December 1998……..a few days before Christmas,I felt like a lost sheep who had come back from working in Saudi Arabia,jobless,broken, depressed,in severe physical bodily pains and financially broke…………..with my heart wide opened and humbled and surrendered…….I sat in Saint Anthony’s church,Vancouver quietly praying after I had attended an evening Mass.In my prayer that evening….…my heart implored!
I remembered asking sincerely,”give me something to do!”( I was not asking to have a job or to be healed of my pains or anything to help my finances…….(I knew it was not the right thing to ask at that time),but what I actually wanted was to be of service,for my heart and talents to be utilised..…
I surrendered that prayer and was walking out the church when at the door I was approached by a choir member who was looking for singers for Christmas day morning Mass(which was only maybe 3 days away)….I said,”I dont sing but I play the guitar”…she said “thats what we really need is a guitarist for the choir”…..and asked if I wanted to give my time to play for Christmas and on a regular basis……..I said yes but I didnt have a guitar at that moment for practice…….she said she could get one………and there I was practising with the organist and choir………..then I remembered my prayer to be of service.
Yes I was honored and played my guitar happily for that Christmas Morn,1998!
I was not satisfied simply with playing the guitar for Mass, I knew there was more of my heart that could be used….so I kept on asking in my dedicated self prayer petitions and quiet sittings in the austeriy of the church………one week later just before the New year(1999)…I saw a poster on the church door which read…….’The Door is open’,volunteers needed for soup kitchen to feed the needy.”I immediately felt a bell ring in my heart and went home to give them a phone call……..…
A few days later,I started humbly in the soup kitchen,serving the poorest of the poor,the uncared for,the forgotten and the diseased(HIV/Aids).As I served them, I looked through their eyes and hearts and felt their suffering and I saw myself in each one,I witnessed myself looking at each one with tenderness and respect…we shared the same suffering but in a different picture,a different scenario….each one of them needed love and happiness and to be cared for… and I realised too that I needed the same.I noticed my heart opening with compassion and kindness and a reaching out to love…….that reaching out was not only to them but towards myself…….I needed to love myself ,I needed to care and nurture for my damaged soul,the damage only I myself could undo and make reparation for.
One day I brought my guitar along to the soup kitchen and sang a few songs for them while they ate,to hopefully bring some music and comfort for their troubled souls…..
A few months later after serving the soup kitchen,I then went on to walk on the streets of Eastside Vancouver for the downtrodden,prostitutes,heavy hardcore drug users and those forgotten by society,there my own broken-ness was further healed by the horrible suffering I witnessed,my body pains began to vanish,I got a job as a RN in a rehabilitation hospital and worked hard at it, my true spiritual journey began.I stayed on in the choir for one more year and later donated my guitar to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd(Toronto)……………I had to learn when to give up and let go of everything I enjoyed and loved as soon as I learned that whatever I needed to do was done…..I allowed myself to feel all emotional attachments and then to let it go,it is a way of the so called dying to ego,to self glory and gains…..just as the Buddha had said…….”when we have crossed the river using the raft we had built,we let go of the raft,we do not lug it around onwards in our journey.”
Prayer will help open the door to the next realm needed for us to do whatever is necessary for our own healing processes.It is the raft that will help us cross the river of our lives and help us grow,change and evolve for a higher purpose.When we pray,we not only express out words in our minds and hearts but we become aware of everything happening within us and around us because every corner of our being and surrounding is calling for attention and warrants us to stop and see how we could be of service to self and others….we need to see and put in action what the Universe(God, Divine Source,Allah, Atman etc.) calls us to do…it might be a simple matter as being more attentive,kindly and caring to people we say we care,our spouses,children,mothers/fathers,brothers/sisters,friends,etc….and when we see ourselves care more towards others, we can acknowledge the goodness that resides within us.We can then say our prayers have been answered!
Prayer helps us to keep vigilant of our inner states!
I said a prayer………………..
May your mind be calm and peaceful
May you always be safe and guided to safety in your human travels
May your path be protected
May you be healed from all affictions
May you find joy and contentment in daily life.
Praying is such a simple charity we can offer to ourselves and others……
When we are about to sit or undertake an exam…..we might say a prayer asking to pass the test,but if we have not made any effort to prepare and study for that endeavour,how are we to pass the test?….perhaps we might!
