It seems a bit strange for me to write about prayer. I don’t identify with any religious group. I don’t pray to any particular God. And I don’t ascribe to any specific prayer rituals (e.g., kneeling, bowing, crossing myself). Instead, I am one of those so-called spiritual people; I feel it strongly, but I don’t fit into any box.
To be honest, identifying as ‘spiritual’ is neither easy nor fun (and a bit like identifying as ‘queer’). People are adverse to ambiguity. And when you add ambiguity to spirituality (which is already an internal, nebulous topic) it becomes that much tougher.
But I digress.
Because even though I’m spiritual, I pray. And just today, I observed my prayer evolving is a fascinating way.
Years ago, I prayed for things. I prayed for happiness for my family. I prayed for friends to get better. I prayed for forgiveness for me. My prayer fit a typical format, one that you could almost write as a Mad Lib: I (Meredith) ask a higher power (God/Heavenly Father/universe) for some sort of spiritual or worldly good (forgiveness/health/happiness) on behalf of some recipient (myself/my family/my dog).
Over time, however, I stopped praying for things. My prayer kept its directionality but lost its intention. It seemed presumptuous to think that I knew the best for someone and wished that for them. At a soul level, is it ultimately better that someone suffer financial difficulties or feel financial ease? And how would I know? So I started a practice of simply ‘holding them in my heart’; I hoped for their own best interests while acknowledging that I didn’t know what those were. Similar to the Vipassana tradition of metapana meditation, it was a bit like sending other people love, peace and happiness. This love-orientation moved beyond prayer and bled into my daily life, where I went through my days wondering how I could be “the most loving person possible.”
But earlier today, a strange shift happened. I was sitting in meditative silence when I realized how very ego-oriented that whole approach was. In the past, I was praying. I was sending love. I was being the most loving person possible. But today, there was no I in it. Instead, I was love. I held love. I felt love. I would say that I became a better amplifier of the love that was already latent in me, but that would put too much of myself in it. Instead, the prayer felt more like simply radiating: Love. Love. Love. Love.
Now, to be clear, I don’t walk around exuding “You, you, you. There is no me. There is only love.” I’m not that much of a hippie and I’m definitely not a saint. Mostly I walk around thinking really normal things like “I want this. I want that. I wonder if the muffins from that bakery are any good. Don’t step in that gum.”
But when I do put myself in a prayerful mood, I like this new way of approaching it. Less me, more you. Less ego, more existence.
And so, most of the time, my ego remains: