Category Archives: Prayers and Affirmations

Five Buddhist Contemplations for Before Your Thanksgiving Meal

publicdomainpictures-net-buddha

Image Source: publicdomainpictures.com

Some Thanksgiving blessings from the Buddhist tradition, courtesy of Thich Nhat Hanh.

  1. This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard, loving work.
  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
  3. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.
  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

Read the full post at Plum Village.


Affirmation for the Summer Solstice

Sun-compressed

I rise today – on the Summer Solstice – as Father Sun (Father/Son) ready to reclaim my place on the cosmic throne. On this, the longest day of the year, I will burn away all that no longer serves me. I will give my light, love and life to the world. I will hold the most beauty, the most justice and the most truth for the most people. I will allow myself to shine brighter than ever. I will plant the seeds of biophilia* (the love of life) wherever I go. I will tend to them and watch them grow. I love. I live. I am.

*Thanks to Matthew Fox for the word “biophilia”


Top 5 Tools for Cultivating Gratitude

“The man who simply became ready to have God remove his judgmental attitudes was surprised to find God’s answer was to make him more trusting of others and less judgemental of himself.” – Anonymous

Gratitude-Pot-Luck

I recently attended a covenant group at a local Unitarian Universalist church. It was a group for parents and as is the case with groups of this kind, was accepting new members for a limited time. Most covenant groups close the “tent flap” seasonally in order to nurture trust within the circle and deep conversation and relationship among its members.

As the sounds of our playing (read: screaming) children rose up through the floor, a group of us young couples opened up our hearts and shared about the difficulties of turning the other cheek, setting a good example, frustration with family members and in-laws, fear of failure in front of our kids, and more.

One recurring theme emerged. Across the board and within all three dimensions of self, culture and nature — cultivating gratitude is hard work.

SELF

When it was suggested that part of the solution was to simply be more patient, gentle and forgiving with yourself, one of the fathers said, “I don’t know how to do that.”

At that moment, one (or more) of the kids started banging on a downstairs piano. The sound was jarring and discordant and came up through the floor in angular vibrations that momentarily put all of the parents on edge.

It occurred to me that the children didn’t know how to play the piano, but they were doing the best they could to make music with it. They, too, were ignorant to the workings of the instrument and so they simply wailed away at it, hamfisted and dispassionate. They were being too rough and too forceful, not patient or gentle.

This piano is a metaphor for our self-care. How often do we expect others to be maestros of communication, trust and compassion? How often do we expect others to be delicate, patient and gentle — to take their time, choose their words carefully, think before they speak or act, and to hold themselves with the utmost self-respect? And yet, how often, when it is our turn to do the same, do we bang out a rhythm or a half-baked melody and tell ourselves that it’s good enough. How often do we settle for less when it comes to finding pleasure or acceptance in ourselves?

Self-love and self care is not just about mindfulness. It’s not just about carving the time out of your day to pray, meditate or be present with your friends, co-workers and kids. It’s about moving beyond mindfulness to the difficult work of being in the world and witness to all its suffering. It’s about having the courage to put yourself out there when someone needs emotional or spiritual support, but also having the courage and intelligence to receive that support yourself.

CULTURE

Gratitude is also present in our attitude toward others.

Stephen Prothero has consistently proposed that the world’s faith traditions are an attempt to solve a specific human problem with a specific spiritual solution (sin/salvation, attachment/awakening, pride/submission, exile/return, etc.). Since pride is usually near the top of any list of cardinal sins, it is usually one of the first items to attract the attention of rigorous spiritual practice.  

Gratitude can be seen as the opposite of pride. The process of becoming more grateful, more thankful and more humble is the process of letting go of our pridefulness, ego and will.

Continue reading


A Declaration of Spiritual Independence

freedom-in-the-shape-of-a-cross

“When freed from that which binds,
when the lust for life has come to
an end, one is not born again. He
is released now and forever.”

– The Buddha, Dhammapada


Note: Some define “spiritual independents” as those who are unchurched or have left a mainline religious affiliation — like a third-way political party. For our purposes, “spiritual independence” means anyone who insists on critical thinking in religious matters.

On July 15, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed the graduating students of Harvard Divinity School. As the ministers-to-be listened eagerly with freshly-opened minds, he told them, “Let me admonish you first of all to go alone, to refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men, and dare to love God without mediator or veil.”

He spoke of an “indwelling Supreme Spirit,” and of a vision, described by Philip Goldberg of the Huffington Post as “similar to that of the Eastern sages, where we are neither fallen nor depraved, and where divinity incarnates at every instant, not just once in the distant past.”

“God is, not was,” Emerson told the students, and each of us is “an infinite Soul” who is “drinking forever the soul of God.”