There is a saying….’be careful what you pray for,it might come true!”…..why is this said…..can we undertake the commitment and responsibilities of change and making way for the new and keeping our word and integrity to living a renewed life after receiving the favours we prayed for? Eg……in desperation,we pray,ask and promise to change our unhealthy ways if our loved one recovered from an illness……..and if they did recover,will we keep the promise to change?
Likewise the Buddha said…..in order to cross a river,we have to find the wood to build a raft first………he also said, once we have crossed the river……we discard the raft,otherwise we would be carrying unnecessary burden dragging the raft along the way!So too is prayer like a raft to help us cross each river, lake and sea on our human journey.
To say a prayer is not reserved for people with any traditional religious background, neither do we need to go to a church,temple or mosque to pray.We do not have to be religious or spiritually inclined to pray.The truth is that we all as sentient beings at some point or on a daily basis in our lives do pray,and do pray in earnest.
We usually pray when we need something,some boons,when we go thru a difficult time,when we see loved ones struggling with challenges,when we are plagued by obsessions of a disturbed mind,we do pray also for others we do not know who we witness going thru natural disasters of sorts thru the media or by word of mouth.We do hear of people asking for prayers and we do seem to respond.We might even see on the media of the President of a country or a high profile statesman asking for a few minutes of silent prayer for victims of violence and terrorism and natural disasters.So yes,prayer is very much the thing people do in times of crisis.
But do we only pray in times of challenges and difficulties and depressing moments?
When we hear of someone’s plight or distress(it could be someone we may not like or even a stranger),we notice,an immediate reaction in our thoughts,in our being and a twinge in our hearts……we find ourselves silently responding with a thoughtful wish for the afflicted person/people to be well.That spontaneous twinge of concern might be a feeling of sadness or a fear,a fear of our own perhaps,that that distress could also be ours in reality?
But why do we only seem to go in prayer in times of need and not in happy/joyous moments?Because it seems that prayer is likened to a lighted candle to only help brighten a dark room so as to help us see where we are trudging along…so while we are in elevated mood….prayer doesn’t seem to be necessary or be a given priority.
Even when things in life seem to be smooth sailing, we need the constant practise of prayer to keep us focused and aware without being side-tracked and distracted so that we don’t be caught off guard when things take an unpleasant turn around and we loose our balance and fall.
Does prayer really work,does it help create miracles/changes…….?
When we pray,it is better to not ask for any favours,or to expect that our prayers be answered but rather pray for the strength and courage to face any given circumstances and to be grateful for whatever outcome…….to accept it to be the greatest good for all to learn,grow and evolve.Yes, when we pray the only miracle we would expect to witness is to see ourselves making positive and healthy changes within and without.
When we have offered a prayer intention, we have sent it out to the Universe(God,Higher Power,Allah,Jehovah,etc.)and we learn patience, trust and let it be………..
To some people to use the word prayer/ praying might be something shameful or unknown for them to do,for others they feel it doesnt work and totally disbelief in its efficacy.We might often hear people saying these phrases……”I prayed so hard but yet my loved one passed away of…..”…….”I prayed so hard but still lost my job”……..”I prayed and prayed for my child to get out of drugs but he died of an overdose”…..and we will hear more of people who have attested to praying but have not had their prayers answered!And therefore we pray to find strength to accept all circumstances that we don’t and cannot have the power to be in control of……..
On the other hand,there are occassions where people have testified that their prayers were answered and it seems like a miracle had happened! But do we continue in sincere devotion to praying or remember to give thanks and strive to make our lives a miracle itself to be a blessing to self and others,or do we very quickly forget the gift and enthusiasm of that miracle and turn cold again and go back to our reckless unwholesome ways?
What is prayer/praying about?Prayer is a mental and heartfelt comunication we make either saying out loud or in quietutde.It is a willingness to surrender,to learn to trust,to have faith and be open to whatever may be! It is usually a wish,a good and kindly intention asking for help,comfort and to open the path for hope for ourselves or for others.Prayer is also thought of as a pleading or an intercession from an external Divine source…so that it helps us focus and become reverent and respectful with sublime intentions………
How do we pray?…………….yes,we often pray in a quiet manner privately by ourselves forming our own words mentally/heartfully,some may pray in unison with a prayer group(various religious traditons) in order to be of support to each other and find peaceful connections,some pray by means of a text from a religious prayer book or leaflets,some chant mantras and others by using prayer beads and rosaries.Whatever and however we pray,our prayers could be so simple,altruistic and easy.
