Prayer is intensely personal. Methods for prayer are offered by the experienced solely for the purpose of getting one in motion, to overcome the inertia of the mind of the world, to get one started on the road to heaven or at least to look up. Once unstuck, the student becomes the freelancer, and the intimate relationship with one’s heart and the ear of God begins.
Nothing satisfies like the receptive ear of an audience, the knowledge that what you are saying is being heard. Merely talking to the walls or some imagined listener is only practice, a rehearsal for the real thing – a heart-to-heart conversation, a confession, a plea or a rant, a hope, a fear, a demand to be known and to know. All of these and a thousand other descriptions of what passes between our inner voice and God’s omnipresent ear. And when we first realize the mystical union, which is as simple as that, of knowing innately and immediately that we are known and loved, such a power moves through our core that life itself seems but a candle held up to the noonday sun.
So, to get you on that path, here is a way to get started. It is a method designed to invoke the creative energies of mind in constructive, healing ways that will not only avail you to a direct interaction with the Creator but will also give you the opportunity to see God’s power in action in your life and the lives of others.
Everyone needs help. There isn’t a living soul on this planet that wants for nothing, some assist or reconciliation, a healing, either of body or of mind, an illumination or deeper connection with God or nature, or simply a reason to keep going in a world that looks all uphill. You know someone like this, and if you don’t, next time you’re stopped in traffic, just look at the person in the car next to yours. There you will find an opportunity to be of service, and before the light turns green, you will have helped another soul progress a little farther toward its ultimate fulfillment in the realization of God.
First, we have to talk about the mind’s ability to produce images. There are two ways in which mental images occur, one deliberate – the kind we conjure up as in a daydream – and the other a kind of visitation, an intrusion of the imagination upon the visual cortex, an overlay onto the relentless news report of the eyes, something unbidden and new, as though it were a perspective previously unthought of and usually contradictory to what the mind would assume. Such gifts from above are the fresh air of life, portals of opportunity, and sometimes the way out of an impossible situation.
One might think that such visions happen only by chance, lucky when they do but by no means at one’s beck and call. The method of prayer I am proposing to you is a way to turn that around, to draw upon the mind’s creative flow and tap into a higher wisdom, a wisdom that is at once available and universal. The method is simple, but its proof is in the vitality and the immediacy of its results – a demonstration of the connectedness of our self-awareness with the omniscient presence of God.
Here’s the scenario: you know a person with a problem, perhaps an illness or an addiction, some challenge in his or her life that has become a roadblock, preventing them from moving forward. Let’s say it’s an illness, a depression. You know what the person looks like, the way he presents himself to you and the world at large, the way he carries himself, his posture, the angle of his shoulders, the way he moves when confronted with the slightest task. All of these bear witness to the depressed state of his nervous system, the sluggishness, the reticence, the despair. But beneath all this is a potential, the undying hunger for life, the need to express and to interact. So, you ask yourself, what would he look like if that underlying vitality were to manifest itself? What would he look like if he were totally alive and interested in life? How would he sound, how would he spend his time, his money, his energy? What topics of conversation would he bring up, how would he dress, keep his house or his room? What qualities would he bring into your life simply by being present?
As you ask these questions, images will start to come in your mind. The more you persist in the questions, the more images will come, and they won’t necessarily be images of your own device, but they will be fresh images, born of the innate potential within him and not what you think he should be like. This is where the creative aspect of mind will reveal what’s really there, not just the potential but the real soul qualities that, because they are suppressed, are casting a shadow in this person’s life, a shadow caused by the depressed state of his nervous system. And as it is revealed, the energy within his soul will burst forth, and you will feel it. The depressed condition will cease to exist in your consciousness, and you will see only the truth, the complete, unimpeded expression of the vitality of his soul.
This new image has so much life in it that it will easily and naturally displace the image you are used to seeing with your eyes. The condition is there, but it begins to pale in comparison with the reality looming just beneath the surface. That image soon becomes the dominant image in your mind, and it creates a potential, an electrical charge that will draw his soul out into the world.
But this is not just a matter of your perception or his responding to the new way you’re seeing him. That would be limited and wouldn’t work unless you were in his presence and interacting with him on a daily basis. No, this is something universal. This is God. This is you reaching into an area of the mind that is connected with all life everywhere, an area of the mind that knows everything from the inside out. This is the one true perspective that you are tapping into, and the reality it reveals provides the spiritual energy to drive the process of recovery in your friend.
