Saturday, May 29, 2010

Revisting Day

Regular readers of this blog know I’m a reunion junkie. I reunited with my birth mother (1986), the “great love of my life” (1987), and my first love (1997) who turned out to be Still the One, as one of my favorite songs goes. We married (1998)—and in case you’re not convinced I’m a junkie yet, I married my first husband twice (1974 and 1979, but also divorced him twice). One of my most stunning and unexpected reunions was with the church of my childhood (2006), another close relationship lost that needed the light of current day to see if it could work in the present.

Do-overs have a huge place and theme in my life when it comes to relationships. I’m starting to discover that the theme extends to jobs and creative interests.

My purpose in this post is to help you discover whether or not there are people and things in your past that are worth revisting.

Job Do-Overs

I left my first job once to try my hand in the big city, hated my new assignment, and I was back in less than six weeks. Since my previous employer had thought I left for more money (not!), I even got a raise out of my return. Plus I had a fabulous going-away party, presents, and the gushing sentiments of my workmates who hated to see me leave and were happy to have me back. They didn’t begrudge me the false-alarm exit extravaganza.

It’s important to note that I loved my original job, but I was looking to move out of a small city I thought would be confining for me in the long-run. I had the right idea, but the timing wasn’t on beat. Twelve years later, I left my favorite government agency in what ultimately turned out to be a long career as a civil servant. I left because the leader at the helm at the time was harassing employees and wreaking such general havoc, he was later relieved of his post. The place wasn’t bad; the problem was the top dog. Once that was fixed, I returned to the agency in a new position, one of my favorite jobs ever, six years after I left the first time. In fact, this particular government agency was so great; it had a reputation for the boomerang effect--people would move onto greener pastures just to “come home.” I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what she had until she lost it.

Why Déjà Review?

As I’ve already implied, sometimes things aren’t finished for us. We have not gleaned all the growth or all the learning from them. Temporary circumstances may leave us in a situation where we can’t go on, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look back. Sometimes this is very therapeutic and just what the doctor ordered.

I spent another couple of years in my first job at that wonderful agency in the Midwest before I finally had the courage to make a move not just 150 miles away but across the country to California. The first time I left was a test run. My reasons for moving were still the same, but I had worked myself up to a move so far and dramatic, it would not be easy to back out of it. I have never looked back! California is where I belong and have lived since 1973.

The government job I loved, like my first one in social work, had a family atmosphere and a group of supportive co-workers that is anyone’s dream come true. I can’t imagine not having reconnected with these wonderful people who support me still five years past retirement.

Do you miss someone or something? Think about it, and decide if it would be good for you to reconsider the person on situation in present time.

Relationship revisits can be so important in terms of a sense of completion. I had no completion with all the people I found again, and in half the cases, we went on to have a bigger and better relationship (birth mom, first love/ now second husband). In the other half of the cases (“love of my life” and first husband), I got clarity on why it would have never worked with either one of them in the long run. It reinforced my belief that loving someone is easy; living with them can be difficult if you aren’t cut from similar cloth and looking in the same direction.

My Newest Boomerangs

You’re hearing it first on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights! You’ve been my blog family longest between my two blogs, but you can look for a big announcement on June 14 on The Radical Virgo. To my complete surprise, the universe is calling me back to the front line of helping people through these fast changing times. I’m being guided to reopen my Inner Growth Work practice—astrology, tarot, dreamwork, and flower essences. I had taken what I thought was a permanent sabbatical from individual readings for the past seven years. Suddenly I’m not only called to doing them; I love this work again!

While this will be part of my work with writing still on the front burner, I had to take an honest look at why I quit my practice in the first place. I had been building my career as an astrologer in tandem with a full-time government job, writing astrological articles, and a host of other related activities that often kept me up till the wee hours of the morning. I was a One Woman Ed Sullivan Show, riding a unicycle while balancing a ball on my nose and spinning plates in each hand on the end of long rods. My work pace was insane!

Once I married again, I wanted time for my relationship. Something had to give, and I certainly couldn’t quit my long government career with all its benefits that close to the finish line. Now I have 40 hours a week not tied up in working a “regular” job. Now I can decide for myself how to spend them.

