The traditional definitions of prayer involve asking for something we want, involve a reaching out for something unknown in the sense that we don’t know how to attain or receive it by ourselves. Contemplative prayer includes and expands these elements, while involving an actual shift in our center of identity. If we pray to spirit from deep in our heart, with complete sincerity, distracting thoughts dissolve, we receive the power to center our thoughts on our actual relationship with a higher power free from the confines of our egoic identity. When the center of our consciousness shifts from our identity as a separate self, to the underlying reality we share with all beings, not just human beings, but all beings, this is the birth of a new aliveness wanting to embrace life through and as our total being. When we’re willing to receive this new aliveness and surrender our will to spirit’s will, we become a redeeming force in the world.
A powerful prayer for myself has been asking for what I really need to awaken from the dream of separation from the aliveness of spirit itself. I pray for the courage and strength to allow the loving power of spirit or God herself to perform my actions in the world. Once in a while I feel compelled to put prayer into conceptual form, and in a prayer circle, I offered the following prayer.
Infinite Beloved, I know you are nearer than these words and thoughts I’m praying with. How can I help others to dissolve their self concern? What is actually needed to help them be more willing to receive your love and compassion? Behind every restless feeling, may I feel Your concern for all of us, and Your love. From this awareness manifesting me, may all beings feel sustained and guided by Your consciousness. May my love for You, enable me to realize and share ever more deeply Your love for all of us.
Afterward, I felt the thrill of my consciousness expanding, but soon the pressure, seemingly squeezing me from both inside and out simultaneously, became much more intense than I had encountered before. It felt as if I my body/mind was being ‘launched into outer space though I was still sitting in a chair. Thoughts raced through my mind: ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening, I’ve got kids, if I don’t come back, who will look after them?’ Along with these fears, was the certainty that all human beings would in some form pass through this very same fear of dying in the depths of their being. The pressure in all its intensity was telling me, ‘Not only is this universal fear of suffering and death, you are now experiencing universal resistance to actually being the pain of all suffering.’
The most painful feeling was centered on my attempts to grasp onto thoughts about salvation, sayings of great masters, and thoughts of unconditional universal love. My attempts to grasp these thoughts, to figure what to do or not to do, had absolutely no effect on my condition, and in fact just increased my anxiety. At one point it even got to the point where I asked ‘Ok if I’m supposed to die now, let’s get on with it, die already! But clinging to those thoughts were just as futile any other form of clinging. There was simply no other choice than to just to surrender to the energy of what up to that point had been a very painful ride. I was receiving a deeper teaching of what it means to just ‘Stop’ everything, including dropping all effort of trying to stop. Finally it dawned on me; there is another level of surrender, another level of receiving and acceptance that has nothing to do with any of my efforts, that is completely independent of any self conscious sense of separateness.
I already had an intuitive realization of this truth of my own powerlessness. But it became more clear to me that I had not yet learned to fully live that truth, it was still at least partly dependent on an intellectual intuition. At that point I finally realized, that this experience is what I asked for, it is what I really needed to further the process of awakening from the dream of separation. Adyashanti says ‘When you really pray with complete sincerity from the depth of your heart, be careful what you ask for, you might very well get it.’
When our spiritual evolution reaches the point where the necessity of receiving the willingness to be the whole works, to actually be all the most blissful joy, and all the most agonizing suffering, when that necessity begins to deeply saturate our hearts, we will feel the depth of the fear of suffering and death. It is scary because in our attachment to our small container of self that we imagine we are, we also imagine that this container we think we are has to be willing to actually be all the suffering by ourself. We imagine that we by ourselves could actually experience all the suffering in the hell realms if we surrender our defenses.
But we aren’t the most painful or the most exalted blissful human experiences by ourselves. We existing by ourselves is nothing more than an idea in our mind. Our actual being, which is timeless spaceless awareness, is all experience as an expression of the whole of creation. The whole universe is what we are together with all beings and all their experiences; we and all beings, we and all experience is what we actually are. And we and all the experience of all beings is constantly changing, being absorbed back to our source, and then being manifested anew. When we fully surrender to actually being all of it, we actually are all of it. We learn to accept life on life’s terms, not our own terms and conditions. This is the transformation of our suffering, and is our willingness to be a redeeming force in the world.