Upsetting the World View

I wanted my Facebook profile to show my employment as this: “Works at Upsetting the World View”…but FB wouldn’t let me do it because that was not a “real” company or business.

So…I started creating the FB page for this “business” just to have it as a list-able place.  The questions that were asked required answers, so I did.  And in the process, ended up starting my own business.  Sort of.  I now have an official site for what I’ve been doing all along: ministering to those who need an ear to listen and someone to ask the questions that will help them find their answers.  Or need healing from a non-Western medical viewpoint.  My REAL job on this planet is to minister, to heal, to teach.  And suddenly, without prior thought or planning, I have essentially put out my shingle.  I don’t have a tax number, I haven’t gotten a “doing business as” paperwork from the commonwealth, I in fact have not consulted a single “legal” place or municipality about doing this.  Might be a problem somewhere down the road, but in the meantime…I will just do what I’ve been doing anyways, and maybe, just maybe find a little income from it.

Income.  That’s an interesting concept about this whole thing.  I don’t feel right taking money for using my gifts, things I do without conscious thought or effort.  Doesn’t require special equipment (usually) and I’m not paying off school loans for some degree…since I don’t have diplomas for this either.  I realize that from a certain point of view, this could be viewed as trying to sell snake oil off a traveling wagon…but I’m not offering miracle cures.  Actually I’m not even offering any cures, just whatever help I can give–which is more about the state of mind and beliefs of the person seeking the help than anything I am or do.  But if someone wants to repay me, well…I take $ but I’ll also take barter and “in trade”.

My take on how this happened?  I think all I’ve done is made myself available to a wider spectrum of people who might benefit from contact with me.  No promises there, just a willingness to help where I can.  Some of what I do can actually be done “long distance”, over the internet and through messaging or emails.  I am more than able to be a silent and listening person who will act as a sounding board for others to hear themselves out loud, so to speak, and perhaps offer a different point of view that helps them find their answers.

I was a little surprised at how fast this all went together, how easy it was to get the page created and the continued ease with which I have updated the site and the things I’m finding that are appropriate to share.  I have found that when things go this easily in my life, it’s where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to do.  I do not decline to accept this challenge and hope that the page will grow as it needs to, that it will be as useful a ministry as I could hope for.  This may be the thing that I was destined for when I first stepped back from other ministerial duties for my sabbatical.  Which lasted way longer than I planned, but I am waking up and starting to be in a physical shape that will allow this while also finding myself in a spiritual place that almost longs for this.  I have missed my ministering.

It has continued, to a certain extent, even while I’ve been dealing with my physical health.  I still have the wandering souls show up at my doorstep…so perhaps this is just an escalation of effort, not something entirely new.  Which brings me back to the new Facebook page…I have, in full glorious meaning of the phrase, “hung my shingle out” to a global community.  Exciting times ahead.  And it’s something that I am actively looking forward to.

Let me upset your world view, because as Doug Adams wrote, “….was amazed at how different things looked from a perspective just three feet to the left”.

Namaste!

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What Are You Afraid Of?

What are you afraid of?  Spiders?  Exams?  The dark?  Nothing?

Oh that’s a lie.  Afraid of nothing?? Everyone is afraid of something, even if they don’t admit it.  You’re human, you have a fear.  Or fears.  It’s normal, it’s natural.  Wait a minute…let’s separate those two words, normal and natural.  Normal…being the norm, the usual thing.  Okay, yes, fear is normal.  Natural…being of nature.  Is it your nature to be fearful?  Hmmmm.  Not so…normal.  Fear of course occurs IN Nature: prey animals know they are food and fear their predators.  It’s a normal instinct, helps to keep them alive.  But stop and think about the kind of life those prey animals lead: always in fear, always on the lookout for the predator.  Most of them are grazing animals…you do know that “grazing” essential translates into “eating on the move”?  And to sleep (perchance, to dream) they either catch naps and move some more during the night or they go into hiding (dens) to avoid being eaten while asleep.  Prey animals also tend to be herd animals, with a mindset of “if there’s a lot of us, moving around, then I personally stand a better chance of avoiding the predator’s picking me”.  (Fish in schools and birds in flocks also have this mindset.)