My return to astrology last year by way of The Radical Virgo blog was a complete surprise. More surprising still was how quickly the blog took off and has lured me back into the rarified view from the stars. When I wrote my article, Your Cosmic Tractor Beam, I had no idea that the cosmic joke would be on me! I feel like I’m at a family reunion with the other unicorns at the leading edge. I’ve noticed how seven years’ more maturity and self-confidence is making the experience twice as good as I ever remembered it!

Suggested Homework

Sit in a quiet place. Ask yourself to whom or what in the past does your mind keep returning? A person, place or thing? Someone or something you miss in your life?

Next, is there any harm in reconnection? Caution: Tread carefully in past love relationships where the other person is currently married or committed. On the other hand, if it’s primarily his or her friendship you miss, ask yourself:

• Are you sure you won’t be devastated if they’re unavailable?

• If they are partnered, can your keep it on a different level in the present?

Don’t pass up a reunion with a member of your true family of friends. Remember, you’re older and wiser now.

Reconnection is a piece of cake nowadays with the Internet. People leave trails everywhere, and if you can’t find them directly, you’ll find someone who knows how to find them. The days of needing to hire a private eye are over. Start with Googling them or a Facebook search.

Look at your photo albums. Review your résumé. Have fun with it, and if you’re “good” with everyone and everything on your list, just notice the wonderful growth you’ve made since this era of your personal history. Consider how these people and occupations have helped make you who you are today.

Whatever the outcome, Revisiting Day is a fabulous way to spend part of a Memorial Day weekend—or any weekend. Remembering those who have given their lives in the military is foremost. They paid the ultimate price for our freedom. It also makes sense to remember those people and pursuits that have served us by enriching our lives. They may deserve a boisterous homecoming. If it feels right, take this holiday to a new dimension.


Photo Credit: Two Halves Meet Each Other © Zitramon

Saturday, May 22, 2010


©2010 by Joyce Mason

Handling Shocks, Recognizing Strokes, and Tips for People Who Are Healing and Their Helpers

My husband and I had a terrible shock recently. He tripped coming into the house and was rendered totally immobile in an instant! He has an underlying muscular condition, a slowly progressing one, and sometimes tripping and falling is part of his everyday experience. Because of that, we just figured he was having an especially bad day. Often, in the past, a night’s rest restored his muscles enough that he’d be back to walking fine with his cane the next morning.

That didn’t happen in this instance, and I couldn’t budge him to get him to an important medical appointment the next day. When I phoned his doctor to cancel and explained what was going on, I was told via the physician’s assistant to call 911 and get Tim to the emergency room and admitted to the hospital immediately.

In the 24 hours between the fall and the hospital stay, we were deer in the headlights. Suddenly I had to give round-the-clock care. I was totally unprepared for this, and rather than “getting” that the severity of his instant downturn meant that we needed medical help immediately; I ran hither, thither, and yon looking for various supplies and things that could help me handle the situation, acting like a good old independent American—and in retrospect, an idiot.

Shock left me void of my normal analytical skills. Does it do the same for you?

Long Story Short

It turned out Tim had experienced a mild stroke and his tests showed it wasn’t the first time. This explained a lot about other symptoms he had in the past and present. For a perfectly healthy person, immobilization is not normal. For a person with a backdrop of mobility limits, it was harder to sort out what was going on.

However, I think if I weren’t suffering from shock, I would have put 2 + 2 together and gone straight 4 the hospital. I shudder to think of how we deprived him from needed treatment for a whole day and the potential consequences. Luckily, after four days inpatient, he’s home and recovering well.

Shock Absorbers

I am poorly wired to handle shocks. I know this about myself. What’s even more disturbing in this situation is that I’m not even sure I recognized shock when I saw it. “Overwhelm” is what I articulated, because suddenly I had to care for both of us in a snap. Considering its impact on functioning in an emergency, I thought it would be good to learn—and share with you—the symptoms of shock and what we can do to help ourselves through it.