Let’s face it, your predominant attitude of mind is negative. It is informed by what the senses report, the evidence of a world subject to the laws of entropy and decay. Nothing lasts forever. But the senses are not attuned to the Spirit; the inner drives of the soul are not apparent to them. So, life appears self-destructive. But in reality life is continually renewing itself, always finding newer and better vehicles for its own expression. The vehicles are secondary; the life expression is primary in importance. When a vehicle reaches the end of its usefulness, a new vehicle is constructed to carry the work of self-expression forward. It is only the ignorance of this fact of creation that brings suffering. As you actively invoke the higher mind to reveal the reality beneath the apparent, you begin to override the negative effects of the outer transient nature of existence. Life will still shed its old forms to take on new ones, but without unnecessary resistance, the process will be natural and easy.
The Nature of Questioning
There is a way to ask the question, “What would this person look like if….” Neuroscience has shown that the brain has an energy budget, a bandwidth, if you will, similar in size to a cable modem. Only so much information can be processed without heating up the brain beyond its capacity. To maximize its processing capabilities, excess information is filtered out, and the gaps are filled in with what the brain expects to see, based on its memories of similar experiences. So, much of what we see is fabricated by the brain in order to save energy.
The brain uses a similar strategy in its cognitive functioning. When we ask ourselves a question, the brain, to save processing energy, will attempt to fill in an answer from memory, just as the visual cortex will fill in the missing visual data from what it expects to see. It uses this as a starting point for its logic functions to extrapolate upon. So, the answer we get will be a product of the brain, not the universal mind of God.
But there is a way to force the brain to stand aside and suspend the activity of its answer-making machine and become a receiving instrument for the higher, universal intelligence. We do this by “standing in the question.” In other words, we refuse to accept what the brain offers up. We ask the question without asking for an answer. The better the question, the better the answer, so we concentrate on the question. This creates a vacuum. The more desire we place in the question, the bigger the vacuum will be. This is why it is called “standing” in the question: we ask with our whole being, as though our very life depended upon it.
This is asking with the heart. Ordinarily, we ask with our mind. Asking with our mind, we naturally seek an answer, and the sooner the better. And though we usually get an answer, that’s all it is. There is no transformative power in it. But asking with the heart is different. There, we have lots of voltage. Questions from the heart matter. They are vital. And the heart is not as eager for an answer, as though the answer were the important thing. The heart seeks a greater question, a deeper question, a question with more pull. The heart knows that it is the questions in our lives that give us motive power. They are the vacuums that the universe continually strives to fill. So, the questions at our core need to remain intact, not capped off with an answer. An answer is the end of the process, and therefore the end of motion, which is death. Movement is the surest sign of life, especially the movement of the spirit.
It’s with this kind of questioning that we ask, “What would this person look like if….” We are not looking for a solution to a problem, as though the problem could be solved by the addition of a missing ingredient. What we are looking for is an opening through which the Spirit of God can move. For life is ever in motion, and its obstacles are most easily removed when that motion is robust and unimpeded. It’s not the setback that kills us, it’s the lack of energy required to recover from the setback. Therefore, we live in the question, because the question is full of energy.
Once you discover the power that a question has when it is held as a question and not as a means to an answer, the power it has to motivate the Spirit of God is exhilarating to behold. You will want to try it out in all areas of your life, not just for healing. Healing in this context reverts back to its root meaning, which is wholeness. And since the universe is expanding, wholeness is an ongoing endeavor. In fact, wholeness can never be fully achieved, because that would be the end. It is the process of becoming whole that lives forever. Wholeness is a spiritual quality in that it is a state of becoming, never a state of having become. It is always a phenomenon of the present moment, never the past. There isn’t even a future to change into, because the only way to change anything is to change yourself in this present moment. “We must become the change we wish to see,” said Ghandi. In Spirit, there is no getting from point A to point B; there is no point B, only point A. Point A is all there is.
