Tag Archives: prayer

The Art of Prayer (with Video)

Alex_Grey_Kiss_of_The_Muse

Kiss of the Muse, Alex Grey

The following is an excerpt from the book, Integral Church: A Handbook for Spiritual Communities.

What, Me Pray?

For most people at a modern or rational stage of development, prayer is something for children and the superstitious. Its etymology is from the Old French preier (“ask, entreat”) which is derived from the Latin word precari, which means to “ask earnestly” or “beg.” And in the modern world, begging is something that poor people do.

Most of my young adult life, I considered prayers to be uttered before meals, before bed each night or to be reserved for when someone was injured or dying. My family didn’t model this behavior, but I assumed other (Christian) families did.

When I discovered the Unity Church and the New Thought movement, my eyes were opened to prayer as a form of dialogue with Source (or Christ Consciousness). I embraced my “allergy” to prayer and jumped in with both feet, studying and practicing the act of prayer and serving as a chaplain for a thriving church community from 2012-2014.

Just like yoga and meditation, I learned that there are different methods (or modes) of prayer, and hundreds of ways to actually pray.

Dialogue and the Other

The idea of God is so personal that the way each individual relates to God (with fear, awe, devotion or worship) is as unique as themselves (not to mention framed by their current geography and cultural worldview and colored by shadow material from the unconscious mind). The Ultimate Other looks, feels and sounds different to everyone.

There are three perspectives from which all of us might describe and experience God (or the idea of God) — 1st-person (the interior of the individual, meditative, internal arising of Spirit, witnessing), 2nd-person (the other, relational, one-on-one/face-to-face, devotion, prayer, God the Father, Mother Earth, various deities) and 3rd-person (the physical universe, nature, science, God-as-the-Kosmos, Spirit-in-Action, all that is observable and that we may witness, tat tvat asam). Put simply, we can talk “as God,” “to God,” or “about God.” These three value spheres (see Chapter 2) are useful when discussing or contemplating spirituality. All three are very real perspectives, and all three simultaneously arise together.

It is this 2nd-person language (talking “to God”) that we use when we pray.

Prayer is sometimes looked down on as being a subservient act. When most people think of prayer, they think of a plea or an appeal to God(s) in the sky for their desired outcome to be granted. Part of the reason we may not be comfortable with this form of dialogue is that the “other” is 1) outside ourselves, 2) invisible and 3) more powerful than we are. Most of us are told, when we move into the stage of development known as modernism – and are exposed to the branches of science and philosophy – that no self-respecting human being would prostrate themselves before this kind of creator God.

But this assumes that the power (to create meaning or change) resides somewhere outside of ourselves. And for the traditionally religious, this is true (or, at the very least God remains worthy of our reverence, awe and devotion).

Post-modern forms of prayer (centering, affirmative) simply assume and strive to express what already is. When you pray in the affirmative, you declare that you are not broken or fallen or diseased, but that you have the infinite power within you to heal yourself, and to live your highest potential. When you practice centering prayer, you invoke the perfection of the moment and all thoughts that may be arising (including the prayer itself).

When you pray, you are engaging with Spirit-in-Action in 2nd person language (addressing the “thou” or Ultimate Other). And unlike meditation, where the goal is to let thoughts go completely, prayer is the training of our actual thoughts to be more positive, kind, gentle, loving and forgiving.

Prayer is a way of aligning your mind with the Divine (or what Sri Aurobindo called Supermind). If meditation is the act of being unattached from your thoughts and simply letting them drift away, then prayer is the act of holding onto and turning your thoughts, one at a time, over and over in your hands until they are perfect. Until they have been smoothed like stones in a river. Continue reading

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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.


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


Top 5 Reasons You Should Attend Interfaith Events

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with members of the Dunedin Interfaith Council on the steps of St. Pauls Cathedral in Dunedin, New Zealand on June 11, 2013. Photo/Jacqui Walker

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with members of the Dunedin Interfaith Council on the steps of St. Pauls Cathedral in Dunedin, New Zealand on June 11, 2013. Photo/Jacqui Walker

Interfaith gatherings — in the form of peace marches, prayer breakfasts, demonstrations, panel discussions, academic conferences and inter-religious ceremonies — have grown in popularity over the last 5 years.

If you have seen one of these events advertised in your community, you may have thought it was a nice thing for other people to attend, but that it wasn’t for you. Or despite all the advertised information, you may have only noticed the word “faith” and thought, “that is an event for religious people or people who belong to a certain religion.” I assure you that neither are true.

Interfaith events may feature representatives from the various spiritual traditions from around the world, but they are certainly intended for — and convened around — everyone. An interfaith event may include attendees from religious and non-religious groups, atheists, scientists, politicians/city officials and academics. They may even include atheists or religious “nones” (those that don’t identify with a specific religion). These voices are gathered to engage in ongoing conversation about how to communicate effectively regardless of our differences, or how to respect the opinions of others, or ways to achieve peace in the world through non-violent means, and it is your perspective — and your voice — that deserves to be included.