A Prayer when said simply,short and humbly,such as ‘help me’,’give me strength and courage to go through this painful time’,’thank you’,’help me to face the truth’,guide me’,’help so and so’,’may I be safe,may so and so be safe’,’may I find peace’etc….when a prayer is said and repeated like a mantra and easily…it can become a positive affirmation to help oneself gain presence,courage,relief,calmness,clarity and insight to face all difficult events.It helps transform the negative energies into positive ones.
Therefore it is said that a child’s prayer is powerful….due to its purity, simple and unadulterated supplication!
In my own example of praying very simply……… When I travelled to the Holyland,Middle-east beginning of the year 1998……I carried my heavily burdened suffering life together with my tormented,wandering/restless mind with me……….in the course of my visiting all those sacred/holy sites,all that could come up in my mind and heart were the 2 words…”help me!”………….I knew I was asking and pleading sincerely.That very end of the same year, I underwent an intense spiritual awakening and transformation!
When we sincerely pray for someone else, we are truly praying and blessing ourselves….for the good intentions extended has a boomerang effect to give us strength and courage to witness our benevolence,goodness and the sacredness of all beings.In that praying intention,we have the chance to cultivate compassion and tenderness for ourselves and in return back to others.
All form of prayer is truly an invocation,invitation and remembrance to seek the shelter and protection from pain, suffering and also to give thanks…..an opportunity to help remind ourselves to open the heart to seek sincere help and be humble to see oneself in the throes of needing assistance and guidance for direction along the path of our lives.
Just as the body needs food and liquids for energy to function in daily life,the inner being(the soul) also need spiritual food for comfort,nurturing,cultivating compassion and loving kindness.With simply saying a prayer we can find some form of relief and alleviation for a broken,painful,grieving and hurting soul.
In his memoir,Eric Clapton: The Autobiography, the musician writes about a rock-bottom moment he had in rehab in 1987:
“I was in complete despair,” wrote Clapton. “In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no notion who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether . . . and, getting down on my knees, I surrendered. Within a few days I realized that . . . I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety”
There have been scientific research done to prove the efficacy of prayer usually done in a medical setting and there have been positive outcome showing that praying does help with the healing process of sick people rather than those left without any prayerful concern.
Yes, in truth we all have the power to pray,irrespective of having any one particular religious belief,agnostic or atheist,the illiterate or the rich and famous,we all have at one point or other have asked quietly within ourselves for help and guidance, we know our vulnerabilities,weaknesses, uncertainties and limitations.We need the power of prayer to keep our hearts and minds open for help,hope, relief and comfort,not only for ourselves but to also connect us to the hearts and minds of others on this journey through Life.
I love you for who you are……..
because who you are is also who I Am…..
When you suffer…..I suffer too,because I recognise my own suffering and weaknesses so I feel compassion and relate to your discomforts and un-ease………
When you are happy….I rejoice,because the environment Is joyful and light-hearted and I too have experienced and know what’s its like to feel happiness.
When we behave kindly,joyfully and respectfully,the atmosphere around is blessed,people feel at ease and unburdened…..adversely,people can become jealous and malicious,because they are suffering and don’t like to see or believe in happiness,thus they unconsciously and deliberately sabotage others’happiness and goodness…because they are suffering,they want others to suffer too and the cycle goes on…..hurting begets more hurting……unhappiness creates more unhappiness…………….hatred and anger agitate more hatred and anger……..the wheel cannot seem to stop!
When the world suffers in wars,nuclear threats,natural catastrophes,materialism and greed,unjust control of power,bullying/terrorism,abuse and cruelty of sorts to humans,animals and nature,famine/poverty and together with each our own personal unrest at home,with friendships,society,at work,educational places,religious organisations etc………..we are all affected to some degree.
We might not realise it but when we look deeply within ourselves we react disturbingly to suffering around.We react through our thoughts/intentions……….we may resent someone(it could be someone we say we care for) and unreasonably get mad,blame,taunt and wish ill-will upon them simply at the way they look,they dress,they laugh,they walk,even when they are sick etc.etc………….
