Right now I, for the second time in my life, am learning how to pray.
As I reflect on my previous incarnation as a little girl sitting at the right hand of my mother, prayer was terrible and frightening. She had a fever for the Pentecostal tradition that caused her to yell out “hallelujah” during the most quiet, yet still noisy moments of church. How embarrassing it was for me to sit next to her and duck under her hand that seemed to flail involuntarily. How helpless I felt when I saw the tears stream down her worry stricken face.
I learned then that in order for god, who happened to be a man at the time, to hear the cries of his people, they had to roll, scream, hump the ground, cry out in mumblings that not even Babelfish could translate. And they said it was good.
But the people, my mother included, were suffering from terrible physical, emotional, and spiritual maladies that had such a profound hold in their life that they called them demons and this was their last ditch effort at salvation. They were orphans to the light of a god who had devoured their lives. Every week they gathered to commiserate and pray their course be set in an opposite direction. They were Gethsemane incarnate. I could smell the blood.
It was a confusing and oftentimes on-the-spot event prayer time in the House of the Lord run by Reverend Trout had been. With the din and the scent, the writhing bodies dancing with drunkenness of spirit caused a subtle eroding to a life of prayer for me that I now notice in this time of full presence in my life. In fact after I saw that the Pentecostal ways didn’t do anything to stop my mother’s death from happening, I stopped praying unless some serious shit was going down. That was almost twenty years ago.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to work with this amazing spiritual and holistic influencer, Melanie Sanchez who embodies what it means to be a faithful, devoted and spiritual woman. She is a Christian and I am not, however, whenever she talks about the deep connection she has with Jesus, I remember the mega crush I had on his beard when I was only allowed to meditate on the Lord. Melanie’s connection to her spirit life speaks to a different kind of belief system. One that is faith based but not about faith.
What is Faith?
Whenever you start including yourself in any kind of circle in the south, you are asked the age old question “What’s your faith?” It is as if your faith was something that you carried in your wallet or a box you check on a standard form that designates you into a particular category. In the south if you aren’t in a certain category, it can be difficult in one aspect to not belong, but freeing in other aspects such as being accepted as an intelligent woman, treated equally among men who are incredibly evolved, and thusly seeing said men as spiritual teachers who recognize golden feminine wisdom they bring back to the stalwarts who’s sight has left them too little too late.
(The patriarchy must be taught with love and patience, kindness and wholeness. They need to feel the love they were too proud to ask to receive but I digress…)
Faith itself has been redefined as a spiritual status symbol– yes status symbol– or as a Hail Mary pass in the final thirty seconds of the game. That is all I ever knew of faith. It seemed too faulty, a bad gamble.
So one day I began to observe dear Melanie with her vibrating corona and wisps of blond hair that accented the highlights of pink in her aura, sitting with me sharing her insights, whipping her hands around, stirring the cauldron of wisdom. I realized that my time to let my guard down and learn about faith had come. It was graciously given to me with no pain or suffering, but instead compassion and understanding from the heart.
Consistency, focus, structure, awareness, discipline, play: these are the elements I am conjuring with now to build a life of connection to my dreams.
I have laid a foundation over the years, albeit with a skiddish trust in the universe, as a voracious student of spirituality in every tradition, edict and persuasion. The truth is that I wanted to know the rules of every religion so that I couldn’t possibly fuck up my afterlife. When I came to the path of yoga and Hinduism, I found my comfort zone in the allegorical archetypes. I fell in love with Shiva, the lord of yoga, the male aspect of all things. He danced the fire dance Tandava. He would visit me with waking night terrors and show me the monsters under my bed. I was in love with him for the his fierce compassion that eventually saved my life.
During the day, I sat at the feet of Saraswati and learned of creativity, wisdom, and intellect being the backbone of every good woman. I began to see moments in time as the string of pearls she holds in her hand: precious, crafted patiently in the heart of life. Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion would bathe me in her tears so that I could go out into the world with almost untraceable emotional scars and make an attempt at understanding its complexities and nuances.
