Prayer as a State of Being
Last Friday morning (8/3) I found myself in a state of prayer. It was a new state, a felt state, a surrendered state. I did not choose this state of prayer, but it arrived, as if by Grace. As if it manifested from within my being at this particular point in my evolutionary unfoldment. The unfoldment of my Divine Kernel, my Essence or my Life Force from within.
Leading into this time I had come to realize that I was in a life situation that was beyond what my ego could handle. That was a big admission for my ego to make. And in addition I found that I could from within Trust the Goodness of the Cosmos and could surrender to it (to God?) in prayer.
But the prayer was non-specific. I was not turning to the Cosmos for help with a particular issue in my life. It was a total surrender in a way, a surrendered way of being in the vicissitudes, challenges, and decisions of my day-to-day, moment-by-moment life here on planet Earth. As if my ego were handing over the reigns, and doing so willingly and with as sense that the Cosmos (Spirit Within? God Within? God?) was indeed benevolent and could be trusted beyond the capacities of my limited ego.
I remembered the helpful quote from Pathwork Lecture 105: Humanity’s Relationship to God in Various Stages of Development. (open this Pathwork quote on prayer) Here the spiritual journeyer passes through various stages of prayer life, even times where there is no prayer because he or she is in that stage of self-responsibility, a very healthy transition from childhood, but a transition that may manifest as atheism or agnosticism, a stage where prayer to a “God” would make no sense. This framework for the evolution of prayer in one’s life is helpful to me, for I have been aware of my long history of being a closet agnostic.
What do I mean by “closet agnostic”? I mean that in my life back then I would go through all the form of my religion but deep down was not buying the teachings of my religion. I was not saying the dogmatic teachings were wrong necessarily, but just that I had no particular sense that they were 100% correct either. And I knew on a deep level that while I could with my self-will “confess” and “profess” a particular belief system, I could not make my true self believe something it did not recognize as truth. That level of inner faith, that inner knowing, could only come by Grace from within. Faking something that was not yet true in me just makes matters worse, even blocking the arising of truth from within.
And I could not admit or confess my agnosticism, my unbelief, even to myself, let alone to my Lutheran brothers. Where would such an acknowledgement leave me? And while in a stage of agnosticism I was somewhat, though not fully, aware that my “prayers” came more from a sense of duty and show, or my fearful need to be in compliance with my surroundings of family and friends and even my outer self professions, rather than from my inner authentic Self surrendered to the will of God.
In these earlier days – perhaps a period 30 years long, say from age 20 to 60 — with an interlude of 5-10 years beginning at age 30 when my parents died — I was not trusting an authority outside myself with my life. So there were two me’s – the external me that would be the “good Christian man,” going through all the motions of a good Christian man, even being a role-model for such a man; and then along side this external persona stood the internal me that held back and refused to surrender to authority, even to God. My self was split, leaving me in pain and confusion. And at the time I was mostly unconscious of what was going on in me.
Despite the fact that my refusal on the inside to surrender to God naturally led me to anxiety, fear, guilt, and even terror for the riskiness of my brazen clinging to my autonomy apart from God and other authority, I would still refuse to surrender. Hence, true authentic prayer was impossible. And the fear and anxiety my independence wrought festered underneath my façade of being a “Good ‘Christian’ Man.” This façade blinded even me to my own inner agnosticism. And it would make matters worse if I would have said, “OK, I believe!” since my inner self would know the lie of such a statement. Finally, I would not allow myself to acknowledge this agnosticism, rather only to experience the otherwise unexplainable yet pervasive feelings of anxiety that followed me through much of my adult life.
But several years ago I came out of the closet and freely admitted my agnosticism, at least to myself and my closest Pathwork friends. I got “comfortable” with this in a way, just letting it be real. This honest admission to myself was like an experience of a boy who after a minute or so of holding his breath suddenly lets go and breathes freely. In my truth — “I am an agnostic” — I was somehow free. Yes, the truth does set one free!
