The Power of Prayer

1d1e2bb0541f7fcdfdc747b317477299In dark times, when anxiety overwhelms the humane qualities of compassion and kindness, it becomes necessary to seek inside of ourselves for Divine Connection.  This is the power of prayer.

The world would have us believe that the only way to respond to the pain and injustice around us is by social activism or to rely on various governmental or political authorities to take care of the problem.  Yes, non-profit, humanitarian organizations working for mercy and justice deserve our support.  If possible, we can become actively involved or we can donate money to the cause.  We do whatever we can in these arenas.

83c6ac27d8db06e63eaa32562f654f3fBut there is still more that we can do.  Prayer is an unlimited and often underutilized resource.  Each of us can take the time to develop a consciousness of prayer.  Prayer is turning our mind to Divine Truth- compassion, healing, loving kindness, generosity, and seeing others as ourselves.  Prayer is knowing what could be possible if… If we chose love instead of hate.  If we chose hope instead of despair.  If we believe, with Anne Frank, in the goodness in the hearts of most people.  If we stop allowing media saturation to convince us that the hate-filled, angry, and vocal few that spew their hatred and violence in every news program are the majority.

When we pray it’s important to let go of our fears, depression, and concerns of the world.  Prayer is turning our life over to a Higher Power.  Prayer is resting in the arms of Divine Father and Divine Mother.  It is holding awareness of Spirit Truth and finding a way to manifest that Truth in our thoughts, words, and actions.  The formula for success prayer is:

Rest within the Higher Power
Know the Truth of Spirit- Life, Light, Love, Joy, & Peace
Speak words of Faith from this knowing.
Manifest our words into actions throughout the day.

7b993145dc42d360ba3d7399e55179e4Remember, a mind that is focused on anxiety, fear, anger, and despair knows only these things and sees them everywhere.  A mind that is focused on kindness, hope, and compassion knows only these things and sees them everywhere.

The world is filled with complex, confusing, and contradictory problems.  In addition to supporting social activism through time, money, and action, let us also hold and know- through prayer- that seemingly impossible dreams are often made possible by the focused will of Workers of the Light everywhere.  Let us each Pray and Be that Light in this time of evil and darkness!

 

Equanimity Does Not Mean Equality

Equanimity is not about being equal. It is about remaining calm in the midst of difficulty. Life is not fair. It’s not equal everywhere or all of the time. There is always going to be more of a reward for one individual while others just as worthy remain unnoticed and unappreciated. parental-Control Often in life we strive to be safe, comfortable, and have a plan for the future.  So what  really belongs to you?  What do you have power over?

Not your body. It’s going to do what it’s going to do and eventually it will grow old, get sick, and die.  We surround ourselves with possessions but they could all disappear one day or vanish in a moment  from war, weather, or an enemy’s malice. People around the world often discover this to their great horror and fear. Refugees, even those with the highest education, come to our country and are relegated to low-skilled, low-paid positions. They have lost all they built and counted upon. It happens every day all around the world.

What cannot be taken away, lost, or stolen is our self-respect, courage, determination, kindness, or compassion.  In other words who you truly are inside and how you choose to perceive the world around you.  This is equanimity.

Equanimity begins with the age old rule from many lands-  GoldenRuledecide to give away to others only that which you wish to receive yourself from others.
For thousands of years this phrase has endured yet people have ignored it in favor of returning in kind, or making a peremptory strike from fear that someone has evil intention. Is someone angry with you? It is common to say- “I think I’ll return the favor.”
Did someone gossip about you? It is common to say- “What a bitch/bastard, how dare they speak of me in that fashion…just you wait!”  When we return tit for tat we are holding another as a prisoner in our mind and we are in that prison with them!

Life is likely to surprise you- it is never safe, comfortable, and secure.refugees But you can remain in equanimity by establishing and maintaining an attitude of compassion. If you respect others, you are respecting yourself. This is compassion.  If you betray and hate others you are hating and betraying yourself.  This is the normal world-mind response.

Are you preventing yourself from moving into a celebration of the moment?  Usually people’s lives stop after the bad moments. When life stops so does growth in love, joy, and the possibility for transformation.  Many say, “I am going to feel this way for the rest of my life”?  Some will withdraw and become unavailable because something bad happened at one time. That is a death sentence.

