophilia, then I thought of the crusades and other wars … it was my husband, a Jew who wanted to walk down to the church when Pope John Paul drove by.

      I wonder if all of that wasn’t anger with God, even though I adored God and my life was so much better because of him. I loved your comments. I love all that you said. It is so helpful. Thank you. Now your gift to me? I am going back to the church and sit in it empty and pray or meditate and receive this lovely gift given so long ago and refused by me. (((hugs))) Liz

  8. A post with much to think about.

    These days, I think prayer is a sincere and focused well-wishing.

    I was brought up a Christian but even when I was a devout church-going one, I could never pray properly in the “traditional” christian sense. I reckon God would already know what I wanted or what was needed, it was hard to come up with words to pray. I really dreaded praying in groups when one is asked to say a few words in a circle. Others seem to be able to go on and on, and I had just a sentence or two, direct to whatever the objective was. It might have come across a bit rude, but then I was always one to just get to the point.

    I’m more Buddhist than Christian these days; after much exploration, Buddhist teachings and mindfulness practices made better sense and seem more practical to me. I still do “pray” for people I care by thinking of them and wish for them the things they need — part of meditation practice now.

    • Ah, my friend Ravenblack. I really appreciate your words. In some ways you speak for me in your comments. There is no question in my mind now about religions being God’s languages – or maybe I should say spiritual disciplines. And some of us need a blending. I know that I best relate to my own Christianity threw Native American and Buddhist teachings. And add to that some Wiccan ritual for it is so earth centered. I don’t really meditate. People are really surprised who know me when they hear me say that. But I will say this, God has definitely been nudging me to meditate for the last 20 years or so, maybe it is about time. Thanks my friend for your valuable words and your friendship. Thank you so much.

  9. I almost don’t wanna comment. *laughing* I’m afraid I’ll disturb the ‘mo-jo’ here! (*laughing* Like I’m that powerful?!)

    I’ve had a few ‘awakenings’ courtesy of My Maker. Spiritual experiences/spiritual moments…whatever you want to call them. I adore the heck of out ’em and draw from them every chance I get. They’ve brought me to ‘here’ and HERE is an awesome place. Raised in a blended family of a multitude of ‘religions’ I figure I got the best of all worlds! (today, anyway…..used to think we were bizarre….LOL) I’d be the first to own that I had a huge resentment with G-d that I used for separation purposes with notsogood intent. It took a whole lotta experiences to get ME out of the way…….takes more to KEEP me out of my way. (yes, stubborn like that!)

    I have running conversations with G-d and it’s all the time (yes, I know folks find that odd–that’s okay!). Doing dishes, tromping around outside getting my hands dirty, walking silent country roads, in the middle of a crowd….it’s the product of a quest to BE in the relationship with Him. I stopped trying to DO my way into the relationship and decided I needed to just BE in it. I’ve held on to rituals and routines because I’m fickle, human and I know enough about ME that if I don’t build something in as a habit–I’ll build something else in as a habit. And there’s a sense of peace that comes in the habits I’ve chosen….a connectedness in my heart that’s warming and replenishing and all love. So it’s cool…and it’s my deal with Him and I like it! LOL I decided years back to be ‘married to G-d’. Strange terms, but the ones I use to put into earthly terms the relationship. I was so much focused on that relationship and maintaining it, that I was fearful to go into an earthly marriage…..well, that and I’m just a chicken when it comes to that kind of relationship, period.
    Gotta say, I adore being married to G-d…..still……

    I do structure ‘prayer’ in my day. It’s guaranteed time Him and I are gonna chat on a different plane, with intention–and not the babbling, sometimes ego filled conversations cuz I think I know and oughta get my way– it’s a humbled time for me. There’s something about kneeling that involves surrender in me, there’s something about the act of lifting my head and covering my eyes that connects me. There’s something about the pause and the listen and the wait and the breathing in and out of His love that does something for me. There’s something about sitting with Torah that fills me with silence and reverenece. There’s something about candles and silence…….
    And the prayers–always of thanksgiving. Because I (WE) really are well and truly blessed, graced….gifted with things that I never dreamt I’d have or dared to want in my life. And I’m not talking tangible ‘things’ as you can well guess. I don’t pray for ‘things’. He’s got it covered. I don’t pray to get my way (okay…..honestly, sometimes my ‘amen’ is ‘but you know what I want’…..*sigh*), I do pray thanks and recognition and praise. I save the grumblings for the conversations we have. Darn good thing He puts up with my guff.

