I dreamed the other night that I was standing on a beach up north with someone I don’t know very well. It was a winter beach, cold wet packed sand, waves whipped to white foam under a slate grey sky. We stood in watchful silence and then I turned, and as far as the eye could see along the horizon, a string of boats, freighters and trawlers and steamers, flowed slowly but inexorably into the harbor.
“There must be a storm,” I called to my companion over the rising wind. “They are all coming into the harbor, where it’s safe.”
Caught up in the blur of a month of thankfulness, and finally breaking down to listen to ‘Eat Pray Love’ on my commutes, mixed with a dose of full moon magic, and a dream about boats in a harbor that I just can’t shake, I have started to ponder the concepts of prayer and manifestation. I agree with many of the concepts of spirituality expressed by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, and I also feel that, like her, I suffered catastrophic destruction of relationships that forced me to face certain concepts.
I was forced to face my own weaknesses, faults, and failures. I am not the best at maintaining personal relationships, I know this. I struggle to keep up friendships and to show people that I love just how much I love them.
It forced me to accept that people will break your heart in the most crushing ways, and disappoint you time and time again; and that people will show you transformational kindness and staunch support, love and joy, in equal yet entirely unpredictable measures. There will be those who break you, and those who stand by you holding you up, and those who do both. Most times, I didn’t accurately predict who would be whom. And I didn’t expect that it would be so difficult for me to accept help when it was offered.
I had to accept my starting point, and what a paltry, indefensible position it was. No help for it; I had to build, brick by brick, from there, and the only way to do that was from a place of grace, and forgiveness, for my own failings and for the hurt, disappointment, and abandonment I felt inflicted on me by others. I had to put everything behind me to move forward, and by and large, I feel I’ve done that. I am still a work in progress at forgiving and letting the past be the past, but I know the critical importance of it, and I work on it every day.
I had to forgive myself, too.
It forced me to accept that during all of the events of the past several years, I was not alone, and that although I chose the hardest, most exhausting paths to climb, there was a pattern to the events of my life, and grace, and that grace came from some other, higher source than my own limited self. Every time I fell down and said, I can’t get up, something forced me up. Though heavily we bled, still on we crawled. (Coldplay)
Like Gilbert, I have viewed prayer with skepticism. Actually, until the last year or so, I’ve been so uneasy with the concept of personal happiness that I actually felt more comfortable when I was unhappy, because then I didn’t have to fear the other shoe was about to drop. I suppose, for some reason, I never felt that I had earned happiness, peace, and contentment. When you don’t believe you deserve things, you don’t pray for them, and also, like Gilbert, I felt that praying for things was incredibly inappropriate. Why would God (whatever your concept of God is) care what I wanted, or needed, in the grand scheme of the universe? How can you look at the utter chaos and tragedy, the mass destruction constantly occurring on unthinkable scales throughout the world, and feel like God can care about my personal sadness, my needs?
I don’t have the answer to those questions.
But one thought resonates with me. It is David Lynchian, from reading one of his books on Transcendental Meditation. He is a bit cagey about a lot of the elements of TM, likely because it’s a “pay for play” program, but he reiterates time and again that meditation (prayer, we can call it) is not just a selfish endeavor. If we are to be viewed as a whole entity, if even one small dust mote in that entirety is happy, and at peace, it can spread, it can vibrate like a tuning fork. I think Madeline L’Engle writes about this too, sort of, in her Wrinkle in Time trilogy – the little farandolae who choose to sing with the universe rather than swirl ragefully, the tiny star that glows against the creeping darkness engulfing a planet.
I know these are grandiose concepts to justify prayer, and I know it’s likely melodramatic, but this is the way that I’m slowly becoming a bit more comfortable with the idea of a conversation with my God, and the possibility that perhaps it is okay for me to pray. To start, though, I’ve tried to approach this through the concept of work on myself, and manifestation. I don’t want to ask for things – I don’t want to ask God to bring me someone to love, or material fulfillment, or ultimate wisdom. I don’t even want to ask for things to be easier. I just want to have clarity about what I’m working towards, to view the future as an unknowable work in progress with nothing to fear, rather than a dreary unfolding of days spent alone, buying cat food and wine. I want to be happy in the present moment, be happy with what I have and the person that I am. Honestly, until I can accomplish those things, until I can dream my own life, I don’t know that there’s any point in me asking for anything else or having anything or anyone new in my life. I’ll just be repeating the same old patterns. So maybe that’s my prayer these days, maybe that’s my first step.
And you know, it seems to be working. I am much happier than I’ve been in years.