Humans, while tribal, are not HERD animals by nature.  They are not preyed upon by another animal.  We are the supreme predator in the natural world.  So naturally, we are not supposed to live our lives like a prey animal.  Are you living your life with the prey animal mindset?  Are you living a life of fear?  One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie “Strictly Ballroom” and it’s this:  A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.  (Rinse and repeat as necessary to let go of fear.)  We are not, BY NATURE, supposed to be afraid of the things around us.  But everything is geared towards giving you fear and increasing that fear and feeding that fear until you become what my friend refers to as “sheeple”.  Yes, people with a prey animal’s mindset.

Before we can talk about that, let’s separate the “good” fear of natural reaction/instincts from the life-sucking, “drag you down and bury you alive” fears that we are taught.  It’s right to fear a poisonous snake when you are in the bayous of Louisiana and water moccasins are a real threat.  It’s a good thing to be alert for their presence and be prepared to defend yourself should they decide to attack you.  (And they are an aggressive snake and WILL attack.)  It’s right to fear a fall from a great height when you are a window washer on a New York skyscraper, to be alert for the danger and to protect yourself by clipping onto a safety line.  Is that enough of an example of good fear?  Oddly enough, we don’t call that “fear”.  We call that “good sense” or “being cautious” or “looking out for danger”.  It is a wariness, aware-ness, a heightened state of alertness, appropriate to the situation that does not extend beyond the moment of danger or past the need for that caution to interfere with our daily lives.

Which leads me to the “bad” fears, the ones we just call “fear”.  These can be identified by the fact that the prey response (heightened alertness, unease, “fight or flight” response) goes on ….all the time.  Or at inappropriate times.  It interferes with our daily living.  It quite literally can cripple us, if only mentally, from achieving our full potential.  So let’s get back to “everything is geared towards giving you fear”.  We are taught, from an early age, to fear the world around us.  Our own parents can teach us fears without even meaning too–a mother that is afraid of spiders and shrieks and runs each time she encounters one will almost inevitably give that fear to her child.  Children are not stupid and they are certainly more intelligent than the family dog, who can read your moods–so it should be no surprise that a very young child can be taught to fear just by the parent’s example.  The prime one that a lot of them learn is taught by the parent during the phase when the child is trying to overcome gravity: that is, trying to walk.  The child makes a step or two and then gravity takes over.  Instead of going “Oopsy daisy” or something similar, too many parents run over and grab up the child, making high pitched sounds (Are you okay, ooooh poor baby!) that in nature indicate distress.  If Mom’s upset, then something bad must have happened.  So the child cries.  And the cycle repeats.

As we get older, we get more teachers and more places to receive our information from–friends, TV, Internet, and so on.  We also begin to assimilate the societal information, which includes such things as racism (overt or, more sinister, COVERT), tribal identity and the need to exclude those “that are not of OUR tribe”, and the societal fears (of being unemployed, of being shunned).  Even those nice Public Service Announcements are usually of a fearful bent, warning us about the dangers of this or that.  Not that those dangers aren’t real, but the intensity of the fear we should feel about them can interfere with our lives.  The media is a prime teacher of fear: the 6 pm news always tells us how bad the world is, how dreadful things are around us.  Newspapers sell on death and tragedy, making it seem like that’s all there is “out there”.  And everyone knows just how evil and awful the Internet is, with online stalkers and child pornography.  It’s a bad, scary world “out there” and we should all be afraid.  Be very afraid. Stay at home and “we” will tell you how to live your life and worse, how to think.  Don’t think, we’ll think for you.

Now that’s something you should fear.  Like FDR said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.  I would suggest that in most cases, the fear is being taught specifically to control us.  “Don’t run out in the street, you’ll get run over.”  Right, good advice.  Not if you’re terrified of taking a walk because of the remote possibility that some mad man will tear down the street as you try to get to the other side.  It’s a matter of degree, which can only be determined by YOU.  You must be able to think clearly and coherently and decide what is dangerous and what is not.  You must have the freedom of choice to be able to live a life without fear, to live a life without external control.

