Praying for the Earth ~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Prayer is a way to be with the divine — from the prayer born from need, where we use words to express our needs, to the deeper prayer that takes us beyond any words into the oneness and silence within the heart. This video is about the simplicity of the “Prayer of the Heart”:
PRAYER – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Prayer is a way to be with the Divine—from the prayer born from need, where we tell God our needs, to the deeper prayer which takes us beyond any words into the oneness and silence within the heart. This video is about the simplicity of the Prayer of the Heart.

Audio excerpt taken from “Prayer”: talks given by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, June 2011 at the Omega Institute. To listen to complete talks please visit: goldensufi.org/​audio.html#Omega_2011

Prayer is the simplest and most natural way to communicate with the divine. Prayer is the heart speaking. There are the prescribed prayers, the rituals of inner communion. But there are also our personal prayers, our way of being with the sacred that is our deepest nature and that of the world around us. In whatever way we are drawn to pray, there is a pressing need at this time to include the earth in our prayers.

We are living in a time of ecological devastation, in which our materialistic culture has had a catastrophic effect on the ecosystem. Our rivers are toxic, the rainforests slashed and burned, vast tracts of land made a wasteland due to our insatiable desires for oil, gas and minerals. We have raped and pillaged and polluted the earth until it is in a dangerous state of imbalance we call climate change. If we dare to listen, creation itself is now calling to us, sending us signs of its imbalance. We can see these signs in the increasing floods and droughts, feel it in a land that has been poisoned with pesticides, and those whose hearts are open may hear the cry of the world soul, of the spiritual being of our mother the earth. It is a cry of need and despair, that humanity who was supposed to be the guardian of the planet has forgotten its responsibility and instead desecrates and destroys the earth on a global scale.

The earth needs our prayers more than we know. It needs us to acknowledge its sacred nature, that it is not just something to use and dispose. Many of us know the effectiveness of prayers for others, how healing and help is given, even in the most unexpected ways. There are many ways to pray for the earth. It can be helpful first to acknowledge that it is not “unfeeling matter” but a living being that has given us life. And then we can sense its suffering: the physical suffering we see in the dying species and polluted waters, the deeper suffering of our collective disregard for its sacred nature. Would we like to be treated just as a physical object to be used and abused? Would we like our sacred nature, our soul, to be denied?

For centuries it was understood that the world was a living being with a soul, and that we are a part of this being. Once we remember this in our minds and in our hearts, once we hear the cry of our suffering, dying world, our prayers will flow more easily and naturally. We will be drawn to pray in our own way. There is the simple prayer of placing the world as a living being within our hearts when we inwardly offer our self to the divine. We remember the sorrow and suffering of the world in our hearts and ask that the world be remembered, that divine love and mercy flow where it is needed. That even though we continue to treat the world so badly, divine grace will help us and help the world — help to bring the earth back into balance. We need to remember that the power of the divine is more than that of all the global corporations that continue to make the world a wasteland, even more than the global forces of consumerism that demand the life-blood of the planet. We pray that the divine of which we are all a part can redeem and heal this beautiful and suffering world.

Sometimes it is easier to pray when we feel the earth in our hands, when we work in the garden tending our flowers or vegetables. Or when we cook, preparing the vegetables that the earth has given us, mixing in the herbs and spices that give us pleasure. Or making love, as we share our body and bliss with our lover, we may feel the tenderness and power of creation, how a single spark can give birth. Then our lovemaking can be an offering to life itself, a fully-felt remembrance of the ecstasy of creation.

The divine oneness of life is within and all around us. Sometimes walking alone in nature we can feel its heartbeat and its wonder, and our steps become steps of remembrance. The simple practice of “walking in a sacred manner,” in which with every step we take we feel the connection with the sacred earth, is one way to reconnect with the living spirit of the earth.

There are so many ways to pray for and with creation, to listen within and include the earth in our spiritual practice. Watching the simple wonder of a dawn can be a prayer in itself. Or when we hear the chorus of birds in the morning we may sense that deeper joy of life and awake to its divine nature. At night the stars can remind us of what is infinite and eternal within us and within the world. Whatever way we are drawn to wonder or pray, what matters is always the attitude we bring to this intimate exchange, whether our prayers are heartfelt rather than just a mental repetition.

It is always through the heart that our prayers are heard, even if we first make the connection in our feet or hands. Do we really feel the suffering of the earth, sense its need? Do we feel this connection with creation, how we are a part of this beautiful and suffering being? Then our prayers are alive, a living stream that flows from our heart. Then every step, every touch, will be a prayer for the earth, a remembrance of what is sacred. We are a part of the earth calling to its creator, crying in its time of need.

The video is an extract from a set of talks on prayer, given by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee June 2011, Omega Institute.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a Sufi teacher and author of a number of books, including “The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul.” In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition and the emerging global consciousness of oneness, and the subject of spiritual ecology. He is the founder of the Golden Sufi Center. His most recent book is “Fragments of a Love Story, Reflections on the Life of a Mystic.”

Deepak Chopra – What’s True, and Not, About Stress (Part Two)

In my first post I began to talk about the spiritual side of stress. It’s such an unusual approach that it might be good to review stress more conventionally first. Stress is made complicated because both mind and body are involved. The so-called stress response is a temporary event with physical markers, such as a rise in certain hormones.

