Tag Archives: paying attention
Forming an intention
I have assembled most of what I need, softwarewise, to create a daily half-hour prayer podcast. My plan is to write (prayerfully, of course) a new prayer every morning that would incorporate prayer requests and needs that arise from day to day. I don’t want to exclude any spiritual tradition, but I need to pray with form and substance, in keeping with the voice of my own spirit. No muddy, murky prayers will be prayed, I hope, in my podcast.
When I’m ready to launch this project, the following will be my first prayer, assuming that the launching takes place within a week or so, while the references to spring and new growth, etc., are still relevant.
Here it is, from my heart….
The Big Prayer
I acknowledge all the gods and goddesses who are attributes of the One God. Mother Earth is a goddess known by many names, and I am grateful for her today, for this is her time. She is the daughter of the Almighty, whom I choose to call God, who is the One Creator by any name, the only Author of love and life.
I sometimes wonder, divine Father-Mother, if the universe could have been made another way — by a vindictive force, and life a huge cosmic joke. But I realize that it would be impossible. If life were not love, there would be no will to live. There would be no coming together to make new life. The growing things would not stretch upward toward the sun or extend their roots downward toward water with the rich earth surrounding and feeding them. Parents would not hold and rock and and nurse and nourish their children. There would be no music, no dancing, no celebrating, no art. Nothing would work in harmony, nothing would be created or produced, nothing at all. We would seek only the dark, the cold, and the pain.
But the fact is that love is all and you are the source of it. And knowing that, my heart is full and all good things are possible.
I will give all my attention to prayer…
God, there is a great deal I must do today, but this is my time for prayer, and for now I will give all my attention to prayer. Other thoughts, demands, distractions will intrude, and when I become aware of them, I will bow to them and return my attention to prayer. Emotions will arise. I will bring them into the circle of this prayer and hold them gently, as if they were small and lively kittens. If they choose to scamper away, I will not struggle with them. It’s okay. Everything is all right. All is well in this circle of prayer.
Thank you for this day, O God. I might have awakened late, but it is still the fresh new morning of my day. The sun shines. Thank you, Sun. I am safe and secure in my lovely room. Thank you, Earth, for holding up my house and supporting my feet when I move from place to place. I am grateful for windows that admit the sun and the breeze. I am grateful for the oak that someone has fashioned into woodwork, tables, chairs. It is in the mullioned windows. I never noticed that before. Thank you, God.
There are trees around my house, gracious God, that give shade in the heat of summer, and what a wonder that is — those huge and ancient living, breathing things, the health of the planet and a boon to every person who needs a solid thing to lean on, a moment of relief from the sun. They stand through storm, through the blistering day, through the bitter winds of the cold season. Thank you, God.
There is lovely grass in my yard. It is not a perfect lawn, not manicured like a fairway. There are a few weeds, there are brown spots here and there, but there are also sweet peas rampant on an arbor. Someone has already set out petunias in great pots on the brick terrace. Bees have begun to seek them out, and there will be honey in the summertime. There are so many colors, thank you God, arising everywhere as spring arrives in all its fullness.
The soft silence of winter is gone, and in its place is the glorious song of the cardinals, starting even before dawn just outside my window. Help me to know their language, God, that I might also know their joy. I hear woodpeckers, so serious and intent on their drilling into trees, seeking insects for their meals. They make me laugh with their sober concentration. Thank you, God.
We are all one
Let there be more laughter, God. It is healing to the body and it lifts the human spirit, and what nourishes one spirit nourishes all, for we are one, O God. We are like rays that emanate from the sun… or, as you have taught us, we are like parts of one body… hands and feet and eyes and ears… and just as what harms one part of the body injures the whole body, what is healthful and invigorating to one part of the body is healing and nurturing to the whole body. So let there be more laughter, God… more hugging, more love in the human family.
I am surrounded by abundance, God, and I thank you for my things, because they are varied and pretty and interesting. They amuse me, occupy me, help me make my living — what would I do without my computer and all the people with their intelligence and creativity who figured out how to make computers work in such fascinating ways? Thank you, God.