We may react adversely to suffering through our words,speech and voice……sometimes we might find ourselves being agitated for no apparent reason,we might pick on someone close and say something harsh,hurtful,sarcastic,offensive,rough,obnoxious and unreasonable without understanding and thinking through.We not only hurt another but resist to soften up to sincere apologies and making amends even after realising the wrongdoing.
Another way we react to suffering is through our action or inaction……..we can become bullies,needy and needing to control without even becoming aware of what we are doing to others or even to ourselves.We allow anger and aggression to overcome us,anger and aggression doesnt necessarily have to be physically violent but a subtle violence of witholding care and concern for another and self by way of not wanting to nourish the body,mind and spirit,not wanting to seek help eventhough,life is being more and more miserable and unhappy and depressive.We run away into a world of delusion by way of addictions….anything done obssesively without any care for the well-being of self and others……drugs,alcohol, sexual pleasures,entertainment,fun,work,food,etc.etc….we retreat into a selfish realm of self hatred,hardness and meanness…………
We react to suffering through our feelings and emotions…….feeling drained and helpless,life is meaningless,sadness,worst still,we overcome ourselves with self hatred and anger at the suffering we see and hear and than unconsciously we punish ourselves by putting ourselves down,not feeling good about ourselves,treating ourselves and others badly sometimes rudely and inconsiderately for all the guilts and shame and fears we face…and thus we need an outlet……we need to feel good superficially and temporarily……..we need to pretend and generate lies that we are happy,we want others to think that we are busy enjoying life,we are afraid to ask even if we don’t have any idea about the truth,we don’t want to look foolish,we need to be seen as clever.We hide our vulnerabilities and true essence of goodness/kindness and generosity to avoid being taken advantage of.On the other hand,our physical demeanor might appear hardened and tough and rigid/cold,aggressive to appear of being in control/or having control of our lives and to give a feeling that no-one can ‘play the fool’with us.
We have a heart,we can feel,we can care…..we have a physical heart like everyone which can be afflicted with various medical ailments…..whether with a healthy or unhealthy heart condition,it will stop some day and we will inevitably face death!
We have a mind,we can think and reason,we are able to recognise and be cognizant..……. there are millions who are afflicted with mental illnesses…we all might relate to one in particular …..the wandering/restless mind!
We have a body,we have sensations,we have some form of physical strength and vitality……………there might be a time when the body gives way to bad health,cancers,diseases of bones and skin,etc…..one in particular,we all share is aging!Some may want to slow the aging process of way of all kinds of chemicals,drugs, surgical implants and operations,but can they?
We each have a soul,a sacred space for goodness and a Higher purpose…………..innately within each human is the potential for awakening to the truth of ourselves and enlightenment.Every sentient being has the inherent capacity to unfold the Highest Good within themselves for the benefit of oneself and the whole of humanity…….
But we all think we are different from each other …..we may be different in our skin color,our culture,our climate,our gender,our status in family/society,our religious/educational beliefs,our personal,physical,mental and emotional outlook.
In truth….we suffer the same mental/emotional anguish and torments,fearfulness,worries/anxieties,resentments,bitterness,upheavels,depression and lethargy,anger/frustrations,jealousies,selfishness,/greed,need for control/attention, lust and covetousness,excitements and mood swings,unhappiness,addictive behaviours……..underneath all these afflictions….we as sentient beings are craving for love and happiness……..
What is the root of happiness….it is in the dissolution of ignorance and un-necessary suffering.
When we become dependent upon external factors for happiness and love,when we are expecting others and various excitements to fulfill our selfish needs and dissatisfactions,we will constantly be going through the wheel of samsara(suffering).But when we strive to see who we truly are within,we witness the truth of our existence and there find our divine essence of love,peace and happiness.
Strangely enough,we say we want happiness and love,but yet we do not allow ourselves the courage to change to be creators of love and happiness.We wallow in self doubts and put limitations on ourselves to go beyond our mundane everyday duties and activities.We tend to be judgemental and critical of our own capabilities to do something phenomenal such as opening our hearts to its full potential! And we go about our lives finding faults with everything and everyone else and with ourselves too.What have we got to be afraid of in seeing our own true nature….don’t we want to know who we truly are?What are we doing to make for ourselves and others a happy,peaceful and loving atmosphere?
