I am making my way back to God.
God is the first word I learned to point to the sacred Presence that was with me when I was a child. When I was young I could taste that Presence within and around me all of the time. I talked with this Presence, I lived inside that holy heart beat. Walking down school hallways, sitting in classrooms, crossing the frozen river on the way home in the darkness of a northern afternoon, I could hear the voice of what some call God and others call Love surround me. And when the frozen river heaved and cracked, ice buckling and rising, long fissures opening, I was not afraid. I knew the Beloved was with me there, like the cloud of ice crystals forming with every breath- warm moisture from one small self meeting and greeting the dark vastness of the atmosphere at forty degrees below zero.
Years later, I reached out and felt the soft breath of Spirit on my skin when purple welts rose from the place where my face hit the kitchen floor. The angry young man I’d married had thrown me across the room. Even then, I could pray and knew I was not abandoned.
What do we do when we pray? Surely we do not summon what has never left us, what lives within and around us.
Prayer is our way of coming into alignment with that which is always there, waking up to what has become hidden by distraction and preoccupation with things that will not last. Prayer can be a movement- a way of finding and following the rhythm we sense within all things. It can be a song, a phrase of music, a story or a poem. It can be tears or terror brought to the surface by heart break. It can be surrendering to or wrestling with the pain of heart ache. But it is always sending out a voice that signals a willingness to be found, a willingness to come into alignment with something more than our small worries about life and death.
I did not think I would ever move outside the possibility of prayer found with ease.
But I did.
For the last few years of my marriage, I would open my mouth and there would be no music with meaning, no words that held connection, no way to find the willingness. I was not, you understand, unwilling. I was just so deeply disconnected from my own awareness that I could find no way to cry out. Lying in bed, staring into the darkness I thought- perhaps, I am. . . . just. . . . done. I could hear my heart beat, but I wondered, was curious to know if I was dying.
Nothing anyone else has ever done could have rendered me unable to pray.
What I did- abandoning who I was in an attempt to pay for a love I thought had to be earned- is what made prayer feel impossible. I whittled away at who I was, cutting off little pieces- an ear lobe here, a pinkie there, my love of ideas and my intensity of being, the things he found “too much.” Hoping to create, or to become someone the other one would want, I lost myself.
And even then, although I could no longer feel the Presence that was with me, it reached out and shook me awake.
My angels are old women with dark skin and long grey hair. Some have eyes of light. The eyes of others are bottomless pools of darkness that lead to inner worlds. They have come to me in my dreams for years. In that time of forsaking myself it took them a couple of years to get one clear message through the fog of my disorientation. When I finally heard them, I was startled.
“Get out of here now!” they whispered. “Wake up! Your house is on fire.”
And I awoke in a smoke-filled dream and finally moved to save my life.
I am making my way back to all I ever wanted with my whole being: God, the awareness that is in all things. Back to the kiss I wanted with my whole life, the scent of what has always been home, the Sacred Mystery.
I am like someone who used to run and then had a terrible fall that disrupts messages between mind and muscle, like someone who has to learn all over again how to crawl and walk, how to balance upright, how to move one step at a time. I used to be someone who ran with ease, without thinking, simply for the pleasure of the wind on my skin, skimming along the ground lightly. Prayer was first nature to me and now, learning it again I see things I could not see when it came so naturally.
Moving deliberately, consciously one step at a time, I pray with my whole being- body-heart-mind-soul-self. And the holy song finds me in a way it could not before.
Sometimes we pray for ease, for things to move without struggle. Understandable really. But sometimes, it is the thing that is consciously sought and welcomed, the thing that demands a re-learning that is not easy that teaches us to rejoice, that opens us to a deeper gratitude.
What has been lost and found is savoured and appreciated more deeply.
I am making my way back to God with each breath.
And I am grateful.
From The Green Bough blog (c) Oriah Mountain Dreamer 2011