Once the event that caused the response is over, the stress itself isn’t gone. Soldiers come home from battle with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, a lingering memory bringing back their stress even more powerfully and repeatedly than when it was first felt. Closer to home, sitting in a traffic snarl while commuting to and from work can create a low-level kind of stress that is constant and nagging.

In other words, physical signs aren’t enough to explain what stress is doing to us every day. You can’t simply “lower your stress” by avoiding pressured situations. A completely easy life, without pressure of any kind (if such a hypothetical life existed), needs only one deeply disturbing event, such as the death of a baby, to be scarred for years and change the course of a person’s existence. At the opposite extreme, stress can act like high blood pressure, which damages the body through a slight increase in stress on the cell walls, seemingly innocuous at first glance. The cell performs all of its functions without seeming distressed, and yet years later, a huge array of problems can arise.

So where does that leave us? Is life meant to be stressful by its very nature, full of events that send us into the stress response no matter what we do? Modern medical research has arrived at many partial answers that go part way to a complete answer. For example, three factors make stress more severe: repetition, unpredictability and lack of control.

These markers are observed in a classic experiment with laboratory mice in which a mouse is placed on a pad that delivers a mild electrical shock, not enough to hurt it but simply to startle. If these small shocks are measured individually, the stress they cause is not significant. However, if the shocks come randomly and the mouse cannot escape them, something remarkable happens. The overloaded stress response in the mouse causes severe damage in a short period of time, leading to illness and a quick death.

Humans are more complex than mice, and even though repetition will break down anyone’s resistance to stress (given enough time at the front lines under artillery bombardment, all soldiers suffer shell shock, for example), we are affected more severely if stresses arrive unpredictably and in a way that is out of our control. This helps explain why a child coming from a situation of abuse, with an unpredictable alcoholic parent, for example, can be feel the harm of this experience for life. When you can find no escape, and bad things happen out of the blue, stress takes a heavy toll.

So where does spirituality help us in this tangle of confusing facts?

In the Indian tradition there’s a term for events that make an impression: karma. Literally the word means “action” in Sanskrit, but karmas are actions that change us, for good or ill, by leaving a memory that causes action to change in the future. For the moment we won’t talk about the Law of Karma, which says that actions are balanced in the cosmos between good and evil, or as the New Testament states it, “as you sow so shall you reap.” Here, I’m only concerned with the stressful side of karma, by which certain life events make a deep impression while others don’t.

At first glance karma is far more complicated that stress. There’s the whole mystery of how a good action is rewarded by the universe and a bad action punished. There’s the personal side of karma, where two people go through the same event — a car crash, winning the lottery, getting married — but wind up with completely different results. This tangle of riddles and complexity cannot simply be wished away. Nor is it adequate to lump everything under the same simple rubric like the stress response. The ancient seers of India, the Vedic rishis, embraced the entire issue, but so did Jesus, Buddha, and other great spiritual guides.

Their diagnosis was surprisingly similar to the one accepted by stress researchers: Life delivers stress in very complicated ways and is inescapable. Memory stores deep impressions, and the body responds to these memories as strongly as it does to the original stressor. We can easily insert “karma” in the slots where the word “stress” appears. But here the world’s wisdom traditions sharply diverge from modern medicine by saying flatly that suffering is inescapable as long as karma exists.

In Buddhism and Vedanta there are no half measures. A person isn’t asked to increase the good experiences in his life and reduce the bad ones. The entire pursuit of pleasure is considered unworkable. This is bad news for anyone who tries to use stress reduction, yet I am not suggesting that embracing stress or increasing the pressure in your life is advisable. It was assumed in the Bible, the Vedas, and other scriptures that we all try to lead good moral lives by following the rules of decent behavior. Yet, this basic moral existence isn’t the same as solving karma, or stress, once and for all.

After offering such a dire diagnosis, the astonishing thing about the ancient spiritual teachings is that they offer a complete solution. They suggest that the world of karma, even though it surrounds us and ensnares us at every moment, is not fully real. Beyond it lies actual reality, which is reached by cultivating the subtler side of the human nervous system.

I’ve found it helpful to divide awareness into two kinds of attention: first attention and second attention. First attention keeps us attuned to the affairs of everyday life; second attention keeps us attuned to higher reality. If you remain fixated on first attention, karma and stress are unavoidable. Your focus will be tied to changes in the external world and your inner response to the ups and downs of existence.

Second attention, however, is rooted in the changeless, and thus it protects you from the impressions made by stress and karma. This isn’t the same as zoning out. In modern terminology, second attention is like being centered instead of scattered, calm instead of restless, at peace instead of agitated. Yet, these are secondary to the deeper realization that you are not what you seem to be. You seem to be a body and mind tossed about by the winds of change. In reality, you are a soul undergoing physical experiences for the purpose of evolving until you fully know who you are.

I realize that this conclusion seems like folly, hokum or nonsense to committed materialists; it fits into the skeptical scheme of those who ridicule all things spiritual. But this isn’t an issue that can be settled by arguing over it. Each person must go through the process of experiencing second attention and finding out personally if higher reality exists. The proof lies in many areas, but the most crucial is the area we’ve been discussing. If stress ceases to create illness, damage, anxiety and pressure, if impressions no longer haunt us, if memory loosens its grip, then we can say that the world’s wisdom traditions had something valid to say.

In the next post I’ll cover the practical side of shifting into second attention as the true solution to stress and therefore the solution to the baffling riddle of karma.

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