First, I should identify: I’m talking about simple, psychological shock, which is different from shock caused by a myriad of medical conditions with a hierarchy of severity that can even lead to death. Shock can be evoked by a present, precipitating event or shock can be stimulated from past trauma, known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. If you have PTSD, you’re more likely to react—even overreact—with shock to a trauma in the present.

Second, if you’re an “emotional” or just plain passionate person, chances are you react to traumatic events in a rather knee-jerk and dramatic way. (How I admire those people who can put their feelings on hold and deal with any emergency at hand in a cool dispassionate manner!) Here are some tips from a wonderful website I found,, for identifying and managing emotional and physical trauma:

The Emotional Symptoms of Trauma

• Shock, denial or disbelief

• Anger, irritability, mood swings

• Guilt, shame, self-blame

• Feeling sad or hopeless

• Confusion, difficulty concentrating

• Anxiety and fear

• Withdrawing from others

• Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical Symptoms of Trauma

• Insomnia or nightmares

• Being startled easily

• Racing heartbeat

• Aches and pains

• Fatigue

• Difficulty concentrating

• Edginess and agitation

• Muscle tension

Shock and Trauma Come in All Shapes and Sizes

My husband’s instant immobility was an obvious shocker, but there are many other things that can provide a shocked reaction in everyday life: unexpected job loss, a scary medical diagnosis, death or serious illness of a loved one.

Situations where you’re likely to respond with psychological shock have a couple of things in common. There is an element of surprise or the unexpected and the events are high on the Stress Scale. Shock sets in because we were unprepared and are suddenly faced with a drastically altered daily reality.

Take the Stress Test to assess your level of stress and its potential impact on you.

My Take-Away: Call the 911 Friendship Hotline

I “get” in retrospect that I was not only reacting without all my wits due to shock, but I did not even identify how shocked I was acting. I had 6 of 8 symptoms of psychological shock and 7 out of 8 of the physical ones. As a person who lives life to learn and share learning, here’s the most important thing I realized:

In any drastic change of situation, especially if you find yourself acting stunned, overwhelmed, or “not yourself,” call a trusted friend or family member and review the situation. A shocked person should not go it alone but get a second opinion about what’s happening.

If I had called any one of my wise girlfriends, they would have helped me wade through my feelings and would have noted “that’s not right” when I shared some of Tim’s drastic and instantly changed symptoms. I know they would have encouraged me not to wait to seek help. When a physical trauma occurs, we call 911 for triage and possible transport to a medical facility. If I had called the “911 Friendship Hotline” for my psychological disorientation as the helper in my husband’s situation, we might have received good advice to get the help he needed faster.

Particularly if you live alone or only with your partner, don’t act like this is the frontier and you’re a rugged individualist conquering new territory. If there were ever a time to seek the support of others, as close as possible to the incident is the time to let your close friends or family know what’s happening. They care! And they will have the cool head you might not possess at the moment.

Recovery Styles and Self-Help in the Aftermath

Each of us has a recovery style when the emergency is over. Some people return to stasis fairly quickly. Others, like myself, hold it together fairly well during the episode then fall apart to one degree or another when the high stress is off.

I was visited by a myriad of nasty emotions in the aftermath: anger, fear, and resentment to name a few. I needed to vent my feelings and weave myself back together. Believe it or not, even though it’s “not his or her fault,” we are often angry at the patient or victim of the trauma, because the threat of losing someone you love brings up all your unresolved issues with the wave of that fear. It’s probably good to do most of your venting with someone other than the patient or victim, who has his or her own healing to do. If you’re lucky enough, like we are, to clear the air and feel better after honest and lively sharing, it may do your heart more good than bad, in the end, to vent with each other. Let your relationship style and history rule.

Also, I found myself reacting in the aftermath to small setbacks like they were big deals. After a shock, stop to assess each situation with a cool head. Ask yourself, what are the facts here? Remember, you’re more likely to overreact because of your recent scare.

This brings up an important point for care givers and companions. It’s hard to keep in perspective how important it is to nurture yourself when the other person is in the medical spotlight. You must take care of yourself or you’ll have nothing to give to your loved one! I found myself missing needed medications and allowing myself to slip into a lower grooming standard. Hot baths, extra rest, checklists and alarms to be sure you don’t miss important meds or routines—all are vital to you and yours.