I came to realize that I did not possess a sense of faith, nor did I need one. It was too risky and my soul was in debt. I couldn’t afford to believe in more than just getting through crafting the next pearl. I was afraid to try to understand what it meant to have faith without conditions, and what it meant to pray, because as I said before, prayers were only reserved for the desperate, dying.
But while at the feet of Saraswati, I began to feel the drunkenness of spirit. I was overflowing with creativity and my hands could do nothing more than make my world, my heart could only open, and my mind could only unfurl a solid path into the unknown. And while my pretty little projects distracted me from realizing that I was creating deep structure in my life, I tripped on the erected scaffolding firmly secured in its foundation.
There is a Hindu saying that states: ”Do not chase Lakshmi. If you want to find Lakshmi, chase Saraswati.” looking up at the scaffolding in disbelief, I finally understood its meaning.
There is a natural assumption that the Goddess Lakshmi, who bears material and spiritual prosperity, is at the top of the super power hierarchy, well… because she is rich. You know how we love our rich girls.
She is depicted as a face to seek, a deity to strive toward and then attain; chase after Lakshmi and be rewarded by the free flowing coins from her open hands. She is fortune, but garnished with eastern ideals of generosity and celebration as opposed to the mistaken interpretation of fortune feeding on visceral greed. How could you see the coins falling from her hands with no eyes to see the wonder of the peaceful sunrise, or ears to hear the subtle, holy, final breath?
Lakshmi isn’t just in Hollywood, she isn’t even red carpet ready. She is in the depths of your fear and despair, hoping that Saraswati shared her insights on creating light in dark places; she is ready to do what comes naturally– give.
Lakshmi is at the bottom, in her low paying job, praying for a better tomorrow and enough food to feed her children, and still smiles as she hands you your coffee. She can also be seen pushing the vaccum cleaner down the hallway of the dank hotel with sweat stinging her eyes that naturally look down and away as you pass her by without saying hello or thank you.
Lakshmi is life in its struggles and the ability to see beyond them, not to be enticed but to be inspired beyond circumstances. Lakshmi is a verb: to believe and be grateful. This is the seed of all wealth and prosperity.
Abundance comes from a reverence for life and through such reverence, structure naturally appears without you struggling against the weight of the individual parts that comprise it. Faith is the belief that everything will be alright throughout the process. Abundance comes from faith.
Faith is not who you are on your baptismal record, it is a particular vibration of ethereal optimism that has the power to hold everything good you ever wanted, and heal every wound from life’s wear and tear. Faith is the walls unified with the skeletal scaffolding, the lithe muscles on bone.
How else would I be able to catch the Lakshmi’s falling coins? My hands are too small, and I want to be like her, so I wish to keep them open so I don’t get poisoned by greed’s insidious infection. Faith is believing that we deserve to have spiritual and material gifts and the balls to own such a belief even after we have lost everything or made a terrible error. We have to practice building and destroying things so that we may have the resolve to make room for greater blessings to enter into our lives.
So, with this new understanding of faith, my awareness of the therapeutic necessity of prayer became urgently evident.
On this new plane where I am freshly learning to exist, I realize that prayer is not asking, begging, bargaining, supplicating, complaining, gossiping or desiring. It is a place of intention. It is a space for the soul to have a little room to breathe outside of the flesh. Prayer helps us to remember that we have to power to create.
My prayers used to sound like this:
Oh God, bless yadda, yadda, now can I have this?
Now my prayers sound like this:
I believe in the power of my wellness. I believe in the union of my experience. I honor my life with full presence. I am blessed. I am grateful. I am amazed.
When we pray, we don’t even need to talk to anyone else but who we know and understand. I don’t really know of any physical presence of god that doesn’t constantly change. Once I think I have seen the face of the divine, it becomes the scurry of an insect or swallows me whole in the grandness of the star filled night.
I believe in life, I believe in love. I am in an exclusive union with love and faith as they feed each other with open hands.