Prayer Control Freak

It has occurred to me over the last couple of weeks that two seemingly disparate phenomena in my life at the moment significantly inform each other.

In last week’s post, I talked about my tendency to take on the emotional care of other people–like I know what they need. So I’m working through that (once again) at the same time that I am immersed in a series of classes at CSL that have me looking at God and prayer. It strikes me that I’m just a jumbled mess around both of these things–in basically the same way.

I have participated in too many relationships as if I were God Itself–the wound savior; the source for people’s happiness. Sometimes I have taken on people’s pain because I could feel them wanting something that, quite possibly, they were not even aware of wanting, and sometimes I have taken it on because I wanted something from them. This was the only way I knew to be worthy of a connection.

So here I am grappling with all this stop-caretaking-people stuff at the same time that I am studying prayer. Damned if I haven’t fallen into the same trap with prayer. I’ve been going at it like I am responsible for making the thing that people desire to experience manifest for them, instead of just getting to the heart of it and holding my knowing on the truth that it is theirs already, just waiting for them to choose it.

I still haven’t gotten this all figured out: caretaking/loving in regards to people; knowing/willing in regards to prayer. But it occurs to me that one of the obvious lines in regards to people is listening. Just listening, no fixing. It is time to trust the people I am engaging with to find their way (or to find somebody else who is happy to oblige them by doing the caretaking they are after). Finally, there is trusting that my own value has nothing to do with how well I take care of other people’s needs, with how well I anticipate them so they don’t even have to ask. The truth is that all I could ever be is the band-aid that keeps people from really seeking out the healing that is available to them from Source.

So here’s the deal. I am going to get to the heart of both of these issues, and when I do, I am going to suck in the biggest breath of freedom you ever saw, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Surrendering to the Pissoff Within

Don’t ask what the world needs–do what makes you come alive.
​​​​​​​​-Howard Thurman

I sometimes have to get really out of sorts before I realize I need to change something about the way I meet the world. A few weeks ago, I dropped into a pretty big funk before I realized how much I pattern my life around tending to what I perceive are the needs of others. I’ve run into this pattern repeatedly and I’ve done a lot of work to create a different one. Yet the old pattern snaps back into place like a stretched rubber band when it is let go.

Last week in our Science of Mind Principles class, I created a prayer to stop feeling responsible for other people’s emotional wounds, to stop responding to the pull I feel in my body when I sense someone wanting something of me that I don’t want to give. This is a messy process. I have to feel that people do not matter to me so that I can cut myself free from these patterns. I have to get all righteous about how I’m being invaded, how no one sees me (waa fucking waa) so that I can turn my focus to what I want. I have to get people off me psychically so I can breathe.

I pulled friends, colleagues and family into this movie even though they had no idea of the supporting roles they had been cast in. It didn’t matter if they fit their roles perfectly. It didn’t matter if they were speaking completely different lines than the ones I was feeding them. What mattered is that I surrendered to the chaos and anger swirling inside me; that I breathed through the shame, embarrassment and guilt that I felt; that I chose me; and that I made a change that needed making. For me.

Truth is I’m still walking through this, trying to sort it all out, figure out where the lines are between loving and care taking in any given situation. I’m determined to get free from this. Maybe someday I can do it more gracefully. I would love that. For now, I am grateful to my supporting actors. I hope you do not know who you are. After all, it ain’t about you.

Recognizing God

The Lord’s Prayer lost all meaning for me at an early age. Mindless repetition will do that for a gal. I eventually blew it off as not really having anything of value for me. Then Dr. Chris assigned us the task of rewriting it in the prayer class I took with him. Funny how this prayer fits so well in the spiritual tradition I have embraced as an adult.

We were also asked to formulate our current concept of God. As Chris stated it, “The most important decision for you to make in your spiritual life is to determine what kind of God you are praying to.” It will influence how you pray and what you pray for–and therefore the results you will receive. I’m not completely satisfied with what I have formulated so far, but I do know that I have a completely different concept than I did as a kid. And in truth, I’m thinking I’ve got a pretty good start on how I experience God right here in this prayer.

Lord’s Prayer
Sustainer of all life, source of all good, which resides within each of us, we recognize you with honor and love.
We express your essence, seek your guidance, love and serve as you, thereby manifesting heaven here in earth. As it is your nature to do, so it is ours, for there is no separation between us.
Provide us all that we need to sustain our life today.
Forgive the limitations we place upon ourselves as we forgive others who do the same.
Lead us constantly into what is right and most high for us and keep us focused on choosing our good.
You are our source and we depend on you alone. We do not make anything happen but hold ourselves open and receptive to the good that you supply as a matter of course.
And so it is done.

