If you want to save the world open your heart (and pray)
June 4, 2017
If you want to save the world open your heart (and pray)
Short attention span version: In the full article I argue that the key to our survival as humans on this planet is the evolution of our consciousness from a state of focusing on our individual desires to focusing on the needs of humanity as a whole. It is a struggle between Love and Fear To empower ourselves to bring change we need to know who we are and to tap into that power within us Religion has been and continues to be a main obstacle to this evolution The manifestation of Love requires us to liberate ‘prayer’ from religion because it is through this process that we find freedom and bring Peace
Preface I am hoping that this article will be a challenge for most people to read. There is a reason for that , which should become apparent - at the point where you are tempted to stop reading. However, my intention is to challenge you to read through, to brake that personal barrier, so that together we can change this world. If you don’t want to save the world, if you think all is well and you want to keep on going on, having accepted that the world is in perfect order, and all human and animal suffering should continue forever more, then quite likely your heart is closed and you have retreated in your mind, in a castle of your own making. In any case you have then nothing to lose but a few minutes of your time, so again the challenge is there for you. If on the other hand you believe you are doing all you can to save the world, whether this entails saving the natural environment from destruction, or the humans from themselves, perhaps you need to read no further.
Personal Power What power does a person have in this world of armies, big business, governments, terrorists, gangs and bullies? To make ends meet, or simply to tie one’s shoelaces can often be enough of a challenge. To even think in terms of ‘saving the world’ is obviously an illusion, a ‘savior complex’ as modern psychology would say. Surely that is the premise of some monotheistic religion, which advocates the existence or emergence of the one savior, a belief in a messiah; and surely this messiah is a unique being, one superior to any human. Of course I disagree. If there is such a thing as a messiah, every human can become one. A long time ago we lived in caves and struggled to make fire. Look at us now! One could argue that we are worse off today in many ways, but that would be to deny the many achievements of humans, from the pyramids to space exploration, arts, medicine etc. Evolution is part and parcel of our nature, and it seems that the next step in that process is required at this time, if not overdue. It is the stage of evolution where human consciousness places the needs of humanity as a whole above the wants of the individual, a world for all, not the few. Let’s face it, without a planet, the natural ecosystems that support life, not even the few would survive. Why is it then that we struggle to reach that obvious place in our minds? What is the main obstacle to this leap in awareness? Is it the ‘others - society’ or is it the ‘I’? Inevitably, the question of power arises. We have been disempowered all our lives by such thinking. From accepting that “I can’t” to cease denying that “I can” is a road well described by the Toltecs (see M.Ruiz), as the breaking and transformation of internal agreements, which have kept us in a state of ‘mental illness’, disempowered, slaves of illusion. Humanity has suffered from this state for thousands of years. We have been slaves of our minds, and yet it is the heart which feeds the mind. It feeds it one of two meals: Fear or Love. One keeps us slaves in our isolation, the other brings freedom. The struggle between the two, in our own lives, is also being played out in the social arena, in the rise of expressions of racism and exclusion and war, to the rise of the spirit of social inclusion, unity and peace.