    Looking back, it’s amazing I’m HERE. It’s taken a whole lot of effort on G-d’s part. LOL And I’m assured that He’s chased me for reasons, I’ll be dogged if I know why! (kidding!)

    I studied, I investigated, I read, I practiced, I tossed out and tried again–I kept looking externally for some ‘new practice’ that was going to bond with me G-d. And don’t get me wrong–I adore some of the practices and rituals. They warm my soul–and they’re a hodgepodge cuz that’s what works for me. (I’m sure He laughs at a few, but whatever works–it’s ‘good’.) For me–it was the surrender and opening of hands and getting out of my own way.
    Fairly sure that’s not a unique story.

    Oh boy I hope that’s not a unique story! LOL
    And if this post kills the ‘mo-jo’ on this post I’m going to be really NOT happy! LOLOL
    (read: enough with the rambling Mel!)
    *hugs*
    LOVE this one, obviously.

  10. Oh Mel! How divine is this response? I can all but see you rolling around on the floor with G-d in ecstasy. I really received all of your joy in this comment. It sort of flitted to me while reading. I love that. I love your joy, I love it! THANK YOU SO MUCH. It is so alive.

  11. Hi there! I love the topic you have chosen to write a post, Its one of its kind 🙂 Here, I have tried to answer some of your questions in my capacity:-
    What is prayer?
    >> Prayer according to me is taking time off to build positive energy and good will for some on in need.
    How do you pray?
    >> I usually pray when I am alone or when I am keeping to myself, even if its in a crowded place. Any where and any time when I can keep my mind free of distractions, coz thats what it essentially needs.
    What are you attempting to do?
    >> When I pray, I am either whole heartedly thanking God for all the wonderful things that are happening to me in life, for all the things he has bestowed upon me, for taking good care of my parents and relatives. OR I am asking Him to make me stronger and better a person so I can take in my stride both good things and bad things in life equally well. OR I am praying for world peace and for all the kind and hardworking people around
    Are you doing it right?
    >> At the end of my prayers, I do get a feeling that I am doing it right, for I can feel the positive vibrations with in my min and body. I also feel light hearted and contented.
    Are you wasting your time?
    >> Isn’t it always good to take time off our busy schedules, stop for a moment and think if we are doing it right, or if we are hurting some one in the process of getting what we want, or if our life is serving any good purpose, etc? 🙂

    • “Iwouldratherbewriting” I thoroughly enjoyed everything that you shared and agree wholeheartedly. I love your exuberance. Thank you for your visit and wonderful words.

  12. Came to visit today and found this beautiful posting. I love what you came up with at the end, Liz, that prayer is a channeling of love that we share with others…and I think, even ourselves. It comes from wanting healing or “better” for another. And certainly intention comes into play. I started out in life as a Christian (from the influence of my mother) and by the time I was a teenager was searching (and finding) many other paths. I think I believe in a bit of everything at this point but feel very comfortable with Buddhism. I love the wisdom of Abraham-Hicks too. Thank you for such an authentic sharing…I so enjoyed this.

    Gayle xoxo

    • Bodirose – thank you. I enjoyed your words. I so agree with the idea of believing in a bit of everything. How lucky we are to have the wisdom of the world at our feet. I shall look into Abraham-Hicks. Thank you for the reference.

      Just Googled and realized it was Abraham of Esther Hicks. Ha!

      • So, I’m guessing you are familiar with Abraham then? I loved reading through everyone’s comments here and it seems like so many of us are on the same page when it comes to spirituality and/or prayer. I loved your story of going to the Basilica and seeing the women bowing to the men…ha! So many have turned to Buddhism too…an interesting evolution from Christianity. But I still feel my Christian roots at times and embrace the good and let go of those teachings that don’t serve me. I guess we have to do that with all that we believe in don’t we. Take the good…leave the rest.

        Thanks for getting a great dialogue going here…so inspiring.

        Hugs,
        Gayle

      • Thanks Rose. Absolutely, the comments here are more that half the value of this post. This past year I have been blessed to meet some truly wonderful people. Each including you have added much value to my life – thank you.

Your words of response are greatly appreciated.

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