Surrendering to Greatness

One of the topics in my Core Prosperity Relief (CPR) course that really called me out was about faith and surrender. We were asked to give ourselves a number from 1-10 that spoke to where we were in relation to faith at that moment. That question proved to be the key to the lock that had presented itself in the (Center for Spiritual Living) CSL strategic planning session that took place the weekend before.

A group of 10 of us had met that Saturday to work on answering the question we had set for ourselves: “How will we change the world this year?” I love this kind of work. We all threw out suggestions. At one point, though, after the leader encouraged us to go deeper, I hit a hard patch. I knew she was right. There are a lot of things that matter to me, but what would matter enough to me that I would step over the inertia threshold and actually do something about it? What would be big enough to engage me, to keep me from hitting the snooze button and rolling back over?

I sat there stuck. All of us seemed to be. Finally, the facilitator put it like this: If we were each given a month in which the other 9 would support our vision, our cause, our work, what would we offer up? That question was like a razor-sharp knife slipping right through all of the blanked-out resistance I have used to keep myself from even thinking seriously about really doing the thing that matters most to me. I knew in that moment what my month would be about. And I felt how deeply afraid I was of putting it out there, of asking others to join me in making it happen.

It’s simple–I want to help heal the divides between (and within) people that have arisen through false stories they have been handed about who they are, about who the “other” is, about what is possible in the world, about what is possible within/for/through each one of us. It’s hard to fear someone who has shared their story with you. It’s hard to hang on to the stories about ourselves that defeat us when someone helps us listen a new story into being. A new story that rings with the truth of who we really are. That is how I want to change the world.

What kind of surrender would it take for me to say: “This is my thing; it is powerful and I want you to join me in it”?

It will take the kind of surrender that doesn’t use the excuse of “I don’t have the first clue how to make this happen.” Something in me does.

It will take the kind of surrender that knows that anything that gets inside your skin like this is inside mine is fully supported and divinely guided, that all I need to do is take the first step.

It will take the kind of surrender that knows the truth about who I am and how people see, respect, and love me. I am a storyteller. I am a story listener. I am fierce. I am equal to this challenge.

So what was my number on that day? Though I ‘d like to say it was at least an 8, the truth is that I often find myself balancing on a tipping point. Not quite sure if I am a 4.9 or a 5.1, struggling to see the minute differences between the two. And that is exactly where I was in that moment—5.1 and tipping. What I am celebrating today, is that I have closed in on that 8, and I am still climbing.

One Cold Shower

Last Sunday CSL-KC started a new book of the month: Experiencing Spirituality, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. One of the stories from it that Dr. Chris told us was about a woman who had commented to the Rabbi that she didn’t need all these spiritual practices, that she felt spiritual all the time. The Rabbi responded that the next time she felt spiritual she ought to go take a cold shower then go do something kind for someone. The story made me laugh as I thought about the people like her that I have known.

Today Chris talked about how coming to CSL and getting inspired and being all “Namaste” is the easy part. It is come Monday, when we are faced with living our spirituality, that the rubber really hits the road. Well, being a precocious type, I did not wait for Monday last week. In fact, I hit the road face first before Chris even finished his sermon. It wasn’t much past the point at which he quoted from the book, that I needed that cold shower.

I was sitting there all Namaste and stuff, enjoying the sermon, when out of the corner of my eye, I felt this violent gesture. It was a get-your-ass-over-here-you worthless-piece-of-shit type of gesture. Here’s the thing about me: I’m kind of skittish around violence. And a bit judgmental. In my defense it’s my way of trying to get the violence up off me because it sinks into my bones so fast.

Before I could even consciously register what was going on, my mouth was open just wide enough to allow these words to push through: “That was rude.” Being precocious, I got almost immediately that my comment was just as rude, and coming from a place of judgment and superiority with the intent to diminish. I felt embarrassed by my reaction. Very quickly I shook off the shame I felt and started thinking about what might lead a person to act in such a way. It hit me that there might well be reason to be kind rather than judgmental to one who did.

I thought about some of my own past behavior, some of it very similar to what I had just witnessed. I don’t like it when things are not going well and I feel responsible for their execution. Sometimes I have a little meltdown, anger spurting out of me like I’m helpless to stop it. A desire to perform your duties well is a good intention; maybe that was what was up in this case. Kind of hard to fault a person for wanting to do a good job.

I thought about the people who have met my bad behavior with compassion, those who refused to treat me as if I deserved to be cast out or diminished. My world has never changed when my bad behavior was met with judgment or censure or superiority. It changed when someone looked past the stuff that may have touched their ire or judgment to my heart as I was having the meltdown. That kind of love opened me up. And still, I forget to do it for others sometimes.

I could not really say what Chris’s sermon was about last week, but I can tell you this: it was powerful. I’m off to have a cold shower then to see what kind of kindness the world might need.