To live one’s life in the question is to live a spiritual life. Wise men and women know one thing above all else: “I know nothing.” To know a thing is the finality of it, for to know it is to encapsulate it. A thing known is a thing that has stopped growing; it is dead. But even the smallest particle is alive with molecular activity, a spot of vibration in tune with and interacting with the vibration of the Whole. Nothing in the universe is separate from the universe; all exists in a harmonious interplay of substance and energy, energy and substance. To live in the question is to create a potential in that matrix, a hole, a vacuum, into which more energy must flow. The mythologist, Joseph Campbell, said, “What we seek is not the meaning of life but the experience of life.” And Jesus said, “And you shall have life, and life more abundantly.” The meaning of life would be an answer, a definition – a making finite – a robbing of its infinite nature, the end, not life more abundantly.
The brain uses its senses to define the world around it. It does this in order to survive. It is not set up, nor would it desire (if it could desire) to stand in the question. In fact, it can’t stand questions; its sole purpose is to provide answers. So, standing in the question transcends the brain. It places you in the Spirit, for which the brain is only a vehicle of expression. We need to live our lives according to the movements of the Spirit, not its vehicle. We need to look toward the living potential within each other and in ourselves, not the outer, sense-defined conditions of our situation. We need to ask ourselves, “What would I look like if I were totally alive, completely free of limitation, living to the fullest of my creative potential?” And we need to do that for each other. All the rest, all the evidence will fall by the wayside and die of starvation.
Here are some great questions:
“Who am I?”
“Of what am I an expression?”
(while looking at the nighttime sky, or the “nighttime sky” of the vastness of your inner being) “Who are you?”
Some Restrictions May Apply
Unlike Sigmund Freud’s dark vision of the human psyche, an unconscious filled with animal desire and fury, our true nature is divine. We are indeed created in God’s image. But God is not human, not an “anthropoJoe” up there somewhere with white hair and a beard. Neither do we claim that God is everything good about human beings, times 100. But of this we are sure: God is good, and there is nothing that exists but God. God is all there is. “In God, we live, move, and have our being,” said Saint Paul. And Jesus addressed this issue when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” There is no such thing as a god of evil pitted against a god of good. So, when we pray by asking, “What would this person look like if…,” we are calling on the Good, the very nature that God created us to be. We are invoking what is already there, only occluded by pain and fear. Therefore, we are in perfect accord with God’s will for that person, and we can pray for them with complete confidence that our prayer will help and not harm.
Neither do we have to wait for people to ask us to pray for them, not as long as our prayers are pure, and by that I mean a recognition of the divine nature within people as they were created by God. In other words, we are praying for what is already there to be revealed, NOT to add something that (according to our opinion) is missing. Nothing is missing. It may be hidden, covered over by scar tissue, or cloaked in fear or misplaced attachments and desires – things that keep people from realizing their own divinity. But life and its full and harmonious expression are the will of God. What else could it be? We do nothing wrong by shining light on that which is real.
While it is true that certain hardships can teach us lessons about what to hang onto and what to let go, life is not a setup or sting operation. God did not create temptations; temptations are the effect of paying more attention to the evidence of the senses and less to our intuition, our inner knowing. When we lost our awareness of our innate interconnectedness with nature, we lost our discernment, our sense of harmony. How can you live in harmony with something of which you are unaware? But God did not take this away from us; we chose to pay more attention to the outer world than the inner because we were fascinated by it, and thus we lost the ability to live in harmony with the whole of creation.
Buddha said that ignorance is the cause of all suffering. At our core, we are driven by the principles of harmony, of order and creativity; we are spurred on by what is possible and tempered by what is needed. This is the divine impulse. And that is only thwarted when it is ignored.
By standing in the question and asking what would this person look like if he or she were totally alive and expressing their full divine potential, we are potentializing that which is real, that which God created them to be. This question is pure, because it is devoid of agenda. We are not asking, “What would this person look like if they were totally in love with me?” Or, “What would I look like if I didn’t have to share the estate with my brothers and sisters?” These are obviously wrongheaded uses of the principle of prayer, and yet too many approach God in this way – “Oh, PLEASE, God, let it be me!” Such prayers distort the mind and create imbalances and problems. Wise people do not pray in this way. It is completely out of accord with the principles of harmony and creativity.
Selflessness takes practice. When you pray for other people in the way I have described, purity will rub off on you. Or, more correctly, it’s the impurity that will rub off, and the purity that was there all along will be revealed. So, why not give it a try? It won’t hurt, and it won’t cost you anything. In fact, you will feel good. Because that’s the way life feels – good!