It’s funny how the act of teaching can unexpectedly become the ultimate teacher. This past week, I experienced an influx in the amount of yoga classes I teach. I’ve been subbing for other yogis like a madman. In this process, I have had tremendous amounts of exposure to the lessons I preach. It’s as if my words echo off the walls and whisper themselves into my ears. I am certainly learning a lot from all this teaching.
One of the most repetitive lessons I have been taught is the concept of self-prayer. Usually, prayer falls into two categories: culturally stigmatized or a form of pleading. These two categories are dependent upon one clause: the idea that who or what we pray to is outside of ourselves. In the former category, prayer is discriminated against because who actually believes a man separate from us in the sky is listening to everyone’s thoughts? In the latter view, we focus on the exterior power of another (be it Jesus, Buddha, Krishna or the all-mighty dollar) to give to us what we think we cannot give to ourselves. In both situations, fallacy is observed and prayer is focused outward.
Jet backwards two weeks. I was in a yoga teacher’s training focused on conscious communication. Among the many invaluable lessons learned, the one that seems to have stuck the most is the lesson of conscious self-communication. Many times a day we often talk to ourselves. Voices in our heads repeat, reflect, judge, battle and vie for our conscious attention. This inner dialogue is a form of self-communication. And like this self-dialogue, prayer is one of those voices.
Although prayer may be thought of as a more conscious and intentional mental narrative, it is certainly not free from the sliding gradient of unconscious thought. On the lower end, the awareness of prayer is basically exhibiting a pleading/begging posture towards an exterior power. This is like trying to get a full stomach by watching the Food Network channel. It is idealistic at best, but utterly ineffective. Instead of refracting your desires off an unknowable entity, try asking your Self.
This concept of prayer is a method of conscious communication. It implies that we are God. We are the universe, the physical embodiment creation, stemming from one common source. In this light, we can see that all our prayers, blessings, questions and concerns are capable of being answered with nothing more than our conscious attention.
This transition inward has been a great lesson for me. It has shown me the extent of my patience and will, as many times my belief in this method of prayer has been tested. I often do not see immediate results and begin to doubt my power as the great answerer of prayers. However, when I continue to know beyond faith that I am capable, my questions are answered. I surrender my prayer to the fear of realizing my ultimate power.
There are many psychological and spiritual barriers to making this an easy-as-pie process because we have been conditioned to believe that we are inept and incapable, leaving us at the will of an entity that exists outside of ourselves. The leverage point in this equation is the realization that we are the omnipresent being, the source of creation. Once this old paradigm is expanded, the true extent of the Self can be realized. The key to this is persistance, understanding and the ability to listen.
I use a simple technique that was given by Yogi Bhajan. When monitoring your mood and finding yourself in an undesirable place, ask yourself to raise your spirits. Simply say: “I do not like the state I am in. (Insert your name), will you elevate my consciousness.” Now when you say this, you must direct it at your highest self. Recognize that there are other voices that do no represent you highest state of consciousness and avoid speaking to them. Instead, focus on that person who you are when you are happiest, most conscious. Through listening, the proper voice will be heard. This is how you will lift yourself.
So often we beg and plead with the ideas we place outside of ourselves. We send out wasted energy into the ethers hoping that it will return. Disappointment and challenge face those who are not impeccable in the traditional forms of exterior prayer. In these times of spiritual redefinition, old structures of practice are no longer as effective as they once were (although for some—like my Lola [grandmother]—external prayer continues to work). As our minds change, so do the ways we perceive the world, God, and ourselves.
So if prayer has served you fruitlessly, stop sending out a letter to an unknown address and instead try sending one to yourself. Better yet, write an email. The turn around on your prayers will be instantaneous.
A new, favorite quote of mine from Yogi Bhajan:
“Blessed are those who bless themselves.”
It is time to quit thinking you are incapable, limited and separate from the energy of the universe. Omnipotence is your birthright, and you are as powerful as you will let yourself be. Release that which does not serve this purpose. Recognize this and you will become limitless. Turn off the TV, get into the kitchen and start cooking.