The graduates (and religion itself) were forever changed — their minds and hearts opened to a direct relationship with the Divine. The parents and faculty were angry and upset, and Emerson was banned from Harvard for over two decades.

If we are to claim spiritual independence for ourselves, then we need to cultivate a similar relationship with our Source. John Dominic Crossan writes about this kind of life in The Essential Jesus, saying it is the life that Jesus died for — a life “of human contact without discrimination and of divine contact without hierarchy.”

If we are to be truly free, we need to equip ourselves with the appropriate support on all levels and lines, and surround ourselves with the right types. We will need access to sound spiritual teachings, a free-standing system outside the mainline institutions, the right spiritual tools necessary to do the actual work, and the benefits of a rich community of practice.

Teachings

We’ll need teachings that help us to seek inspiration and guidance, and live with heart, for the road will be rough. They will need to be teachings that consider the health of the whole person (body, mind and spirit); that encourage not just temporary epiphanies and insights, but continual freedom (or moksha), spiritual liberation and unfolding, allowing us to “transcend and include” what has come before. They will need to be teachings that remind us to look within for the answer. Teachings that promote right behavior, right action and right speech; that allow for and encourage highly-developed lines of ethics and morality. We also need new stories, updated myths and well-drawn maps of the spiritual territory. Continue reading


Summer Solstice: The Sacred Union of Father Sun and Mother Earth

Rising or setting sun and clouds, over water

This talk was delivered on Friday, June 19, 2015 as part of the Summer Solstice Service at Unity Campus St. Petersburg. It was followed by a chant of the mantra: “The Kingdom of God is within me; The Queendom of God is among us.”

Astronomically speaking, Litha (Midsummer, Gathering Day, Summer Solstice) is the longest day of the year, representing the Sun God at his full power and utmost potential. In the sky overhead, ruling from on high — in his chariot, shining down upon us, giving light, heat and life to our Goddess, Mother Earth.

The term “solstice” is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun seems to be literally frozen at its zenith overhead.

Father Sun and Mother Earth seem locked in this warm, life-giving embrace. And time has seemed to slow down so that we may honor that embrace and that consummation — the intimate relationship between God and Goddess, masculine and feminine.

Although the hottest days of the summer still lie ahead, from this point onward we enter the waning parts of the year. Each solstice (and equinox) marks a “turning” of the comic clock. To many cultures, the solstice can mean a limitation or a culmination. A climax or demarcation on the calendar. And even in summer’s beginning, we find the seeds of summer’s end. Each day the Sun recedes from the skies a little earlier, until the Winter Solstice (Yule) arrives and the days begin to become longer again.

Tonight, we honor the arrival of the Summer season, and celebrate the sacred union of God and Goddess, in which both of their energies are poured into the service and the substance of life.

We’ve done a lot in recent times to revive and give footing to the idea of the Divine Feminine. and rightly so. Spiritually and socially we have shifted to a place where female-ness is allowed it’s own voice, it’s own place at the table with integrity and without having to compromise any of its qualities or values.

Matthew Fox said, “If we liberate the Divine Feminine, she is deserving of a worthy consort — a cleansed and detoxified and resurrected Sacred Masculine.”

This union is of course reflected and manifested in our relationships. How we treat one another. Our partners, our spouses, our children, our co-workers, even strangers. It is a constant dance, sometimes tug-of-war, with one party exerting power or will in one moment, and the other party bending and allowing. But a healthy relationship is not one-sided. A healthy relationship is dynamic, is constantly growing and flowing, and allows for rhythmic exchanges in this power struggle.

We’re not talking about gendered men and women, we’re talking about the masculine and feminine energies that show up in us all.

Keeping those energies in a constant flow, a constant balance. Allowing them to feed, sustain, nurture each other as well as to challenge and push against each other when the time is right. Continue reading


Words of Thanksgiving

This is an updated and revised version of the previously published “Thanksgiving Prayer,” with additional material inspired by Matthew Fox.
 
A Dedication by Hugo Barros

“A Dedication” by Hugo Barros

We are reminded by Meister Eckhart that the word “humility” has its roots in the latin humus, or earth. To be humble, then, means to be in touch with the earth, in touch with our own earthiness, and to celebrate the blessing of our own earthiness and sensitive nature or sensuality. And to deny our earthiness is to bottle up the deep, divine energies of creativity and imagination within us all.

Hildegarde of Bingen wrote, “Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly … The earth is at the same time mother, She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human. She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.”

Thanksgiving – by the sheer nature of its name – forces us to face, acknowledge and speak to Spirit in the second person, to thank the “thou” that is the Cosmos, or the Cosmos that is the “thou” – the ultimate Other, Father God, Mother Nature, our Creator, the Holy Spirit.

