I appreciate the suggestions folks posted about how I might practice goodness for the rest of this quest. Yesterday, however, while sitting in a car with the air conditioning running and deep in an unexpected conversation, I took the leap and committed to an experiment. My friend and I pledged to engage in daily practices designed to help us reach our spiritual goals. Because it seemed overwhelming, we committed to this experiment for a single week. (I know that’s a ridiculously short time, but such a brief commitment made this task possible for both of us.)
Her goal is to find the stillness she needs right now. My goal is to become/be/act good, or at the very least, to understand goodness. She pledged to write in her journal every day to become more mindful. I pledged (This is scary to admit publicly) — I pledged to mediate and pray every day. Oh wow. I feel like I just ran out on stage and pulled my pants down in front of 1,000 people. Let me explain.
I don’t have any problem publicizing the fact that I intend to meditate daily. For a liberal who is deeply committed to a multicultural, pluralistic world, that doesn’t seem odd because it’s just one more way to clear my mind. But, this prayer thing is unsettling to admit. Even calling our goals “spiritual” is a tad frightening. (I haven’t been able to find another suitable word. This isn’t a material task. It’s not about making money or building anything, and it’s not an emotional task designed to foster psychological growth. If anyone has another word, I’m open to hearing it.)
But I digress…
I have outed myself as a person who talks about spirit and prays. Why is that so frightening? Coward that I am, I fear that people will look down on me for praying. Liberal friends might disapprove and claim that I’ve gone over to the dark side (AKA religion). Conservative Christians, Jews and Muslims may disapprove because I don’t actually believe in God, at least not the God that I see portrayed in the media. My current, fuzzy theology doesn’t even include a God that’s an entity, or a consciousness of any sort. So, why the heck, do I think I need to pray every day?
Twenty-five years ago when I began covering the Kansas Legislature for The Wichita Eagle, I fell into the habit of praying. I did so because each session of the House and Senate started with a prayer. All in attendance, reporters included, were expected to bow their heads and look prayerful. I’ve always considered it good manners to do as others do in their own homes as long as it doesn’t violate my ethics. The Legislature was “home” to lawmakers.
For weeks, I did as everyone else did and bowed my head. I didn’t pray. I just stood still and quiet and ignored the prayers from the platform. After a while, I got seriously bored. One day I silently intoned my own prayer. I prayed for guidance and skill, to do my job as a reporter well, and to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I prayed to not goof or hurt another human being with what I wrote. I didn’t believe in God, so I prayed to the Universe, or to “Goddess” because the idea of a female god felt more real to me than the judgmental, nasty, old man I had been taught was THE God.
What I learned from saying my blasphemous prayers was that they set my intention for the day. In a literal sense, they helped me map the path I would follow through the Statehouse. I swear they made me a better person and a better reporter. In my gut and in a way I can’t explain intellectually, I also felt that my prayers connected me with something that, for want of a better word, is good. It felt like divinity surrounded me and was inside of me. Since then I’ve prayed sporadically. Sometimes more often than other times, but I’ve almost always felt the divine as I’ve prayed. That feeling and the act of praying helps push me out of the boxes I build for myself.
My purpose in conducting this experiment is to set my intentions and to force myself past my own limits. Right now I have the courage to do this daily for no more than seven days. Stay tuned for the results.
Now that I have completely blown my cover as a rational human being, I’ll end this post.