Symptoms of Stroke

It’s important to know the symptoms of stroke at any age, but especially if you or someone in your household is over the age of 55. (For information on risk factors, click on this Stroke Association link.)

How many times had I received that e-mail that goes around with stroke symptoms, meaning to post it in my medicine cabinet for reference if I ever needed it? How many times did I fail to go from thought to action?

Mini-Stroke – According to a news clip on recognizing the symptoms of a mini-stroke, reporting on a workshop held at Holyoke (MA) Medical Center, you should look for numbness, trouble seeing or speaking, and dizziness. One expert says by recognizing the signs and you can prevent a stroke. "If it’s a serious feeling like symptoms are persisting longer than 5 to 10 minutes, they should go to a hospital and be treated immediately," said Angela Smith, Clinical Manager of Holyoke Medical Center. Why it’s important? If you have a TIA, or mini-stroke, you're 10 times more likely to experience a more serious stroke within three months.

Stroke – According to The Mayo Clinic, watch for these stroke symptoms if you suspect you or someone close to you is having a stroke:

• Trouble with walking

• Trouble with speaking (the person may report this as not being able to get his or her words out, trouble getting from thought to word formation. It may not be obvious to the observer, so ask about it.)

• Paralysis or numbness on one side of the body

• Trouble with seeing

• Headache

Print out and keep this post where you can find it easily or at least cut out the sections on Symptoms of Stroke and the Emotional and Psychological Symptoms of Trauma. Post them near your medical cabinet, first aid kit, or wherever you can consult them in a hurry in an emergency.

I will practice what I preach and do the same!

One-Item First Aid Kit

No, I’m not naïve enough to believe there’s a single cure-all for your first aid kit, but I do believe there is one item no household, purse, or fanny pack should be without. It should be accessible on or near your person at all times, and that’s Rescue Remedy by Bach or Five Flower Remedy by FES. A homeopathic combination that naturally calms stress, I could not have made it through our scary ordeal without it. It’s safe for children and animals, and I especially like the Rescue Remedy pastilles, the black currant flavor, both tasty and calming. Important caution: The Bach pastilles contain xylitol, which has been implicated in illness and even death in pets. If there's any chance your cat, or especially your dog  will get into them, use the liquid tinctures instead.

The Larger Picture: The Times Call for More Elegant—and Speedy—Adaptations to Change

Have you noticed that many people you know and love—and probably you, yourself—are going through a lot right now? Some of my friends and I call them “thick times,” or the Chinese Curse (“May you live in interesting times.”). As an astrologer, I see the universe asking us for major adaptation to change. This invitation comes by way of the stressful configuration of the outer planets at this time. Much has been—and will be—written about the Cardinal T-Square of Saturn, Pluto, and Uranus, recently joined by Jupiter conjunct Uranus. (To read more about these cosmic events, see the sidebar of my other blog, The Radical Virgo. Look for the graphic shown in this paragraph, and click to find a huge collection of articles on the subject posted across the Internet.)

The outer planets are the ambassadors of change, the “stars” that reflect personal and planetary evolution. In this line-up, we’re being asked to evolve as a species—now. I believe our global economic challenges are part of it, and if you’re like me, you’re seeing people with many medical and personal challenges as well. When we have many crises to deal with, we can only be in the moment, concentrate on the immediate challenge, and focus all our resources on resolution.

This climate is a set-up for major growth and skill building. Eckhart Tolle wrote the book, The Power of Now. Now is the time to gain our personal power (symbolized by Pluto), to change quickly (Uranus), and to put these changes into practical application (Saturn). With Jupiter joining the alignment, there's potential for ultimate blessings in these dramatic changes. We are on the brink of a new world and a new species I call homo improvement.

Bear in mind this end goal always during these trying times and keep your sense of humor. During the height of my confusion, I asked jokingly on Facebook if anyone had the cell phone number for Patch Adams. We manifested him in our Emergency Room doctor! He was hilarious and put us both at ease. We had a great discussion of how humor heals, and I swear, I couldn’t have gotten through my life this far without it ….

