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Prayer. Or Going Inward.

I always think of prayer as an inward journey. An offering of love and great.full.ness to our highest Selves. A sharing of dreams + fears + positively affirming truth with our highest Selves. A request for guidance from that spark of divinity within us that has the answers to all our questions. Call it Source, God, Light, a Higher Power, The Universe, Energy. It is the same divinity within us that exists outside us, around us. It is you. Me. And bigger than We. Embracing. Encompassing.

As I embark on my journey into Gabrielle Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles, about prayer, connection and release of fear, it’s fitting that Michael Leunig’s The Prayer Tree should find its way into my hands (by way of my dear friend, Gill, whom the universe has employed on more than one occasion to deliver to me love notes and whisperings of guidance and brightly coloured affirmations.)

Allow me to share with you Leunig’s introduction.


It reminds me that faith is freedom to feel connected, even if I don’t know what to. That my place of worship is wherever I feel inspired to pray. That prayer is the divine expression of {and connection to} my Soul…


“A person kneels to contemplate a tree and to reflect upon the troubles and joys of life.

———————

It is difficult to accept that life is difficult; that love is not easy and that doubt and struggle, suffering and failure, are inevitable for each and every one of us.

We seek life’s ease. We yearn for joy and release, for flowers and the sun. And although we may find these in abundance we also find ourselves lying awake at night possessed by the terrible fear that life is impossible. Sometimes when we least expect it we wake up overwhelmed by a massive sense of loneliness, misery, chaos and death: appalled by the agony and futility of existence.

It is difficult indeed to accept that this darkness that this darkness belongs naturally and importantly to our human condition and that we must live with it and bear it. It seems so unbearable.

Nature, however, requires that we have the darkness of our painful feelings and that we respect it and make a bold place for it in our lives. Without its recognition and acceptance there can be no true sense of life’s great depth, wherein lies our capacity to love, to create and to make meaning.

Nature requires that we form a relationship between our joy and our despair, that they not remain divided or hidden from one another. For these are the feelings which must cross-pollinate and inform each other in order that the soul be enlivened and strong. It is the soul, after all, which bears the burden of our experience. It is the soul which senses most faithfully our function within the integrity of the natural world.

Nature requires that we be soulful and therefore requires a dimension within us where darkness and light may meet and know each other. Mornings and evenings somewhere inside, with similar qualities to the morning and evenings of the earth. Qualities of gradual but vast change; of stillness and tender transference, fading and emerging, foreboding and revelation.

Mornings and evenings: the traditional times for prayer and the singing of birds, times of graceful light whereby the heart may envisage its poetry and describe for us what it sees.

But how do we find the mornings and evenings within? How do we establish and behold them and be affected by their gentle atmospheres and small miracles? How do we enter this healing twilight?

The matter requires our imagination. In particular, it requires the aspect of imagination we have come to know as prayer.

We pray. We imagine our way inwards and downwards and there, with heartfelt thoughts or words we declare our fears and our yearnings; we call out for love and forgiveness; we proclaim our responsibility and gratitude. The struggling, grounded soul speaks to the higher spirit and thus we exist in the mornings and the evenings of the heart: thus we are affected and changed by the qualities we have created within ourselves.

Might not prayer then be our most accessible means to inner reconciliation; a natural healing function in response to the pain of the divided self and the divided world? Might not prayerfulness be part of our survival instinct belonging more to the wilderness than to the church.

And just as we have become somewhat alienated from nature and its cycles, could it be that we are estranged from our instinctive capacity for prayer and need to understand it afresh from the example of the natural world?

———————

The person contemplates the tree.

———————

The tree sends its roots beneath the surface, seeking nourishment in the dark soil: the rich “broken down” matter of life.

As they reach down and search, the roots hold the tree firmly to the earth.

Thus held and nourished, the tree grows upwards into the light, drinking the sun and air and expressing its truth: its branches and foliage, its flowers and fruit. Life swarms around and into it. Birds and insects teem within its embrace. Carrying pollen and seed. They nest and breed and sing and buzz. They glorify the creation.

The tree changes as it grows. It is torn by wind and lightning, frost and fire. Branches die and new ones emerge. The drama of existence has its way with the tree but still it grows; still its roots reach down into the darkness; still its branches flow with sap and reach upward and outward into the world.

———————

A person kneels to contemplate a tree and to reflect upon the troubles and joys of life. The person imagines mornings and evenings in a great forest of prayers, swarming and teeming with life.

The person is learning how to pray.”

And as Neil Young once alluded to in an interview:
We all need faith. We all need to feel something.

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