What is prayer? This is a question that has followed me for years. The answers have shifted with my relationship to the mystery of life. I’ve explored it in my personal journal, with my spiritual advisors, within my meditations. I’ve tried to summarize all of this in an essay and failed miserably. Which led to more questions, and a few heart-known answers. My mantra, my prayer nowadays? Show me what I’m missing.
I did my best to summarize the process in this poem, partially written last spring. I offer it to you on this cold January morning.
I no longer kneel because my newly minted knees don’t like it.
Not bowing, I forget humility sometimes.
Bedtime prayers so I can face another day
Breath and mantra to calm the lizard,
To welcome Hypnos, invite Orpheus
Any spell that would let me finally let go.
How good it once was to lay my burdens down.
To surrender to that mysterious Force.
There’s an urgency these days
A desperate need to not waste a precious prayer
When so much is at stake. I stop, frozen.
How to say something real and true?
Caught by a familiar undertow of confusion,
Help! Something inside cries out.
Then words arrive.
May I stay with in the Tempo of My Own Understanding
Yes. That’s it, I think. The Big Ask. A place where help is needed.
How very fragile the temple of my Understanding seems from day to day.
I listen again. More words:
Not temple. Tempo, you lame brain!
Don’t bore me with your philosophy.
Listen to me.
There are things that need solving.
With staccato solutions.
Do this. Do that. Be clear. Be here.
I think, lost in the list.
But then this morning arrived.
The sun woke the birds.
Slowly. The stream bubbled hello. Flowingly.
Then, caught in a faint rhythm from this solid turning earth,
For one second.
This is what I keep forgetting, I remember.
The world reveals her beauty despite its warts and blemishes.
And then a new prayer arrives:
May I see what I’m missing?
I listen again.
For any tempo, perhaps a quickening.
A tiny double beat here, a giddy possibility there.
Solid but with a trill.
Along with the constant constant constant beat
Of the pulse that holds it all.
Now. Now. Now. Now.
Not then. Or When.
Only now. Now. Now.