With equanimity it is possible to continue to have a cheerful life, a meaningful life, even though bad things still happen. But there is no reason to not be loving and kind despite challenges and pain.  Whatever happened- That was then. This is now.
Right now there is an infinite possibility of experiences.

Remember, when things go wrong, when mistakes happen, and loss befalls you- forgiveness is the key to wholeness and peace. Remember that we are on a journey to become progressively less stupid. So do not make forgiveness or atonement a punishment or attempt to teach yourself a lesson.  Forgiveness is the restoration of love, joy, and harmony.

If someone has made us angry, then we could pray for them.  If we return anger and pain then we become just like the ones we despise. forgive1Create acts of love instead- and not necessarily for the one who has offended you- but focus, intentional acts of loving kindness restores you to wholeness. There are unending possibilities for kindness. Compassion should compel us into action. We have feelings so we can act upon them.  When those feelings are likely to create pain and suffering for ourselves or others- we can transform the contemplated action into a compassionate action instead.

Is life perfect? No. It is temporary, changing, and above all fleeting.  So-stop trying to be perfect and just do the best you can. There are lots of opportunities to be awaken in compassionate  service.- find one of them.  Compassion is not about what “I-Will-Not-Do”…” but rather it calls for us to decide  “What-I-Will-Do.”  Equanimity is our opportunity to relax into life instead of stressing out about life.

Story-Mind

STORY-MIND

In my faith community story-mind consciousness is called the Parai mind.  Parai is a word meaning final in Sanskrit.  This is because once this portion of our consciousness has decided how to interpret an event, how it will be recorded in our memory, and what we will choose in future circumstances, or contexts that are similar…that decision is Final!  We know that our story is true!  We might even say, “This is my truth, the way it really happened.”

lucy-advice-boothStory-mind wants to do its job and its job is to observe, compare, interpret, discern, and recommend a course of action about everything!  The only time this inner helper might be silent is during meditation.  But even then it is only waiting eagerly to spring into action, at a moment’s notice, assisting us to assess our progress, equate this meditation sit to others we’ve experienced, and to offer an opinion on how well we’re doing compared to others around us.

Why do we need story-mind?  Because it can observe, interpret, discern, compare, remember, and make recommendations.  Without a fully functional story-mind we would be operating like an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.  In fact these two unfortunate disabilities cause a disruption in the proper functioning of story-mind so that the sufferer can’t remember where they live, who their family members are, or how to perform even the simple tasks they learned as a child.  We need story-mind; however it’s important to understand its limitations and even its handicaps on the spiritual path.

When the Story-mind has been tamed it is a useful assistant helping us remember skillful means, creating a true observation of events (what could a camera capture), developing and carrying out plans for transformation and change. 9781444755732 It can remember the words to songs, remind us of happy events from our past, and assist us to find gratitude in the now.  Story-mind knows how to read, write, and develop compassionate forms of communication, and assist in explaining dharma teachings to ourselves and others.

When Story-mind is untamed, tempestuous, untidy, and undisciplined it holds us prisoner to our past experiences, both real and imaginary.  An undisciplined story-mind is constantly saying, “what if?” and giving us vivid and detailed conjurings of sorrowful, upsetting, and wildly dramatic possibilities- each accompanied by an appropriate emotional response.

 scoldingOur story-mind might just torture us with endless, cruel, nasty, and judgmental voices from our childhood.  These are called “hate voices” and they pretend to want to help us, but in reality they just want to keep us fearful, trapped, and helpless.

Can’t you do anything right?
You knew this would happen if you weren’t careful…
How many times are you going to let this happen before you do something about yourself?
You just had to open your big mouth, didn’t you?
What’s wrong with you…you big baby…buck up buttercup!
See, no one really likes you anyway…why even try?
With a nose like yours you should be in the circus!
Quiet!  If you don’t talk- you can’t get into trouble.
Stop being so needy…what’s wrong with you anyway?
If you had a brain, you’d be dangerous!

And on, and on, and on, and on…

Story-mind does not want to be tamed.  It is important to keep this in our awareness.  It has had free rein for as many years as we’ve been here and it doesn’t want to relinquish control at this stage of the game.  However, story-mind is only one part of us.  It is the “little self” or “ego self” the front man/woman for our fragmented goodness nature.