… and during thick times, I hope you watch lots of comedy and turn every event on its ear in your mind for its humorous potential.

In the end, we’ll live, laugh and love better for our shocking experiences, personal and planetary … and to the degree that we are willing to pay for a ticket on this Rocket Ride to Change.


Photo Credit: Headlights Abstract © Srpehrson

Important Note: This article is provided purely for informational purposes. Readers are asked to make their own determination regarding the quality of the services and products described above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Queen of Synchronicity

© 2010 by Joyce Mason

Coincidences are spiritual puns.
--G.K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

My friends call me the Queen of Synchronicity. I talk about meaningful coincidences often on this blog, because I believe they’re the cosmic feedback that our lives are aligned with the greater good and the flow of creation.

I’d like to share my latest syncs—they’re so dramatic!—and then talk about this phenomenon and how to tune into it.

is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner. To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance. ~ Wikipedia

The concept of synchronicity suggests, just as events can be grouped by cause, they can be grouped by their meaning.

The Power of Three

My first spiritual teacher taught me that when something happens in threes, it’s like a divine tap on the shoulder. Believe me, it’s much better to “get it” when it’s just a tap. You don’t want to be bullheaded or oblivious and need “a house to fall on your head,” like my mom used to say. (It’s better to be The Queen than to get crowned by falling real estate.)

I got that synch-in’ feeling over poetry this time around. Synch #1: In mid-April, I stumbled across the title of a book quite by accident while cruising Amazon for something else. It caught my eye and my whole body in a visceral reaction. It made me buzz, like everything in me was yelling yes! It’s called Saved by a Poem by Kim Rosen. It’s all about using poetry for healing. My post on Write Anything! shows I was ready deep in my psyche to rediscover this excellent form of personal therapy … not to mention that I cut my teeth as a writer scribing poetry (I bit right into the poetic teething ring.) I bought the book immediately. Saved by a Poem has an accompanying CD with poems read by a variety of well-known people I admire. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it on a recent trip out of town and was inspired by the potential of reclaiming my identity as a poet.

Synch #2:
On April 20, Chiron changed signs from Aquarius to Pisces. Since Chiron is my astrological specialty, I wrote a post about what to expect during Chiron in Pisces. As I checked out other posts on the topic, I noticed that other bloggers or their readers were writing—or commenting—in poetry! It makes total sense that Chiron in Pisces would portend using the fine arts as healing modalities, as Chiron is about the wounding and healing process that leads to wholeness. Pisces is the sign famous for being artsy. I expect not only poetry but also music, art, and dance to become more prevalent as forms of therapy over the next nine years, the duration of Chiron’s stay in Pisces.

Synch #3:
I attended the Northern California Publishers and Authors Conference in Sacramento. The keynote address was by Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks, the biggest “small” publisher the US—and I might add, a very progressive one. In her amazing analysis of how publishing is morphing into a multimedia adventure, Dominique mentioned a new poetry site she sponsors, Poetry Speaks. This site pays more homage to poetry and its possibilities than I’ve seen in my lifetime. I am wowed! It was another clear indicator that it was time to renew my lapsed poetic license.


Sometimes synchronicities are so numerous in an encounter, they make me dizzy! I attended a seminar on adoption in the San Francisco Bay area given by Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound and Coming Home to Self. Although geared to anyone in the adoption triad—adults adopted as children, birth or adoptive parents—the majority of those in attendance were people like me, adopted adults still dealing with the psychological implications of this early loss.

At the first break, I met a woman I’ll call Sarah. Turns out she, too, had traveled from my same Northern California metro area to attend the seminar. But that was just the beginning of the “coincidences” and commonalities. When she gave me her card, I noted she was also a writer. Sarah and I were born within a few years of one another. Both our birth moms were from the same East Coast city—but moved to a different city, the same one where we were each born. She was adopted through an agency in the suburb where I spent my pre-teen and teenage years—and her adoptive mom is from the West Coast city where my birth mom eventually moved, the place where I found Original Mom in 1986. It’s as though our birth, adoption, and mother finds were following the same map!