So back to our original question: what are you afraid of?  I believe the better question is this: WHY are you afraid?  Don’t tell me you have a fear of cats if you can’t explain it, logically and without emotional wording, giving me a valid reason why you should be so terrified of that cute little kitty.  I can understand a fear of the ocean if you were attacked by a shark as a child, but I won’t let you off the hook if your only reason is that you saw the movie “Jaws”.  Fear, abnormal and unnatural fear needs to be examined, needs to be dissected and pulled apart to see what it really is.  Is it a true fear, based on a true event that happened to you (not someone you know or heard about on the news), an internal and internally generated fear…or is it a false fear, something taught to you by an external source, that is only feared because someone else told (or showed) you to fear it?

I had a friend that insisted he did not like Chinese food.  Finally one day I got smart and asked the right question: Have you ever HAD Chinese food?  Ummm, no.  Then you don’t know if you like it or not.  I made a deal with him–I ordered something I thought he’d like and if he tasted it and didn’t like it, I would then order him a pizza.  Guess what?  He liked it, Mikey, he liked it!  (Reference to the Life cereal ad if you’re too young to remember it.)

So I ask you the right question: WHY are you afraid?  This fear that you have…why do you have it?  Where did it come from?  When did you first realize that you had it?  And most importantly, why does it interfere with your life?  How does it interfere?  And why do you let it?  Okay, that’s really 7 questions. But they are a testing ground for independent thought and conscious choice-making.  I’m not really talking about clinical fears, aka phobias.  Those are groundless and emotion-laden and require someone with a degree to work through.  I’m talking your garden variety fears: I’m too…fat, skinny, old, young.  I could never…skydive, ride a bike, teach a class.  I’m not able to…get that job, talk to her, let go of past conceptions for current truths.

We buy into the fear-mongering of the media, we accept as natural this need to herd and hide from “the predator”… the only predator we need to be afraid of is called “fear” because it will kill us, bit by bit, tiny shred of our mind by larger shred.  And this is the point in my discussion with you that I share the following lesson on fear:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
(Frank Herbert, “Dune” series, “The Litany Against Fear”)

I must not fear.  To fear or not to fear, that is the question.  It is a choice that we have, even if we perhaps do not actually recognize it as such.  “Must” because if I give in to fear, I become its slave and it rules me instead of it being that choice.  It is an impelling choice, “must not fear”.  Something that is required, something important…”I must”.  I MUST not fear.  I must NOT fear.  Same thing.

Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear removes our ability to choose because we get so enmeshed in the fear that we can’t see the way out.  Our thoughts become chaotic but paralyzed and this is the “little-death” that brings our total obliteration.  How many have died because of fear?  And I don’t mean scared to death, I mean died as a direct result of someone’s fear, if not their own.  Hitler feared the Jews; race wars are based on fear of another’s color.  Someone who fears cancer may not seek treatment for a suspicious lump because of that fear and instead of finding it and treating it, they end up dying from the very cancer that they feared.  From a single individual to entire populations, fear can truly be that little-death which brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.  I will look at it closely, examine it, rip it apart to understand how it works and then, “forget” to put it back together.  Because once I know the fear, once I can identify it and say what it is, what it truly is, I can let go of it and get on with my life.  I can take back control of my own life, my own thinking.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  I don’t deny its existence.  I treat it like every other experience I have: I let it exist long enough for me to identify it and then it leaves and I go on to the next moment of my life.  By passing over me and through me, I acknowledge that it is separate from me–it is NOT me.  I am not my fear.  My fear is NOT me.  It has a motion of its own that is not me and I can either hold on to it or let it go.  I choose to let it go.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.  Fear is smoke and mirrors, fears is “don’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain”, fear is…ephemeral and can only live if I let it feed off of me.  If I don’t feed it, if I refuse to give it a reality that it doesn’t deserve and cannot create on its own, it is nothing.  Only I will remain.

Like with many of the things I write, I am back to the idea of examining one’s self, to know who you really are, what you really want.  To live a life of constant testing of self, constant testing of “truth”.  I repeat what I’ve said before: “truth” is dynamic, it’s changing all the time, and it mostly depends on your point of view.  What was true, even for you, yesterday may not be true today.  May not be true tomorrow.  So always test your truths, always examine your self (pointed separation of words there; not “yourself” but YOUR self, the inner core–your soul, if that’s how you’d classify it.  The part of you that makes you unique, that makes you YOU.