On this one day a year, even atheists are thankful to their lucky stars, fate, Nature, or the Universe for granting them good fortune and helping to guide them through the signposts of life.

On this one day a year, we open our hearts, we mind our manners, and to whomever (or whatever) we love – or that loves us – we say, simply, “Thank You.”

On this day, as millions gather and hold hands around tables large and small for a shared meal to acknowledge this sense of gratitude and to celebrate with a ceremonial feast, we offer this prayer, honoring Spirit in second person:

We gather to give thanks for all the things we sometimes take for granted.

Our bodies – perfect and beautiful at whatever stage they are at.
Our minds – open and receptive to compassion and understanding.
Our health and well-being.
The health and well-being of our families.
The love and support of our family and friends.
The interconnected community in which we live and thrive.
All of this year’s unfolding and new growth.
All of our milestones and victories and success.
As well as the loss and obstacles we’ve overcome and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. Continue reading


A Prayer for Peace

international-peace-day-ideas-2

Thank you for this day and the infinite potential for love, forgiveness and peace that lives in it.

Today we honor and remember all of those we’ve lost — young and old. Those we know by name, and who are a part of our community. And also those we never had the privilege of meeting, but shared with us a common ideal or our common humanity.

We pray that the families and loved ones of those we’ve lost — those suffering from pain, grief, depression — find love and peace in their hearts. We pray that they are consoled.

We also pray that the inconsolable among them eventually find love, peace and forgiveness when they are ready, and when the time is right.

We hold a vision of peace that begins with ourselves — a light that pours forth from our hearts and extends into our communities and communities like ours around the world; Until that healing light covers the earth and we stand together — cleansed, detoxified, awake — as one human family.

Amen.


Prayer to the Divine Feminine

A PaGaian Cosmology by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

O Holy Wisdom, Mother of All
As you came to me in the beginning
I come to you now
in this moment of quiet
seeking the balance you keep
between benevolence and power

Your gifts are agency and obligation:
To be, to see, to respond

Love and protect me in your perfection
So that I may love and protect all those who receive your gifts
Sing to me the secrets of this cycle
the unchanging pattern of life and death and rebirth
Teach me to accept without passivity
To act without ego
And to embrace without possessing

I am your progeny
I witness your creation
I answer your call


The Inner Cosmic Light

Composite Image of NGC 5189 Courtesy of Robert Gendler

Our bodies, a carriage

Our lifetime, a crust

Afloat on the tide that lifts all vessels

expanding in all directions

 

We are stardust

mud-caked suns pulsing with atomic heartbeat

Radiating outward in all directions, through every opening, plate or fissure,

our light — the light that connects — unfolds in waves

 

I am Pangaea

I am the Omega

I am a quantum field

I am of this world

I am its co-creator


Nested Recapitulation (aka The “Russian Dolls” Meditation)

peeling-bodies-chris-dyer

The Nesting Process (a.k.a “Russian Dolls”) is a self-help meditation tool used for shadow work — a shamanic practice that is based on the process of recapitulation popularized by Carlos Castaneda as well as the “3-2-1 Process,” found in the book Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber and Terry Patten. It should not be confused with the “nesting instinct” found in new mothers.

The ideal time of day to run the Nesting Process is immediately after you wake, but before you get out of bed. However, it may be used anytime.

In metaphysical Christianity (most specifically, the New Thought movement), we are told that through meditation and prayer — and through the use of denials and affirmations — we are able to remove false obstacles in our psyche or soul. By clearing the falsely perceived thought or mental structure, we are removing the object that is casting the shadow, and we are, in effect, removing any real or perceived blockage. This method has been known to remove actual physiological blocks, returning blood flow and life force (prana) to arteries and arthritic (or otherwise afflicted) limbs. At the very least, the method allows for light and energy to flow into the unillumined corners of the soul and restore us to a more perfect and harmonious state.

Through centering prayer and shadow process (psychotherapy), we align our gross (physical), subtle (mental/psychic) and causal (non-dual) bodies — also known in Hinduism as the five “Koshas” — like the concentric rings of a tree. They can be visualized as the layers of an onion, or as a wetsuit inside a wetsuit. And as such, when the layers are perfectly nested and in line with each other — with no fabric caught in the zipper or proverbial peas hidden between the mattresses — we have increased mobility, we are flexible and reflexive, we are at ease.

We begin the Nesting Meditation by lying flat on our back, arms outstretched. Visualize the line across your chest (from fingertip to fingertip), as a symbol of all human limitation. Visualize the line from your feet to the top of your head as the poles of a battery. Imagine energy pouring out from the top of your skull, cascading back down toward your feet, and being reabsorbed in an endless cycle.

We initiate the process by saying, “I deny the limitations of this body.” Continue reading