I have, in fact, too many things. Some of them have become burdensome… too many books, too many clothes, too many magazines, too many bits of paper, so that I can hardly find what I am looking for… too much to dust, too much to sort, too much to care for and keep organized. Little by little, or in the space I create of an afternoon, perhaps, I will shed myself of what I don’t need, of everything that doesn’t serve a purpose, that isn’t beautiful or useful. I pray that you will guide me in that process, wise and loving God. Help me give what can be donated to those who need it most, and help me sell fairly and profitably what can be sold.
Bless our relationships
God of mercy and grace, I surrender to you my family and my relationships with my family members and friends. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me, that I will never seek to compete with or manipulate those I love, but that I will love them with an open heart. Help me to create and to use wisely opportunities to be with them, support them, actively love them. Heal, O God, all feelings of envy, suspicion, resentment, even fear and hatred, where such lies are given belief, of family and friends.
God, today is new and I am new as well. Yesterday is gone and cannot drag me down. I have no baggage. Cleanse me of all feelings of guilt and regret for what has happened and cannot be recalled. If I have sinned against someone, let me make amends where I can, and truly repent so that I understand how I have erred and don’t do so again. Then, dear God, accept the residue, whatever burden remains, and make me innocent anew. If someone has wronged me, O God, let me put that behind me as well. Put love in my heart and may I be generous and lavish with it, God, for there is an unlimited supply.
Heal me too, God, of the habit of beating myself up for small and large transgressions. Help me to be gentle with and kind to myself.
Likewise, O God, teach me faith and may I have no anxiety about the future. Oh, how I once worried, God, and how little present I was in this moment, this “now,” which is the only time there is. You taught me that the worrying is worse than the occurrence of what I worried about, and that most of those worries never came to pass. You taught me that worry, self-reproach, and guilt steal my freedom and choke the flow of love from me. Thank you, God, for that lesson, that blessing, that miracle.
Open and loving
Teach me, O God, to be loving toward myself so that I will have the health and the energy to be loving toward others. I pray for healing, merciful God — deep healing of all physical and emotional ills. I confess that I have not cared for myself in a loving way. I have not wisely eaten, slept, exercised, meditated, taken care of business, played, worked, or interacted. Teach me to live beautifully, poetically, lovingly, blessedly, O God… and boldly, not fearing rebuff. Help me to find my place in Creation, that place that offers me the greatest satisfaction and allows me to be of the greatest service toward your children and toward our planet.
I pray for those who are sick or hurting, O God. I pray for the parents and grandparents of the world… the sisters… the brothers… the children… the grandchildren… the nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and cousins… the friends and acquaintainces and the strangers whose needs have come to my attention…. Dear God, I am bold enough to pray for all the world… for every refugee… for every child and adult who lives in poverty, in fear, in sickness, in war…. I pray for all the soldiers and the civilians who work in war zones, whatever side they are fighting on, for our differences are an illusion, God… in the spirit we are one…. Let love sweep across the land just as spring is enveloping this place where I live, as the trees are newly in bud and the grass is freshly green….
I pray for those whose grieve for loved ones who have died. Be with them in their mourning, God, so that it doesn’t turn to despair. Those who have gone are children again, O God, born where they have chosen or where they are needed elsewhere in the universe, and at the same time they make their presence known to us if we pay attention. Help us to see through that thin curtain, O God, or to boldly open it wide and be among the angels who are in truth always right beside us, protecting, healing, helping us when we ask.
Free and serene
God, I pray that you will deliver my children and all others who suffer from the illusion of stress, which steals our freedom, our power, and our attention. Your world is lush with opportunity and abundance. There is no need to struggle. We can do only the best that we can do, yet we ask more of ourselves and sacrifice our serenity. Help us to find a natural pace and routine, one that allows time for meditation and reflection, for fun and freedom, for prayer and gratitude. May we watch more sunrises and notice more miracles. Why should we not step aside from our path to look for elves in the shrubbery and fairies playing hide-and-seek in the lilies of the valley at the dusk of the day? These things are seen and wondered at by those who are not too rushed and distracted to pay attention. Help us to pay attention, God, to all of life, not just our mission of the moment. In that way we will see that we are already prosperous, we are already fulfilled, and then we are free to give of ourselves without giving ourselves away.