Taming-The-Mind-Through-Meditation-214x300But there is a Greater Being inside of each of us.  A boundlessly compassionate, abundantly forgiving, immensely powerful Great Self at the core of our Consciousness. 

Story-mind, body-mind, striving-mind, desire-mind, and habituated-mind are all in cahoots to keep us from learning about this Truth.  Every time we come close to believing, touching, or experiencing this Truth- the five minds gang up on us and try to make us afraid.  They tell us that without them to set us straight we would be awful, selfish, terrible Sinners- destined for hell…make no doubt about it!

But wait a minute!  Isn’t the hell we experience because of what those five minds keep insisting is the truth?  And isn’t story-mind the biggest tell-tale of all?  So what have we got to lose if we make the attempt to saddle, bridle, and tame this part of our consciousness? When it is tamed story-mind gives us information, but doesn’t dominate and control what we decide about that information, or belittle us when we become hesitant or confused.

freedom

The following exercises will help begin the domestication process of story-mind.

  1. Ask yourself what are the things you’ve always wanted someone to say to you, but no one ever has?
  2. Make a recording of these things, include anything your inner child needs to hear in order to feel loved and appreciated.  Listen to the recording every day.  Add to it when you think of something else you want to hear.
  3. Think of at least one compassionate thing to do for yourself each day and do it.
  4. Create a set of mantras that go something like this:

When I make a mistake it doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it means I made a mistake.

When I feel sad it doesn’t mean I’m a cry baby or weak, it means I feel sad.

When I make sacrifices for others it does mean I’m a good person, it means I am a person who makes sacrifices.

When I am generous it doesn’t mean I’m a special person, it means I am choosing to be generous.

When I’m not generous it doesn’t mean I’m selfish, it means I chose not to give something away right now.

You get the idea.  We can tame the story-mind by stopping its interpretation of each thought, action, or non-action.  What happened is simply what happened it doesn’t have a meaning, some implication about us, nor is it a significant indication of our worth either good or bad it just is what it is.

 

An Unexplored Country

The Buddha taught the principals of emptiness and interdependence as a way to free ourselves from suffering.  On the spiritual path and especially in a monastery it helps to have a basic understanding of these two principals.  Empty_bookEmptiness is not the absence of things…it is an understanding that nothing exists outside of a context.  We exist because we have a context: gender, age, family of origin, a job, an education, a set of beliefs about the world and how it works, and an environment in which we live, i.e. a town, a country, a geographical location.  All these things are the context in which we function.  Because we are not independent of existence outside of a context we are empty and interdependent upon that context.

In our context, our story of life, we have the ability to act and react, judge and respond, ignore what makes us uncomfortable and strive for those things that are pleasing, to avoid danger and create safety.  quality-friendsThis is what we are doing every moment of every day…acting and reacting to the circumstances of our lives both inwardly and outwardly. We become dependent upon controlling our outer or inner experiences so they will be what we need and want them to be. In this pattern we forget that we have a choice about how to think.

Another challenge that gets in the way of community living is when we feel responsible for the emotions of others and need to placate distraught individuals in order to be safe- but disaster is usually the result of this emotional enslavement.  Living the monastic life means that we will have ample opportunity to experience our gloomy, addictive emotions because we will be living with people who are likely to trigger our childhood memories and responses. vpc_clinging If we learn to accept what we feel- knowing it is only a feeling– not a truth- we can begin to free ourselves from suffering.  When we are not blaming those around us for adverse emotional experiences we can free ourselves from suffering.  This is a difficult journey.  It’s difficult because we are already addicted to our favorite childhood strategy and reach for it without thought.  But on the passage to enlightenment we discover that it’s our clinging and attachment to these tactics that cause our suffering- not the people around us.

To climb a mountain we must be prepared for reaching the top.  If we are climbing Mt. Rainier or Mt. Everest we can follow the pre-existing trails and reach the top with determination and planning.  But if we are climbing in unknown territory we must forge our own trail.  When we go trekking into unexplored country we have to assess what resources will be required- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  As we begin this journey toward our compassionate heart we will need to assess our beliefs, values, survival strategies, karmic patterns, and unconscious desires. DSC09401

Every day, every individual has to engage in activities during which he is determining what he thinks, feels, and wishes to do about a situation or relationship.  Every action we take, every decision we make, and every thought we think consciously or unconsciously is based on our ideals, values, and beliefs.  We create our life story by these methods, solve our problems through these measurements, choose our friends and enemies by these ideals, and construct our karmic future with each decision we implement.  It’s essential that we are moving toward something, not creating another way to feel less-than, guilty about, ashamed of, or create new fodder for inner self-hate dialogues.   Let’s remember that karma is a core value- something we have identified as essential to our well-being.