Interfaith conversations can include such topics as ethics and morality; love and compassion; service to the community; climate change and global warming; personal spiritual practice such as prayer or meditation; social justice; human rights issues for women, children and minorities; or liturgy and the history of ritual as it relates to cultural and religious traditions from around the world.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking that these conversations are dry, academic, monotonous and uninspired — like some sermons or speeches tend to be. Most of these events are lively and passionate (sometimes heated), are fun and inspiring and most times involve great food and a focus on community.

Here are the top 5 reasons that you should start attending interfaith events:

1. Conflict resolution

No matter what model you’re using — the “Four S’s of Interfaith” or the “Interfaith Triangle” — using conversation to defuse violence and tension through peaceful means is something that we need more of in the home, the workplace, and the world. Using words to solve our disagreements and learning to take the role of other is one of the best examples we can set for our peers, our communities and our children. Peace begins with you.

2. It expands your own awareness

Discussing topics like spirituality and religion with others allows you to see the world through their eyes. And learning about others’ feelings, cultures and opinions helps you become more aware of the various perspectives that comprise our world. Allowing others to feel safe and encouraging them to share deeply — including sometimes personal details — is also a way to foster interpersonal connections that can bring about an expanded sense of awareness within your family, neighborhood and your community. By expressing and sharing together in this safe space, we are contributing more wisdom to the world — more goodness, more truth and more beauty.

3. It’s for a good cause

There is no equivalent of a “mega church” in the interfaith community. Most of these organizations are grassroots, very small and run by a few volunteers who are dedicated to a mission of unity and world peace. Most of these events do not benefit the individual faith communities, but give directly back to the community they are hosted in, donating proceeds to local charities and encouraging others to do the same. The charities are usually connected to universal concerns like human rights, hunger, poverty, the homeless and the abused. Consider showing up early and helping set up chairs or staying late and striking tables. It’s for a good cause and will be greatly appreciated.

4. Good conversation, good people

Interfaith events are not strictly educational, they are highly social and in some cases may put you in a situation where you have to think before you speak. This is great practice for the real world (especially the workplace). These gatherings usually attract a wide array of people from different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life. Introduce yourself to everyone you can and listen to their stories. Yes, you might learn something from passively observing a talk or panel discussion, but without an audience (or someone to ask meaningful questions) these conversations can be a lot of head-nodding and back-patting. Raise your hand, let your voice be heard. Interfaith events also attract people who are open-minded and who are willing to work out their problems (internal and external) through peaceful means. Be careful, you may unexpectedly find a new friend. Continue reading


The Offering of the Stones: An Integral Church Tradition

Chapter 15 - Stones

Offering of the Stones: Community Guidelines

by Joran Oppelt and Catherine St. John

Each month, we dedicate a section of our circle to intentionally working together to create a “well” of love and healing for our members to tap into any time they need. The idea behind the “Offering of the Stones” ritual is a synthesis of an improvisational Neopagan “reclaiming” ritual, the candle-lighting ritual of “Joys and Concerns” from Unitarian Universalism and traditions as far-reaching as Catholic Taize prayer service and the Quaker “spirit of the meeting.”

When we need prayer, meditation or spiritual support, these stones provide a “well” of intentions — a place to hold our stories and our suffering as well as our gratitude, love and healing; a place that may be returned to in our hearts and minds between circles anytime we need.

The stones symbolize our connection with each other and the Earth. We offer stones to the collection so we may have a physical representation of the prayerful energy that we support one another with.

We encourage everyone to share openly using “I” language, and in order to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in the circle, we ask that what is shared come from the heart as we speak about our own experience, and we listen without comment to what others share.

We ask participants who have shared at previous services to go first, setting an example for the newcomers.

When a person is finished speaking, they end their share with the word dibarti — a Hebrew word meaning, “I am complete” or “I have spoken.”

The group then responds in unison with the word shamati, meaning “you have been heard” or “we welcome your story.”  

The next person shares spontaneously, in no particular order. Those who brought stones have the opportunity to share first. Participants sit and hold their stone (talking stick method) while they are speaking and then step into the circle to offer it to the “well.”