Sarah and I knew our meeting was “meant to be,” and I look forward to connecting with her on the home turf and learning more about why we were drawn together! Or why we’re using the same life map.

The sync that brought tears to my eyes, though, was a young man in his 40s. He is the janitor for the facility where the adoption seminar was held. He had no idea this was the event to which he was “assigned” that Saturday. I’ll call him Matthew. Matt is in his early 40s and had just recently resumed his quest to find his birth mom back in the Midwest. He told my therapist he had learned more that day, talking to other adoptees and overhearing the seminar, than he had learned in his entire life about his psychological make-up. He kept talking about how validating it was to meet other people like himself. His girlfriend had come over—no doubt because of an animated cell phone call from him. They were beaming. Watching such breakthrough and bounty of affirmation had me headfirst in the Kleenex box. I still sniffle writing about it!

Tuning Up Your Synch-o-Meter

One of the key ways to bring synchronicity into your life is to turn up your hearing aids, so to speak. I believe synchronicities abound, but we don’t always see or hear them. If you’re particularly focused on an area of pursuit in your life or a subject that’s on your mind, watch for instances where the topic pops up. Be alert and vigilant.

An excellent example was when I was getting the divine nudge to find my birth mother. I was never interested in “finding” till the subject of adoption started cropping up wherever I went. Ultimately, I realized this was Spirit saying hello? I finally realized could not truly know myself without reconnecting with my biological family. It was one of the best hints I ever took and crucial to my personal evolution.

Then there’s also what I call lighting up in yellow highlighter. When I first found the book on poetry and healing, I wasn’t especially onto the idea that reclaiming my identity as a poet was in the wings for me. But something about that book “lit up” for me. I felt like God & Company put a big splash of yellow highlighter on the incident in the book of my life. Watch for it!

How Synchronicity Works

I believe synchronicity is simply the outcome of the law of dynamic attraction. I talk about it in Your Cosmic Tractor Beam. We draw "the right" people when we are in our true energy or resonate on our unique frequency. People on our general bandwidth or same beam are drawn to us. This is also true for things and experiences. What’s going on in our thoughts and feelings—especially feelings—draws to us everything we need to answer the question, solve the puzzle, or fulfill ourselves. We become magnets of all the physical and spiritual stuff we need to create growth and meaning in our lives. “What a piece of work is man,” Shakespeare said, “How noble in reason. How infinite his faculties.” But look at what we have to work with! Divine substance is awesome, a word so overused, I reserve it only for the magnificence of All That Is.

Bottom line: That flow of abundance is there. We just have to get on beat with it. Sharpen your senses.

And that thing I said about emotion? Adult adoptees have many residual emotions about their early abandonment. It’s no surprise that this subject matter makes synchronicities pop like microwave Orville Redenbacher’s. My own mother-find was so laced with these “coincidences,” you’d swear I was making them up.

In the Sync Hole

Once you’ve gotten a good sense of how this works by experience, you will miss them painfully if your synchronicities take a powder. When I was going through some of the most difficult trials with my husband’s health and happiness, I lost all touch with my synchronistic “flow.” It was depressing, and I felt almost abandoned by God. I can’t remember another time when I felt such a deep loss of spiritual connection.

Even this experience is a reminder why synchronicity is the stuff of spirit. There’s a reason why the adoption experience seems to draw more synchronicities than any other topic—at least in my life. Adoption is about being cut off from your original source—your biological parents. When we are “out of sync,” we are out of touch with our larger Original Source—God/Goddess/All That Is. I’m convinced that a major reason why I was adopted in this life was to be able to help others heal that disconnection to reconnection through my writing.

The Synchronicity Symphony

Synchronicity is simply tuning into the beat of life, the flow of events, and paying close attention to divine orchestration. Trust me. It’s there. We live in so much competing noise; it’s amazing we can hear anything at all. Put on some “ear blinders,” and you’ll see that the real action has been going on in the background, behind the traffic sounds, the TV, and endless chatter.

For music lessons, you might keep a section in your journal where you notice how many things in a given day “respond” to questions on your mind or suggest paths you might take. It’s a new way of seeing, but the rewards are dramatic. Synchronicity has led me to reconnect with my lost loves and to realize that I was never disconnected from them in spirit—or the One Love in which we’re all joined.