The link between prayer and changing the world we live in (its those vibes wo/man!) There is a direct link between inner strength, (resilience and power) and the physical world as science is beginning to discover. What we feel directly affects us and the world around us. This connection isn’t entirely understood but it seems to transcend time and space, i.e. the love you feel, the inner peace, can affect the world - monks and hippies and others who are into spirituality have long believed this, know it to be true. Skeptical materialists are coming around to this fact since the advent of quantum theory (see for example how what we believe in affects us at the level of our own cells “the biology of belief” by Lipton). It basically follows the ‘discovery’ that ‘everything is energy’, and since we are energy and can channel it we each have an effect, direct and indirect. Even more so, the rate at which our energy vibrates creates an electromagnetic field that affects everything around it. The more open we are the greater the space that is affected. Consider what happens when a smiling baby enters a room full of receptive adults! This magnetic quality goes a long way to explain the law of attraction - for instance. Similar energies attract each other. ‘Misery likes company’ and similar sayings come from everyday observation. Opposite energies often repel as well. When in a negative mood, have you ever been annoyed at someone who is floating in clouds of happiness? What does love and what does fear do energetically? In simple terms, fear is a constriction of energy, a blockage, whilst love is an opening up to the flow of energy. Both can be focused, however with opposite effect. Fear gives rise to anger and in turn violence and war. Love gives rise to empathy, the search for freedom and fairness. The first real question in any person’s life that leads to the realization of freedom is: Who am I? It is a significant question, and one that every person needs to ask him/herself, because without the answer we are powerless, in a sea of doubt, sailing in the fog on a leaky boat. Without the answer we are cut off from the source of internal power itself. It is of course a big taboo, and a barrier to change, one of many. Another great barrier is of course religion itself. What does not liberate, enslaves. That is why I put the word ‘prayer’ in (parenthesis) in the title. Because, for many people in this world, religion, represented by priests, preachers, shamans and others, has been a source of bad experience. Abuse, both sexual and intellectual, fear, pain, guilt, imprisonment, torture and death are often associated with religion, whatever that religion might be. I don’t have to go into detail on this - you know, and if you don’t, read the many books on history, what people did to each other throughput the ages and right from the ‘beginning’, that (beginning) being probably related to the transition from nomadic life to settled agriculture, land ownership, and the wars that ensued that never ended (from somewhere around 12,000 ago, the temples at Gobekli Tepe now close to the border of modern day Turkey and Syria, where one of the present day wars continues). Not my religion, you might say in protest, not my God! But there is none that has not been part of the cause of suffering and war, for someone, somewhere.
Contemplation, meditation, prayer Contemplation can be seen as a pathway to understanding who we are. Meditation has more to do with making that crucial connection with what is within by silencing the ‘noise’ of the outside world and of the mind’s interaction with it. Prayer on the other hand is an active offering of your energy and yourself as a channel for something much bigger to manifest on this Earth. That is why prayer needs to be heartfelt and verbalized. There is no power in saying something if you are not willing to carry it through in your life - that’s self deceiving. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous walk of thousands to make salt is the kind of action that speaks volumes. Such action, based on the principle of non-violence, is the most powerful type of direct action, liberating those who took part and reverberating throughout the ages. I would argue (and so would he) that without meditation, and prayer, Gandhi would not be able to stir up the inner strength to carry it out. “No act of mine is done without prayer. Prayer has been the saving of my life....as food is indispensable for the body, so is prayer indispensable for the soul...In spite of despair staring me in the face on the political horizon, I have never lost my peace. In fact, I have found people who envy my peace. That peace, I tell you, comes from prayer. ..God does not come down in person to relieve suffering. He works through human agency. Therefore, prayer to God to enable one to relieve the suffering of others must mean a longing and a readiness on one's part to labour for it. The prayer... is not exclusive. It is not restricted to one's own caste or community. It is all inclusive. It comprehends the whole of humanity.” Gandhi
What is it really? There is a sequence of events to the process, and that is from the self, to the family, to the community, to the world and the universe. Starting from gratefulness for our own lives, and wishing our own health has deeper meaning when we can connect that to serving our family, our friends, communities, humanity and the whole universe. It is the acknowledgment that all these are connected and essentially that all is one. As our consciousness expands, we have to admit our severe limitations in understanding the world we live in, and realize that although we may ask for what we think we need, we most likely don’t know what that is. This wisdom had been discovered by the ancients who prayed to the deity ‘to grant us not we ask for but rather what we need’.
