This text about prayer was initially sparked by James Redfield’s “The Secrets of Shambhala”, a most inspiring book. Following on from that, I was expecting to find further development in Larry Dossey’s “Healing Words”, only to be disappointed. I suspect Dossey was unable or unwilling to give form and unfettered voice to his convictions because of his role as a doctor and a scientist. His task was not easy. I feel part of his dilemma as I attempt to write about such heart-felt subjects here. The further exploration I had been seeking in “Healing Words” came from a quite different source, “The Journey Home”, the Kryon parable, a book that goes straight to the heart.
Prayer – Going beyond emotional intelligence
The ever wider perspective
As far back as I can remember, I have been concerned with trying to understand the world around me as part of an ever wider picture. That approach underlies many of the articles I have written for Connected. I used to think that striving to reach an ever wider perspective was due to my mathematical training. I now realise that is probably more due to my long-denied spiritual aspirations. My frequent criticisms of the idea of the marketplace or the so-called information society as all-embracing are not only due to what I perceive to be the futility of the claim and the inherent dangers in trying to achieve it, but also to my intuition that those activities seek to usurp the place of ‘God’ or the Oneness as the only principal that can embrace all. That ‘God’ is in each one of us and that we are all in ‘God’, I have no doubt. But that doesn’t give us the licence to do as we will. Far from it.
In what follows, I’d like to start from Emotional Intelligence as a concept aimed at improving ourselves and our relationship to the world, and introduce prayer as an activity also undertaken to improve both ourselves and the world around us, but from an all-embracing spiritual perspective. My aim here is not to decry the efforts of those who pursue work with Emotional Intelligence, but, in pointing to the larger picture, suggest that prayer might take us even further down the road.
The concept of Emotional Intelligence, as expressed by Daniel Goleman amongst others, has raised a great deal of interest. Emotional Intelligence is an attempt to extend our understanding of intelligence, going beyond what we traditionally measure by intelligence tests. In so doing Emotional Intelligence extends our understanding of ourselves, our being with others and with the world around us. By adopting this wider perspective, it seeks to improve the way we learn with a view not only to improving performance but also to bringing about increased wellbeing and greater harmony. As such, it has had a considerable impact on teachers who saw in Emotional Intelligence an approach that embraced the learner and learning more completely than traditional schooling and , at the same time, corresponded to their vision of learning as contributing to building a better world.
The larger picture
There is, however, an even larger picture – one could probably say “the largest picture”. Emotional intelligence does not take into consideration the spiritual side of things and as such misses (although it doesn’t necessarily exclude) important facets of the sense of our being together, of how we live that experience and what can be done to further improve it. By spiritual, I refer to our deep-felt awareness of the underlying forces that give sense to the universe and our being a part of it. I don’t mean those forces postulated by Newtonian physics as part of a laboratory universe outside of which we stand in the cold, uncomprehending and without direction. I mean those forces that express themselves in the divine energy that vibrates within each one of us and in all things and that connects us to everything. If the word “divine” is an insurmountable obstacle, you might try “universal” instead. For those of you who are more disturbed by the word “vibration” or “energy”, you may remember being caught up in the singing of a choir in some holy place. Effectively, we catch a glimpse of that energy as we listen to music we love or when we stand alone at night looking up at the star-filled sky. When we experience that energy, we rediscover, albeit in a veiled way, a long-lost knowledge of what it is to be at one with the whole universe. We are filled with a pregnant silence … steeped in beauty and awe.
Prayer is the key to going beyond the material and the emotional in the quest for the greater good. I can imagine some of you being alarmed by the introduction of such an idea. Although proof can be given, I am well aware that we are stepping firmly into the realm of a knowing that cannot be conveyed by words alone. What’s more, there are very many preconceived ideas about prayer and its role in institutionalised religions that make it hard to evoke the word without calling up a hoard of monsters (or angels depending on your point of view). Those of you who are disturbed by the word and what it evokes, please try to set aside your prior judgements for a moment, and read on. When I use the word “prayer”, I refer to a state of heightened awareness of that universal energy in ourselves and the world around us combined with a conscious intent on our part that is in harmony with that energy. Three steps are involved in the use of prayer.
The first step consists of connecting with that universal energy within us and then raising and maintaining it. That means finding ways of remaining in contact with the awe and the beauty of that star-lit night. It means continuing to vibrate with the beauty of a piece of music long after it has ceased to ring in our ears. It means entering into contact with the beauty of all that surrounds us. Effectively, the perception of that enhanced beauty is a sure indicator that we are connected. Emotions like anger, hatred, fear and jealousy all contribute to decrease the level of energy and lower our awareness of the direction to follow.
The impact of intent
The second step addresses our becoming aware of our intent (the way we see the world and how we expect or want things to turn out) and the impact of that intent on the course of things. Effectively, our intent has an impact on the world around us. It does so, not only as suggestions that colour our expectations and sway our acts, but also, more importantly, in that those hard-held thoughts and images directly impact the world. Mystics have long been aware of this fact, but now scientists are beginning to discover the phenomenon as well. We are talking about what Larry Dossey in his book “Healing Words” called the “non-local”: the apparently miraculous direct impact of thought, word and action elsewhere at other times, past and future.
The third step concerns how that intent can be channelled, using the energy of our being connected, to create the best possible conditions for the divine course of things to unfurl. There is a catch, however, for all those of us for whom intent implies willpower. Our impact is enormous, yet at the same time we cannot force the divine. That is the paradox which has been and continues to be the source of many a tragedy in our attempts to get our own way, as an “advanced society”, at the expense of others and the world around us. Our intent needs to be of the highest order yet effortless and without expectation or reward. And what is the “best course”? That more and more people move to a higher level of energy and awareness of the divine in them and the world around them and that their acts be in accordance with that divine energy.
First published on Connected Magazine Apr. 25th, 2000.