Karma cannot bind us if we change our mind.  We learn to change our mind by examining our habituated feelings and our interpretation of what those feelings mean.  We may always have the same feelings when we are hurt, frightened, angry, upset, or stressed…but we can choose to interpret them in a new way. Earth-4039 We can discover what need is not being met and what values are not being expressed by ourselves so we feel that we have to react to outer circumstances. Instead of repeating old habits that lead to suffering we can give ourselves permission to acknowledge our values and find ways to express those values even in difficult situations. We may also discover that in attempting to seek out a special someone or place that seems to contribute, grant, or provide us with pleasant emotions will become unnecessary because we can allow ourselves to provide what we require in order to thrive.

Once we understand the responsibility we have for creating our emotional context we will have more energy, ability, and motivation to experience the reason we are in the monastery in the first place.  Remember we chose to enter a monastery to create a life of Prayer, Pohwas, and Peace for the benefit of all beings.  We understood that we wished to be the face of Great Mother, Great Father, or Great Weaver within the world.  We wanted to learn to respond as a Great Being would respond.

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Life is a Journey

Humans seem very attached to struggling and striving.  We strive to be perfect, and struggle to succeed.  When we’re not struggling or striving for a goal we quickly become bored.  But there is no one in control of our existence- but ourselves!

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Many times it seems that others actions and word or certain difficult circumstances control us, or we feel we have been pushed out of Spirit Truth by the uncooperative attitudes of the people around us.  It’s easy to feel powerless and victimized.  We are surrounded by stories of abuse, pain, and hatred.  Sometimes  these things happen to us, or to someone we know.

In times of great stress, pain, sorrow, or anger we can empower ourselves by validating and accepting what we feel.  These feelings are not wrong and the feeling themselves don’t mean there is something wrong with us.  It means we are feeling- sad, stressed, hurt, or angry.  Assigning a judgment to our feelings- or the feelings of others- means we believe there is a right way to feel and a wrong way to feel.  All humans, at some time, will experience anger, fear, pain, and grief.  Just as all of us will experience love, joy, peace, and enlightenment sometimes.

theStruggle

So when we are finished being angry, frustrated, worried, sad, and depressed- it’s perfectly possible to move into more pleasant emotions.  But this doesn’t happen easily if we are unwilling to practice compassion for the self that is suffering.  We want to give away compassion and healing to others in pain what if we practice giving that same forgiveness and support to ourselves when we are suffering?

The reason we keep falling into suffering is that we expect our outer world to mirror back to us Great Spirit’s Truths of love, joy, and peace.  But what the world mirrors back to us is our own frustration, challenges and depression.  So what if-  what if we allowed ourselves to laugh more often?  What if we appreciated the small joys of each day?  What if we see life with the eyes of compassionate understanding?  What if we make other people more important then ourselves- once in a while?  What if this was your last day on earth?

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Great Spirit, I step into Your light and Your song.
I surrender into peace.
I am held and filled with joy.
I open my heart
And reach out to embrace my brothers and sisters.
May our dreams shine forth
like a rainbow’s of promise.

May the winds of time blow me into the arms of Wisdom.
May the days and nights of my earthly life
blend into an eternal experience of Your grace.
May the swiftly flowing years
of my existence bring me
to the practice of loving compassion.
May the turning of the seasons teach me
to be patient and wait for the changes
that will bring me joy.

love

Enthusiasm

Sometimes we believe being good and walking a spiritual path will guarantee success in all our undertakings. We believe that with the right prayer-right mantra-right meditation- every project, desire, and involvement will turn out according to our plans.  It is important to remember that Great Spirit gives us the OPPORTUNITY to use our skills, abilities, creativity, and enthusiasm to succeed.  Spirit helps us create abundance, but does not guarantee to reward us with abundance. To bring any activity to an abundant, creative conclusion we have to remain committed to that endeavor, and determined to overcome all obstacles to success.  It is impossible to maintain the necessary tenacity if we lack enthusiasm.