Be with me today, O God, as I go about my day. May I be truly kind, O God, from my heart and not out of a sense of obligation. May I feel and act upon the love that comes from you, that is not a rule but is your gift of grace. Give me the health, the energy, and the strength to carry out my responsibilities… to reach out and embrace my friends and family… to bless and to be blessed. Grant me clarity about what is and is not necessary, what is and what is not loving. Help me to create beauty. Bless, O God, my endeavors; I pray that they will begin in a pure heart and will in a small way… or in a big way, for why should I not pray to be of great service? … that in large and small ways my endeavors will bring your kingdom to reign on earth, O God.
I pray to you, the One Creator, the One God over all the earth… the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever…. Amen
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God’s Time Is the Best Time
(English subtitle of Cantata No. 106, by J. S. Bach)
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures. —Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224
To help my friend and colleague Queen Jane Approximately decide which of my poems to submit to publications and contests, I am posting ten of my particular favorites — poems A through J (yes, I had to count off the letters on my fingers). I’d like your comments as we go along and, in particular, when all ten have appeared, your ranking. Which do you like best (10 points)? Least (1 point — I can’t bear the thought of getting Zero points)?
I don’t like to explicate my own poems — I let my students do that, and then they explain them to me, and then I get them (the poems; not the students) — but I am not as confident of this poem’s integrity as I would like to be… I keep changing and expanding it… although I think it’s finally Done. I just don’t quite get it! My own poem!
And I am going to do a bit of superficial explication, because I’m not sure what the poem is trying to tell me. If you approach poetry-writing properly, your poems will outrun your conscious understanding, just as dreams do. And puzzling them out is usually fun and revealing.
Below are some of the messages I think the poem is trying to express. But I still keep missing that train….
But if you must live chaotically, do even that with panache; be magnificent, even if you arrive halfway through your big number
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. —Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love – Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
Timing is everything… being in sync with the rhythms that surround you, but also knowing which ones to pay attention to [Ah. I think there’s something here. Not in sync. Unaware of the rhythms]
Brutus, the speaker in the Julius Caesar excerpt above, seems to imply that if you miss the train (“the tide… at the flood”), it’s over, and you might as well just mark time until you croak. I, however, think we have lots of chances, an infinite number. The train keeps coming back… it just doesn’t stay very long in the station… so, travel light; don’t let your baggage weigh you down
BUT THERE’S MORE. I’m still missing something. Look! Except for the fellows below, all the images I chose to illustrate “the poetic life” are big clumps of dancers. I suppose stranger things have happened, but I’m pretty sure that I will never be a Rockette.
LIFE IS POETRY (NOW)
When you find your spot and hit your stride,
regardless of how hard you tried to be
on time and didn’t quite succeed, yet neatly,
gracefully, and perfectly in step,
slipped into your appointed place as if
you were the missing tuba player in
a marching band, but landed with a grin
and saucy bow, finessing now,
extemporaneously starring in
an unpremeditated bit, and everyone
applauded, just assuming it was part
and parcel of the entertainment — then
you’ve made a work of art out of a chance
anomaly, and life is elevated
from the ordinary: It’s a symphony,
a dance, a comedy… perchance, by grace,
beyond felicity, to be accompanied
by ginger tea and love and handmade lace
and wondering at Coleridge and Blake… now
you must get some pixie dust (before
you are allowed a bit of rest and solitude)
to give you extra effervescence and
a bit of magic, and, not merely reading
sonnets of Rossetti, Keats, and Sidney,
be a sonnet, one with careful, offhand
rhyme, magnificent. Be poetry;
its tide is in, its time may not soon be
so sensible again
- Obviously, “be a sonnet” and “be poetry” suggest metaphors. In what ways might a person be, metaphorically, a poem? (I want your wild guesses here; there are no wrong answers)
- Why a sonnet, do you think? Why not a rondeau or a cinquain?
- The poetic device called sibilance is conspicuous in this poem. What functions might be served by the use of sibilance here?
- Life, metaphorically, is a symphony, a dance, a comedy — something orchestrated, choreographed, managed in a way that the poet (who would be me) evidently believes to be a step up from an entropic, path-of-least-resistance lifestyle. How does the poem indicate — explicitly, or by use of rhetoric — that the poet doesn’t want this “managed” life to exclude spontaneity?
(Suggestion: Listen to the movie and TV themes without watching, and play “guess the movie (or television show).” Really. I mean it. Do you have something better to do with the couple you’re having for dinner?
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