Most people, I would argue, don’t know what prayer is. It has been so controlled, and so much associated with religion, that many people just don’t want to know, the word itself bringing up some uptight obligation on a certain day of the week, or time of the year, the mumbling of words that mean nothing, addressed to a supreme being whom we don’t understand, believe in or have any connection with. And yet, it is the key to our liberation. Whether the word itself turns you off (in which case you are probably a ‘Westerner’), or if you believe that it only happens the ‘right way’ in your religious temple, in your specific format, you are most likely missing the essence of it. Stay with me here. Prayer is not really dependent on whether you address Jesus Christ as the son of God, or if you are facing towards Mecca and believe in the Prophet, whether you turn the Buddhist prayer wheel in the right way in the temple, or wear the kippah on your head. It’s not about the name you give to the One Being of a thousand names, or whether you use the ‘right’ colour red pure cotton cloth for your prayer ties and burn the ‘right’ kind of sage. It is rather about faith and opening your heart - not to let something in, but rather to let something out. What resides within? Here we need to return to the first question of “Who am I?”. I cannot answer that for you, for knowing comes from inside and there is no other way but faith, the willingness to walk through the darkness in search of the light. A clue to that comes from the fact that - to address the three main monotheistic religions- Jesus, Mohamed and the Buddha, all spent a long time (40 days?) in isolation, in the desert or under a tree until they had the answer. To continue the conversation, I will address this: that without the acknowledgment that we are - all of us without exception- part of the One Life, the One consciousness, that has been present from the beginning of creation, there can be no such thing as prayer. To pray, to communicate with this Sacred and Holy thing that Life is, not only we have to be part of it, but it has to be present within us, it has to be the core and essence of our being. That part of our being which is pure and unspoiled by illusion (hence Sacred), that has been present before the separation of our consciousness into what is true and what is untrue (thus Holy or whole). As the Taoist rightly claim, we have to approach the Oneness before Duality, we have to Return to the beginning (before there was one, as one implies two and that brings forth the many). That is why it’s no good to pray to a Supreme being that is either male or female, that is our god but not the god of others, for there is in reality no such thing.
So how do we get there? According to Lao-tzu “Spiritual light is attainment of the inward...The formless is the great ancestor of beings, the soundless is the great source of species...real people who participate in evolution as human beings hold mystic virtue in their hearts and employ it creatively like spirit....The Way stores vitality within and lodges spirit in mind. Calm and unbounded, serene and light, joyful and harmonious, the heart is open and formless, tranquil and soundless.” Great Spirit and Great Mystery are words that resonate more with my understanding of it all because they address the nature of what is beyond the physical (i.e. the spiritual), and acknowledges the nature of reality that is beyond our understanding (mysterious - how can everything that is be within us?). These words do come from the Natives of Turtle island (Native Americans), and yet appear in many religions in many variants. Many tribes from the American continent use a sacred pipe (Canupa) to pray. Although this is assumed to be something they all have had in common for thousands of years, the story as it goes tells otherwise. It was given to the people (that’s all of us really) as a gift by the Great Spirit through a sacred woman (white buffalo calf woman), at a time just before the invasion of the white man, a time they needed it most to help them survive the persecution of their spirituality - as we all do need that help today. I would like here only to point out a significant aspect of this relating to my rant about prayer and what it really means to pray. In praying with this sacred pipe, both everything that is male (represented by the stem) and everything that is female (represented by the bowl) are brought together and united. The mix of herbs inserted in the bowl represent all living beings and is offered to the six directions. All elements, all beings, all of creation is represented and offered to the One. You cannot offer more (or less) than everything! It is an acknowledgment that everything is One, and belongs to the Great Mystery. Nothing belongs to us, everything is ‘borrowed’ for a short time. And yet we fight over it, we fight over the Earth, our ‘settlements’ and borders, the treasures within it as if it was ours. When we leave our bodies, those also only borrowed for a short time, we take nothing with us. All ancient cultures knew this. “The burial shroud has no pockets” is an old Greek saying to that effect. Your last piece of ‘gold’ goes to pay for Death, the ferryman who takes you across the river of forgetfulness to the world of Spirit. The stories of the many religions of this great planet mother Earth ought to serve the memory of the people, so that we don’t get lost in the illusion of separateness. Instead, for most part (and especially as they have been interpreted and used by the religious ‘authorities’) they have served to divide us, to perpetuate war and suffering, to create more illusion of the kind of ‘us and them’. We need to open our hearts in order to not only understand reality, but to let reality express itself in its full power in this world. We need to remember how to pray so we can transcend division, religion, illusion. It is imperative for the humans of this world at this time to liberate prayer from religion and re-discover its essence and our true connection with what is real, what is Love, our purpose and destiny.