All of us on this human journey are here to be of help and support for each other,to be teachers and students,to learn and to teach till we awaken to our true nature.In life and various living situations,we have been gifted with all kinds of people…….. strangers,people we love, people we don’t care for, people we avoid,people we are inevitably connected to,people who pass us by only once,people who make trouble for us,people, we have a tendency to resent and even hate,people who make us happy and comforting,these are our true teachers on this journey……….we have to face each one and learn from them…we too in return are teaching life lessons back to each one of them.We each are given a chance to be learning and teaching patience,forgiveness,to be generous,kind, humble,courageous,tolerant,trusting,accepting,faithful,compassionate,loving,understanding, respectful,simple and helpful until the heart opens its full capacity to Love without expecting any gains in return…in other words until it becomes unconditional!
In truth we cannot change anyone or any traumatic situation around the world,we have only our own self to change first.As the saying goes…..’we cannot change the course and direction of the wind but we can adjust the sails accordingly’,for if we try to go against the wind,the boat will surely capsize!
No good or positive actions in words, thoughts/intentions,emotions and deeds will be ever be wasted…..the seeds have been planted,we don’t go digging up to see if its taking root or wilting away……..everyone and everything will evolve accordingly to ‘karma’….as the Buddha and Jesus said,we reap what we sow. If we want happiness and peace and love,we have to be the happiness, peace and love!
We can begin to sow and cultivate good seeds by starting within ourselves,by taking responsibility to be aware of how we go about our lives and how we interact with others,we can nurture goodness by way of changes to ourselves to all that we do not deem caring and beneficial to ourselves and others…..we have to start with ourselves for no one will come and give us happiness,peace or love…..and even if they did try to,we sabotage its potency with the false perception of our human frailties,unworthiness and unwholesomeness…………we can always make a conscious effort for changes and growth to help ourselves and humanity!
We are sharing this journey with others,what is the use of complaining and making life on earth more difficult and harder and tedious and energy draining for all but rather instead use our human potential for positive transformation….we have the breath,the mind and heart to work with to restore harmony within ourselves and towards human life and living……………….the ultimate truth is that we will leave everything we have,we love and possess behind,why not make this human journey a beautiful loving commitment to live by while we walk on this earth……..we can start with our family, our friends,our society, at our workplace,places of fellowship,nature and while we are having fun and pleasantries….we can be aware to not hurt and cause more suffering to ourselves and others!
Unnecessary suffering is an option we can consciously choose to do away with,love, happiness and wisdom are inherent within each human being,we can and need to uncover ……enjoy and share them unceasingly………………..
After the death of the ego-centered self,there comes an arising……
A new consciousness,an awakened state of heightened awareness.The state of waking up to the absolute truth.
In this state there is the feeling of losing everything,being nothing,being no-one,yet it feels at the same time like having everything and being everything…..the Oneness and totality of existence is experienced.The body,mind and soul have integrated to become One…..there is no fragmentation of thinking and feeling,the mind has been quelled and the heart has regained its purified status and capability of loving without conditions and limitations….it has become Infinite,Eternal…..an end to reincarnation!
This is the meditation of Self awakening………..to be reborn….as Jesus says..”unless anyone be born again,he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven”.Here Jesus talks about being born in the Spirit…..in today’s version,its about transformation of the self,a new growth,a shift of consciousness ,a renewed life,death to the old habituated ways of life/living and deluded perceptions.Death to the old-self has occured!
In the dying process,it has emptied and purified itself of all afflictive states……its innate states of love and wisdom are restored!
Like a child being born into the light after being in darkness in its mother’s womb for all those months………..
Contemplate a child at play….the purity of heart at the way it runs and plays carefree and unburdened,the innocence of the child as it looks at everything in awe and wonder,it laughs and giggles when it sees a butterfly flitting by…it is not afraid to simply be,to trust,to know that it is being taken care of and guarded.It carries no worries or anxieties over what to eat or where to sleep……….
So too is the new Self,is child-like(trusting) and pure of heart(sincere) in all endeavours.Like a snake that has undergone the painful process of shedding its old worn out skin,it is triumphant to show the new one.
After its rebirth,in stillness the new Self will only live in the Present…it has died to the past and knows that the future is unpredictable,uncertain and unknown……..everything is impermanent……its status is in the constant Now!
The new Self does not partake in the influences and chaos of the world,it understands and feels compassion towards it…as Jesus said…..”be in this world but not of it”…………………
The tomb is empty…….do not look for the old self there…it has Risen(transcended)!