That connection is a note replayed in every “coincidence.” It’s a grace note.


Photo Credit:
RED QUEEN © Caraman  |

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Do You Have a Prayer?

May 6:
National Day of Prayer

© 2010 by Joyce Mason

We live increasingly in a world that is more secular than religious. Many people—myself included—embrace a spirituality that encompasses ideas from many traditions, rather than the sole tenets of a specific faith.

This made me wonder if—and how—modern people pray. Whatever your belief in higher power (I’ll call Him/Her/It “God,” asking you to translate to your own belief system:

God doesn’t need us to pray to Him. We are the ones who need the prayers.

Or at least that’s how I see it.

While the National Day of Prayer in the US is a Christian observance, noticing it on my calendar sparked these questions. I’m very curious what prayer looks like across faiths, or lack of any one in particular, in the 21st Century.

My own relationship with God is a lot like Tevye’s in Fiddler on the Roof—personal, tangible, conversational. Or as Mick says in the movie Crocodile Dundee, “Me ‘n’ God be mates.” We’re in constant communication, and I feel a part of the Spirit in which we’re all joined. Still, I need those prayers.

Prayer in Tough Times

In the women’s circles I facilitate and/or participate in, most prayers are for people having a hard time—illness, financial struggle, unraveling relationships, to name just a few examples. It’s surprising how the prayers almost all come down to this. Do we only reach out for divine connection when we struggle? People seem to have an easier time doing this for others than themselves, although the women in my groups are getting far better over time at asking for what they need.

Then there are the prayers—more like follow-up queries—that continue after trouble. “Why did you take my baby from me?” In my case, the baby refers to a cat that was so much a part of me, two and a half years later, I still feel like someone amputated one of my limbs. You can substitute wife, mother, father … and I suspect many of us have made this divine entreaty. It’s a plea to understand loss that is so deep, it’s just not fathomable.

Prayers of Thanksgiving

This is my favorite kind of prayer. It says, “Hello, God, it’s me, (fill in your name)—and I’m grateful for all you give me for no other reason than your abundant generosity.” This is why I love Thanksgiving, the holiday. People finally thank God and offer up prayers for the right reason—gratitude.

Regular worship services often cover this ground well. But if you’re not a churchgoer, it’s easy to skip the preliminaries of thankfulness and use prayer as a gimme or help-me. It’s a bit childlike, where we are constantly asking for our needs to be met and our elders have to remind us to say please and thank you.

I don’t mean to imply we shouldn’t ask for help when we’re hurting, worried or mourning. However, on balance, I would be quite irritated as a Divine Parent if the only reason someone bothered to contact me was to hit me up for money and influence. I think it would be more appropriate to start every prayer with gratitude for what we have before we ask for more—or beg for changes in the cosmic plan. (It’s remarkable how many of us seem to think God doesn’t know what s/he’s doing.)

God the Father/Mother—Creative Fire

Maybe that’s one of the problems with the way we pray—God the Parent. This is a long-held view of the divine force, and it’s hard to undo because it’s a concept we can so easily understand as humans. Many of us had less-than-ideal parenting, so the idea that there’s some Perfect Parent in the Sky is truly appealing.

But what if God is even bigger than that? My favorite creation story comes from the channeled Michael Teachings. It rings true to me as the largest, most comprehensive, and metaphorical explanation of how life works in the earth-to-sky interface. This philosophy describes God as the Creative Fire or the Tao. The Tao decided it wanted company to share and enjoy its creations. It cast out sparks of itself (us), who are sent to earth without their knowing they are part of the One. Our mission is to use our creativity to come back to the One. (If you want to explore this more, see the Michael Teaching link or my holiday post based on this material, name Turn on the Lights!)

The Divine Escape Clause

My first spiritual teacher, the late Betty Bethards, taught me early on that we really shouldn’t tell God how to do it. We don’t have the “view from the mountain,” the big picture that comes with omniscience. She suggested we always add at the end of any prayer:

This or something better.

