Tag Archives: faith

The Laughing Heart

hand with candles

 

 

 

 

 

 

your life is your life

don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

be on the watch.

there are ways out.

there is a light somewhere.

it may not be much light but

it beats the darkness.

be on the watch.

the gods will offer you chances.

know them.

take them.

you can’t beat death but

you can beat death in life, sometimes.

and the more often you learn to do it,

the more light there will be.

your life is your life.

know it while you have it.

you are marvelous

the gods wait to delight 
in you.

-Charles Bukowski

The Power of Prayer

prayerI have always been interested in the potential of prayer. Did praying work, or is it just a pipe dream of the uninformed and naïve. When I was young, my southern-raised grandmas told me to pray. “To Jesus,” they would say. At night when I attempted a prayer I wondered, should I get down on my knees? Can he see me? Do I need to fold my hands in front of my face? Then I thought, “If everyone is praying and asking for something, how can Jesus keep track? How could he possibly answer all these prayers?” I doubted that he could.

By the time I was in college I had been questioning religion for several years and decided, while taking a course on world religions, that I was a Hindu, and not a Christian at all. Upon further study I decided I was, in fact, not a Hindu, but an atheist. My college years were spent questioning the role of religion in our world, while doubting the existence of God and refuting the relevance of prayer.

Over the next couple of years things happened that renewed my faith. Two of my closest college friends died in the same year, eliminating some of my naiveté and forcing me to reconsider my former disregard of God. I reconciled not with the Protestant God I’d been raised with, but a God who embodies both the masculine and feminine—a powerful energy of creation that suffuses all of life. It is with this view of the Divine that I researched prayer for my doctoral dissertation.

My interest in the power of prayer came on the heels of Dr. Larry Dossey’s research which he compiled in his book Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. This inspired me to research the effect of meditation, visualization, and prayer on a group of patients in England.

Those who offered their prayers were located in the United States and Canada. The study had statistically significant results, with the patients in the receiving group experiencing the most improvement.

One problem some people have with prayer, with asking the Divine for assistance, is that they won’t be heard. But I believe prayers are heard and answered. Sometimes the answer is not what we thought we wanted. Sometimes the answer is “not now” or “you don’t want that in your life—you just think you do.”

We can trust this answer. We don’t know all the unseen forces at work on our behalf, so we can have faith if the answer is “not now.” Although we want life to be the way we desire, we can’t always understand the higher vision. When we trust unseen forces, we can trust that our prayers have been heard and answered.

In my experience, the most powerful prayer holds the intent, “For the best and highest good of all.” For example, “Please help me to make wise choices, to expand my awareness, and to move forward in joy, for the best and highest good of all.”

The Search for Meaning

searchYears ago I went through an intense phase of grumbling about life. During this time, my friend Nubby gently suggested I read Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. The book was written in 1946 after Frankl had survived being a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. Ultimately, Frankl presents how to face suffering while finding meaning in life so it can be lived not in bitterness, but with purpose. In Dr. Frankl’s country of Austria his book is translated to mean “Say yes to life just the same.”

I had meant to read it for years. The book was already on my shelf, so I didn’t have to go far to find it. The next day after Nubby made the suggestion, I didn’t get out of bed. I kept the blinds closed, commiserated with myself, moaned and groaned about my life — wallowed in it until I was pruney. Then I read Man’s Search for Meaning.

On that feeling-sorry-for-myself day when I refused to get out of bed, Dr. Frankl’s story spoke to me. Here is what it said:

  • We are capable of free thought.
  • We can make it through anything with a positive state of mind.
  • When we look death in the face, the cruelty of it can slice through our illusions so that things become very simple.
  • These are the energies that really count: love, hope, neutrality.
  • The ego is a rather frail construct.
  • We can step back and realize that no horror has any power over us.
  • We can transcend our own personal Auschwitz.
  • Nothing can break our spirit unless we allow it.

After finishing the last page of the book, I laid there in the dark room for a while questioning whether I would have had what it took to get through Auschwitz alive. Then I wondered, had I survived such a horror would I have been deeply bitter and resentful and hateful for the remainder of my life? I wondered if I would have chosen to see the joy and beauty in life again or would I have just grumbled through the rest of my days. I got out of bed, straightened the covers, took a shower, and decided to live.

What is the Dark Night of the Soul?

hopeThis phrase is commonly used to describe a time in one’s life when it appears as though all is lost, including the attention and support of God. Old ways of seeing life and believing in it end without a clear focus on what comes next. It can be a period of dark moods and hopelessness.

Originally stemming from the 16th century writings of Carmelite priest Saint John of the Cross, the phrase “Dark Night of the Soul” was indicative of mystic development, a quest for holiness. In our modern era, the phrase indicates a time when spiritual development is moving full speed ahead, except the person in the midst of it is usually in despair. During this time, the old and familiar fades away, making room for a new and deeper meaning to life. The challenge is that we can’t see the relevance while going through it, so we suffer.

Experienced as internal chaos and misery, the original Christian notion of this Dark Night is that God has turned away for good. What actually happens is a new pathway opens up that encourages transformation of one’s relationship with God. It’s a blessing in disguise.

In Christianity, the feeling of abandonment by God, a place of darkness, is considered a test of one’s faith. The agony of making your way through the dark causes the old self to reform. The ego dissolves, and a surrender takes place. Old expectations and illusions about God are broken. It is this process that brings a person to new levels of consciousness and into a new, more meaningful relationship with God.

In the midst of a Dark Night, don’t pull out the pills or jump off the bridge! Keep walking through it. It doesn’t last. You’ll come out the other side. God, Goddess, the Supreme Being, the Divine, the Universe, whatever name you choose, you can be sure that it does not desert you. It might seem to for a time, but it’s impossible for it to abandon you. Instead it leads you into greater light.