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“Great Spirit Mother and Father help those who help themselves & others.”

It might also be wise to remember that any creative endeavor makes a mess.  Think of redecorating, remodeling, building a new structure, etc.  The greater the mess we perceive around us the greater potential exists to create something wonderful. Perhaps this can give us hope in our very messy world.

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Enthusiasm is the result of being interested in the people, places, energies, and opportunities around us. Even an imperfect world offers us a chance to awaken possibles and to kindle hope in our hearts and the hearts of others. If we have a cheerful attitude and a hopeful heart we might even inspire others to come and join us.  Work that is a chore, a duty, a dull responsibility seldom motivates anyone to enthusiasm.  Work that is turned into play,  diversion, games and fun always results in more enthusiastic participation.  If we demonstrate love, joy, laughter, acceptance and excitement maybe even the curmudgeons of the world will join us in creating beauty.

Sometimes we may feel that we don’t know enough to serve Great Spirit and the Light adequately. So what! Think of a fat, happy, playful puppy. The puppy doesn’t know the rules of behavior and proper socialization, but almost everyone loves a puppy, forgives a puppy, and enjoys a puppy because the puppy is the embodiment of enthusiastic love.  Let us make our path of spirit an experience of laughter, enjoyment, and love.

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We often hear the phrase “Have a good day.”  But it is common knowledge that life offers us the opportunity to have “bad” days as well as good ones.  There is nothing wrong with having a bad day.  It is only when the bad days outnumber the good days that we may need to work on our attitude.  So let’s work on a determined effort to create all our days as “good” instead- so we will have more abundance to share with a world full of friends we haven’t met yet.

A Great Being once said: when a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were their own, that person has attained the highest state of spiritual union.

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Great Spirit help me so that-
The door of my heart be wide enough
to receive all who hunger for love.
May I welcome all who have cares to unburden,
thanks to express, and hopes to nurture.
May the door of my heart be narrow enough
to shut out pettiness, pride, envy and enmity.
May its threshold be no stumbling block
to young or strained feet.
May it be too high to admit complacency,
selfishness and harshness.
May my heart be a home for all who enter.
May my heart be a doorway to richness and a more meaningful life.
May I always entertain feelings of friendliness for all living beings in the world.
May I never feel angry with the vile,
the vicious and the wrongly-directed.
May I always remain tranquil in my dealings with them.
May Dharma become the main topic of conversation in my household.
May the heroes of our time whole-heartedly work
in the cause of Spirit Truth.
May all understand the Laws of Truth and be able
to rejoice even in sorrow and suffering.

~ A Jain Prayer

Conflict

“You are not your problems.”

It truly seems that no matter what else is changed, or eliminated from our consciousness, we always have an unending supply of problems.  Our problems may be small, if we compare them to others, but they never seem minuscule to us when we are dealing with them.

We are trained to think we can solve all of the problems life has to offer and we feel guilty if we don’t manage this.  All of the challenges and dilemmas of life, however, do not have a quick fix.  Many times we must learn to live with them, work around them, and do the best we can each day.

When we suffer confusion we lose acceptance, we become worried, fearful, and unhappy.  The first step to rid ourselves of this burden is to remember who we really are. “I am a beloved child of Great Spirit.”

The second step is faith; it is knowing that we can be guided: “I accept Divine Guidance in all life’s difficulties.”

The third step is awareness.  This is looking at, and deciding for the spirit truths of love, joy and peace-   “I allow myself to choose joy, love, peace, right now, this hour, this day, this minute.”

“We are not a Spiritual Masters because we have no problems we become a Master because problems are no longer an obstacle.”

problems

Great Spirit, help me to accept
what I cannot change.
Give me your guidance that I may
change what I can.

Today I will remember
that all problems are temporary.
I will remember that You
are not testing or challenging me
to see if I am worthy of your Love.

I will remember that it is Your Love
that sustains me in times of
pain, sadness and anger.

Great Spirit, I promise
to let go of problem solving-
Just for today-
I will laugh more
smile more
and allow some time
to be wasted in play.

Just for today I give my problems
into your hands, Great Spirit.
Thank you for helping me
until I am strong enough
to carry my burdens again.