We have entered an election year and many of us are deeply afraid of what might transpire as we attempt to vote and have our votes counted. Now, more than ever, I feel a deep need to pray for inner peace. I am not praying to a sky god with a long white beard but to the sentient force that powers the atom and the stars. And what I’m praying for isn’t a particular outcome (though that is tempting). I am praying for the courage to keep my priorities straight during what is likely to be a profoundly difficult year, both here and around the world. The command to “therefore pray unceasingly” has never been more meaningful. As overwhelming as that seems, it must be my practice.
My priority is to appreciate the divine in every human being and in myself and in every moment. I cannot afford to lose this year by becoming consumed in fear and loathing as the volume of hate and ignorance increases. That I cannot run or hide is abundantly clear. No physical monastery or wall-to-wall distraction will protect me from my own thoughts and emotions. No avoidance or ambivalence will keep me safe. Somehow I must create a sanctuary inside my own heart and live there, fully awake and fully alive. By the instruction of my teacher, Prem Rawat, and through the effort of a long practice, I know how to do this. However, I must still get up every morning and do it. I must do it in spite of racial, religious and gender hatred, ethnic cleansing, genocide, earth depredation and the deaths of innocents.
The good news is that I when I do listen to my heart prayerfully, I experience joy and freedom. Yes, hate arises from time to time. Yes, I can always succumb to ignorance, but because of my practice I am more likely to I notice someone like the little downy woodpecker who comes daily to feed on the suet we put out for her and the sparrows who drink at our heated bird bath when the river is frozen. When I see them I remember Jesus said, “not a sparrow falls but that my Father knows” and I feel faith that even when we suffer we are seen, supported and loved, sometimes by animals or other humans, sometimes by the divine observer, especially when we turn toward its presence. I am comforted by the sun inching its way back north after its long sojourn to the south, faithful to its ancient path. Yes, fear is present, but so too are awe at the beauty of creation and faith in the love of my creator.
We can and must do many worthy things to live our values in this coming year but we are not in charge of outcomes. Cause and effect will unfold as they always have, to plot the path of humanity. What we do control is our effort to continually turn toward the light, take courage and reach out to others who need our support or ask for help when we need it. In my experience such efforts are always met by grace, “the undeserved favor of the divine” which is present in each breath I draw.
We’ve had a deep, wet snowfall here in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I am relishing a day with little to do and nowhere to go. I send you my best wishes and warm regards, whomever you are.