Monday, March 22, 2010

Giving Thanks at the Equinox

This last weekend was the spring equinox. My original plan was to wake up for the sunrise on Saturday and go up to Council Crest. The weather on Friday was beautiful and Saturday was supposed to be just as gorgeous. Before I went to bed on Friday, though, I decided to put off the sunrise trip to Sunday so I could sleep in on Saturday. Knowing your limits and your needs is important after all. The clouds and rain moved in on Saturday night and Sunday morning broke grey and drizzly. I went to the field close to my house, where I went for the Autumn Equinox, and didn't even see the mountain. Or the sun. Just a solid, steel grey, soggy wet sky.

That didn't really dampen my spirits, though. As I walked through the damp field, smelling new growth and cherry blossoms, listening to birds singing and watching my dog run through the mist I couldn't help but feel full of joy and thanks. It's the new dawn of a new season in a beautiful place. I have a warm bed to sleep in, dry boots to walk in and food on the table every day. How can I be anything but thankful?

Shortly after I started attending my neighborhood Quaker Meeting I began a practice of prayer. I remember feeling quite lost during the open worship time of my first few meetings. What do I do now? Just sit here? I fell back on the little bit of experience I had at zen type meditation but didn't have much luck with stilling my mind. Right at the beginning of Lent, I am a little bashful to admit, I actually googled "how do I pray" and read most of the first hundred hits. (For a glimpse into the American mind type "how" into the google search bar and see what the autofill shows up... we are weird, weird people). And thus began my adventure with praying.

I remember hearing an interview on NPR a while back about a woman going through a 12 step program and finding a meaningful spiritual practice. She said that when she started praying it felt like someone had told her to start talking to a log. She couldn't imagine getting anything out of the experience, but she tried anyway. I wasn't starting quite at that point, but beginning a practice of praying was still a leap of faith. Why should I talk to god like that? She knows I'm here, knows what I want, knows what I need. Who am I to ask for intercession, or for my wishes to be granted? God has a plan, and it will be as it will be.
Photo by kukkurovaca

In the past I had tried working with pagan style rituals complete with incantations, candles, calling the directions and other props. Sometimes it worked, sometimes I felt a connection with the divine, but just as often it felt like simply going through the process. Daily praying has been an amazing experience I think mostly because it is daily. It gets easier, less stilted. I started with a formula that worked like that pagan ritual, but simpler. First I used a three step, "hello, thank you, please" type prayer and then the Lord's prayer modified to my needs. At first the formula really helped by giving me a script to follow. Over time I have found that I sink into a place where the script is no longer needed and sometimes words are no longer even needed. That is when I am really able to hear what the Quakers call the small still voice. I have even felt what pagans refer to as building, sending and grounding the spirit. I have felt enveloped by love, I have had epiphanies and I have found answers. Other times I still need the formula to get started and some nights I just repeat the Lords prayer a couple times and figure I'll give it another try tomorrow.

The morning of the Equinox, after my short walk, I stood at the top of the hill facing what would have been the sunrise had the clouds let the sun actually rise and began my new prayer ritual or process. But that morning I didn't feel like asking forgiveness for my trespasses or asking to not be led into temptation. I just wanted to say thanks.

Thank you, Sweet Goddess, for the cherry blossoms and magnolias. Thank you for the robins and starlings and crows that sing me awake these days. Thank you for the sheep sorrel and young lupines in the field, for the little three leaved plants that will soon make pretty pink clovers. Thank you for the rain that keeps the grass green well into August. Thank you for my car that starts each morning and gets me home safe each night. Thank you for the eggs and toast and hot tea I will drink when I get home, and for the massive abundance of food available to me any time I want it. Thank you for my mind that searches and finds, my heart that feels and knows and my body that can do almost everything I ask of it and so much more I don't need to ask it to do. Thank you for the morning. Thank you for the spring.

2 comments:

fillingcalix said...

Alyss,

This is so exciting! I could feel the power in this post. So well-written, and such an interesting topic.

I sometimes think of prayer through a formula I learned from an Episcopal friend. The acronym is ACTS:

Adoration
Confession
Thanksgiving
Supplication

I'm not so hot on the adoration part, but the last three usually cover all of my needs - and get me out of feeling that all I'm doing is asking for something. As if the divine were a spiritual Amazon.com.

Well, I'd love to hear as much more on this topic as you'd like to write, such as your variation's on the Lord's prayer or - more intimately - what you're praying about and what answers you're getting.

LOVE YOU!!!! Mama K

Alyss said...

Hey K,

Thanks :) One of the first pages I read about how to pray had something very similar to that ACTS formula you mentioned. Interestingly, I'm all about the adoration, its the confession I have more trouble with.

One of the other websites I read gave a translation of the Lords Prayer out of Aramaic which uses the phrase "Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strand we hold of others’ guilt". That feels so much better to me than "forgive me Father, for I have sinned." I didn't sin (I don't believe in sin per se), I just wrapped myself in some cords of karma or consequence.

I also like doing the thanksgiving part before the confession and supplication part because it seems to help me sink into that space of prayer. A sermon the pastor at my church gave a couple months ago liked prayer to the Seattle Underground (it's that kind of church :) There are many ways in, and many rooms and corridors once you get there. Some are sunlit, some are dark. Some are large enough for groups and others cozy enough for a single person. I feel the adoration/addressing is like opening a door to the underground and the act of listing things I'm thankful for is like descending the stairs.

Here are a couple links:

http://www.livingrosaries.org/intro.htm
This is the first site I came across with the translation of the Lords Prayer out of Aramaic.

http://www.thenazareneway.com/lords_prayer.htm
A number of translations of the Lords Prayer

http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/LorPry_index.html
A text of the Rudolph Steiner lecture on the Lords Prayer. This is COOL!

I'm always glad to have your thoughts, K.