To protect the space created within our sacred circle, please keep in mind the following guidelines while you are sharing:

  • Use “I” language
    • Avoid using “You” or “We” statements that reference specific individuals in the group or the community in general. Speak about your own experience or how something makes you feel.
    • This is not a time to teach or preach. It is a time to connect with your own body and mind and speak openly about how you are feeling. If a participant gets too caught up in storytelling, they are moving away from their own bodily awareness, and may need a prompt from the facilitator to return.
  • Avoid crosstalk
    • Crosstalk refers to people speaking out of turn, interrupting someone while they are speaking or giving direct and unsolicited advice.
  • Offer a specific intention
    • Ask for direct prayers through a difficult time.
    • Celebrate an event or obstacle you’ve overcome.
    • Speak from the heart. This intention is a contract for you and Spirit-in-Action!
  • Be mindful of time
    • Try to limit the share to less than 2 minutes, especially for large groups, to give everyone an opportunity to share.
  • The “Offering of the Stones” is not a space for dialogue, response or debate.
    • When a person is offering their stone, it is their turn to speak
    • If a previous member’s share inspires you to speak, share how you feel personally, and avoid singling them out by name or referencing their story.
    • If a member wants to discuss what someone else has shared, he/she should approach that person after the service and ask their permission.

See also, the “Touchstones” developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal.

The beginnings of the stone collection at the very first service held at Straub Park in 2013.

The beginnings of the stone collection at the very first service held at Straub Park in 2013.

 

The collection today (2015). It now contains stones from around the world, including California, New York City, Austin,  Albuquerque, the Berlin Wall, The Chapel at Chimayo, the cave of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Glastonbury Thorn Tree.

The collection circa 2015. It now contains stones, shells, crystals, fossils and dinosaur bones from around the world, including Florida, California, New York City, Austin, Albuquerque, the Berlin Wall, France, Spain, Scotland, Belgium, Amsterdam, The Chapel at Chimayo, the cave of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Glastonbury Thorn Tree.

 

love-stones

This photo was submitted to Integral Church as a long-distance offering via e-mail.

 

 

 


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

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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.


Leaning Forward: The Art of Living on the Spiritual Path [VIDEO]

FULL AUDIO: http://uustpete.org/service/2014-09-07/new-beginnings

TRANSCRIPT:

What is your spiritual path?

When we talk about being “spiritual but not religious” or living a “spiritual” life, what do we mean exactly?

There are different ways we can define spirituality (its own line of development, the highest level or stage of any line of development, an attitude toward life – like compassion or love, a peak experience regardless of lines or stages, or the Ground of all being and experience). Spirituality means all of these things (and more) to so many. And when discussing spirituality with others, it’s important to determine which definitions are in play.

But one thing is for certain – the spiritual path should not be confused with our spiritual practice. The path is not what we do. It’s who we are, who we choose to be in each moment. It is the journey to which we are called.

And whatever we are called to do – whichever cause or organization or group of people we’re called to serve, this is also part of our path. It’s a sacred relationship, a spiritual contract held in place by the agreements you have with yourself – that you will serve on your path with integrity.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to having doubts about my own worthiness – and my own qualifications. Not only in my career, but in parenting, in my pastoral and chaplain work, in community leadership, in my writing. Who am I to be deserving of these teachings and experiences that I’ve received? Who am I to be worthy of happiness in my life? Am I deserving of the opportunity to teach others?

Self-doubt sometimes greets you on the sunniest parts of the path.

Continue reading


Interfaith Week is Coming to St. Petersburg!

many hands together

On July 13-20, the City of St. Petersburg will officially recognize “Interfaith Week,” and we would love to see you out and about, visiting new communities, making new friends and learning more about the way our city celebrates the sacred.

For more info, visit the Interfaith Week event page.

Interfaith Week is a chance to see how others practice religion and spirituality in an open, educational setting. During Interfaith Week, individuals and families are encouraged to visit the many churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, meditation centers and spiritual communities in St. Petersburg to gain a better understanding of the people, values, philosophies, practices and cultures that make up our beautiful, historic city.

The week will also include free panel and roundtable discussions at different campuses and venues including such topics as: religious literacy, dialogue and listening, social work and charity, good and evil, definitions and expressions of spirituality, and more.

St. Pete Interfaith Week was inspired by “Other Religions Week,” founded in 2003 by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, and like similar events (i.e. Louisville’s “Festival of Faiths“) seeks to become an annual happening that promotes a message of compassion and pluralism and holds up our city as an example of a community based on mutual respect, cooperation and collaboration.

If you would like to volunteer to help out at an Interfaith Week event, please contact us. If you would like your spiritual community to participate, there are a few different ways we can work together, and all of them are listed below.

1. Be listed on the calendar

We can list any events you already have happening that week, from your normal worship, prayer or meditation services to evening classes, music/dance performances or talks.

2. Participate in a discussion

We’re looking for people from all walks of life (academia, community service, faith-based organizations) to participate in this important and valuable conversation. If you (or a representative of your organization) would like to participate in a public discussion about interfaith relations on the topics listed above, let us know.

3. Host an event / Organize a panel 

If you would like to host or organize an event, performance or interfaith panel discussion, we would be happy to feature this event on the website and help you promote it.

We’re very much looking forward to the beginning of what will surely be an annual event that showcases the rich fabric and diversity of our community and that continues to grow year after year.

See you in July!

Sincerely,
Joran Oppelt


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