And I knew it would be unhelpful to overlay this core agnosticism with a mask of piety, for that would be a step backwards and would again rob me of my truth. No, I was an agnostic. I was clear that I was not, however, an atheist, for truly I was not defiant in an insistence on “NO GOD, rather just not certain there was a God, or that God was as the God that the church had taught me. I was not terrified at being an agnostic and I could stand in the truth of that on the inside. This agnosticism would manifest by a life without prayer, or at least without the petitionary prayer of my youth.
So last Friday I was aware that things moved within me. I could both see my helplessness in my various circumstances AND I could trust the Cosmos, and surrender to the Cosmos. I could receive help. And this felt new, like a new state of being. I was somehow one with God and the Cosmos. I was not separate.
Suddenly I got the Bible passage 1 Thessalonians 5:17 — “Pray without ceasing.” This was not an impossible command for the fearful and hopeless ego to try feverishly to obey but rather a description of what prayer would be like as one evolves in one’s consciousness. “Praying” simply becomes an aspect of one’s state of being at higher levels of consciousness — much like “love” becomes a state of being at higher levels of consciousness rather than an impossible command for the ego to obey from a lower level of consciousness.
Recently a friend of ours shared a quote from Meister Eckhart that fits so well here: Seeds of God, Growing Into God (open). And to think that Meister Eckhart wrote these words 700 years ago! And then I compared this to a similar quote from Pathwork Lecture 165: Evolutionary Phases in the Relationship Between the Realms of Feelings, Reason, and Will, a quote I titled: The Purpose of Life: Manifesting Our Divine Eternal Kernel (open). I slowed down and allowed both of these readings to inspire me anew, to awaken me through their resonance with that God within who is my Divine Essence. I came to a sweet space of existential Joy and Peace. Such was my meditation time on this Friday morning.
Pat then joined me for our Coffee Time. After a period of silence between us I slowly began by sharing my experience of prayer arising from within. But in the process I noticed how fearful I was to share this, even with Pat. On some level it was as if I were embarrassed to share this experience of prayer as a state of being. The feelings were so deep yet fragile, so personal, and I felt so vulnerable in sharing this fragile part of me that was my Essence. Pat: As clear and true as your insight about prayer was earlier, your truest and clearest sharing is in the now, in your sharing about your feeling fear in sharing this with me. Gary: Thank you. Pat: Yes, I’m honored to hear about your fear. Gary: It is hard to let this honoring in. I am not sure why.
Pat: We in our program (Awakening Into Presence) have learned about this vulnerability beginning in our cells at a very young age – early infancy, pre-memory. Unlike later in life, in this early infant stage one has no memory of what the incidents were that set this anxiety and fear in place. We come into this life as infants who are so very open, and then find that life is not safe in some fundamental way. And like a sea anemone, the wide-open infant instantly closes up.
It’s a “startle reflex,” and, unlike acute incidents that happen later in life and which we remember, this “startle reflex” becomes a chronic condition for which we have no memory of cause. Perhaps for you, Gary, it manifests as your ever-present low-grade anxiety, and perhaps it gives rise for your search 20 years ago for a 12-step program for a non-named malady. I think this may be called dysthymia, a kind of low-grade depression and chronic lack of feelings. I have instances that I remember that caused me to shut down, but you shut down before you could even remember the causal incidents.
Gary: That’s a lot to take in, and it all seems very plausible. I now find that I have lots of energy to sit with all of this that we’ve shared and write up a reflection in my blog. Certainly I have more energy for blogging than I do to tackle all the administrative stuff I have on my plate for the MAP organization these days.
Pat: And beyond your blogging, I’m interested in our being together – committed to the dynamic that is our engagement, this adventure of US. We are at an entirely different level now from where we were earlier in our relationship. We do not know what the possibility of US really is. Gary: Yes, we are committed to the possibility without knowing what the potential is or what the unfolding will bring. Pat: Yet we are spurred on by our deep longing for Union, first with each other and ultimately that deep longing for Union with God. Gary: Amen!
Shared in love, Gary