This speaks to the idea that there may be an even better outcome than the one we are asking for—that our idea of what’s best for us may be limited, even quite the opposite of what will bring joy. It could be full of pitfalls we haven’t thought of. (“Be careful what you pray for,” as the warning goes.) The Divine Escape Clause also reminds us not to tell God how to do it. The being or force with all the creativity in the universe in his “hands” probably can handle the situation without our suggestions! And most likely, in a way that’s more elegant than we ever imagined. One of my favorite quotes in Illusions by Richard Bach says it best:

The original sin is to limit the Is. Don’t.

Prayer Techniques

I love prayers from many traditions, and where they come from isn’t as important to me as resonating to the sentiment.

In one of my groups, we pray by lighting candles and saying the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered three times. My Catholic core adores the candles as part of my original tradition, and I know the power of three, starting with the Trinity. The metaphor that each of us is a light in the world is strengthened by a symbol of light. Our prayers and the light of the candle brighten the light of the individual in need.

This is a simple and lovely way to pray. We have a plate full of votive candles and often end of lighting them all—and occasionally going into extra innings and additional candles. After the individual prayers are complete, we begin praying in larger concentric circles of caring. For example, we might pray for California’s ailing economy or the world economy; for peace in the Middle East; for the protection of all children; or for the best outcome for all in an upcoming election.

When we feel complete with our prayers, each of us grabs a crystal to focus the healing energy we have evoked. We envision a globe in the center of the table where the candles are lit. Our other vision is a vortex of energy, carrying the prayers upward to rain their blessing on the world and all the people in it.

My Favorite Prayers

Prayers are poems to God or the love that joins us all. While I often prefer “conversations,” there are many prayers that move me so much; I will say them as long as I have lips to move. No two prayers have ever touched me as much as The Prayer of St. Francis, also known as The Peace Prayer, and the 23rd Psalm. Here are my top five of many favorites:

1. Prayer of St. Francis
“Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace …”

2. The 23rd Psalm,
especially the feminine version by Bobby McFerrin, dedicated to his mother. There is something incredibly comforting about this classic prayer. It calms fear with the gentle reminder that Love is our shepherd.

3. Deep Peace,
a Gaelic Blessing – My favorite is a performance is in this You Tube video by John Rutter and choir at a memorial for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting massacre. It is so touching; it gave me chills.

4. Judy Chicago’s Prayer
“And then …

5. How wonderful, O Lord are the works of your hands!
A traditional Jewish prayer.

Prayer Collections

As a person who does spiritually eclectic celebrations, prayer collections are some of my favorite books. The one that truly changed me is Prayers for Planetary Pilgrims by Fr. Edward Hay. In this book, my Catholic roots meet my cosmic perspective. Fr. Hay has prayers for every human condition, emotion, season and celebration imaginable. It’s a don’t miss!

Two of other well-worn prayer references and preferences:

Prayers for Healing: 365 Blessings, Poems & Meditations from Around the World,
edited by Maggie Oman. They are presented in a prayer-a-day format.

A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles, edited by M.J. Ryan. T
his book is a treasure with its harvest scene cover and prayers divided into the four seasons—prayers that are wonderful not just as grace before meals but any time of the day or night.

Lastly, I have found more great prayers via Google than you can imagine, including several poetic renditions of the original Aramaic version of The Lords Prayer, another favorite.

Living Life as a Prayer

My true goal is to live life as a prayer—in integrity with my beliefs and with love and gratitude for the light in which we’re all joined.

To pray is a verb.

You can pray while singing, dancing, vacuuming or making love. Doing good works is prayer in action. Whenever Spirit is a partner in any activity, it can be offered up as a living prayer. I used to attend a local metaphysical church called the Temple of Living Prayer. That’s what I want to be—a walking, talking prayer vessel. That kind of holiness/wholeness isn’t goody two-shoes; it’s simply having “the spirit” in you and acting from it. That’s why this blog is dedicated to spirited living.

To be fully alive is prayer itself, as is being the “instrument of peace” that St. Francis modeled is the essence of living prayer. There are many forms of the verb to pray.

What are yours?

Pray tell.

Photo Credit:
Offering Candles © Travellingtwo |