And part of that identification of self includes the examination and identification of your fear(s).  It’s very easy to decide what to keep and what to get rid of if you use this kind of question test:

1.  Is this true?
2.  If it is true, how do I know that it is true of my own experience and not secondhand?
3.  If it is true and I know it from my own living, does it lift me up or drag me down?  (Is it a positive, helpful thing or a negative, harmful thing)
4.  If it is true and I know it from my own living, and it lifts me up, does it help me live a sacred life?
5.  Is is still true?
(Rinse and repeat as necessary, every day.)

What do you fear and why do you fear it?  What would happen if you stopped having that fear?  What will happen if you don’t?  Does that fear interfear with your life?  (Intentional misspelling, don’t comment on my ability to write.)  Who is in control, you or your fear?  Do you want to continue to live your life with someone else in charge?  “Yes, Mr. Fear, right away sir.”.  I must not fear.  I WILL not fear for fear is the mind-killer that brings about the total obliteration of who I am and I’m not going to let that happen.  I’m going to look my fear in the face and say, (excuse the language) “FUCK YOU, FEAR” and it’s going to get out of my life…where it never belonged in the first place.  Out, damned fear, out.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.

I

WILL

REMAIN —

JUST ME.

Thank you for your time, and Namaste!

Bright Blessed Day / Dark Sacred Night

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Yes it is.  Dealing with my fibromyalgia for the past 12-18 months has taken so much of my attention and time that I feel I have stopped paying attention to my spiritual path.  I had stepped back from my responsibilities as a leader for my group to have a spiritual retreat, a time of in-looking and thoughtful pursuit of my own spiritual needs and ideas.  I was supposed to be on a journey for my soul…and instead, it’s been a journey of pain and doctor visits.  I’ve seen my physician more in the past 18 months than I’ve seen a doctor the rest of my life, including 3 pregnancies.  It’s hard to focus on anything else except the body when the body is not healthy.

As I think back over the time, I find moments both small and large where I was able to live a sacred life even with fibro.  The big ones: Paul and I helped a friend out of an abusive marriage, held her hand and were there as friends as she started a new life with her teenage daughter.  He and I also helped to give a co-worker, also an abused (now ex) wife and her children a Christmas to remember with the assistance of his parents and sister.  It wasn’t about the presents, it was the fact that there were any at all for them, and in a setting of love and family togetherness.  When the cost of a bra is a major household expenditure, even dollar store gifts are awesome.  And when they are GIFTS, not the things you “need” because you’re managing that, but purely luxury items that you couldn’t afford….well, the rest of us didn’t need the presents we got.  The joy of their holiday was gift enough.

The “small” moments aren’t small, really…just the opportunities for them are so much greater than the “large” that I divide them into these groups.  My small moments of sacred life?  Looking into the eyes of my 2 month old grandson for the first time.  Spending the day with my daughter, doing nothing momentous but sharing a deeply satisfying day together.  Being able to reach out and hug my husband and have him hug me back.  (And with the new meds, it no longer hurts! – which I had put up with in order to hold him.  Worth the price of the pain.)  Seeing my son holding his son and the love that shines like a fire between them.  Watching the sunset and as always in awe of the fact that even if no one ever looked, that glorious display would occur every day anyhow.  Enjoying the far vista of smoky mountains and the gentle ripple of countryside on a car drive.  Sharing a bite of a good meal with someone I love.

Even through all of the health issues (his and mine), we have managed to continue to do the ministry together that we had been doing separately: the willing ear to listen to the troubles of a wounded soul; the (hopefully) wise words to help someone find their way; letting all those who need a quiet space to just breathe into our home without question.  But my capacity for this sacred work has been at an all time low and sometimes, I’ve only been able to just sit and hold their hand.

And now that I am properly medicated and my endurance is returning, I find myself turning more and more back to those spiritual things I wanted to explore.  The fact that I can write this blog is a major accomplishment compared to the writing I wanted to do, that got lost in days of inability to type, my mental fog so pervasive that major chunks of time are missing.  And yet I cannot regret that time.  As I said in “The Zen of Fibromyalgia”, I was given time to sit still and know that I am sacred.  To learn to identify the parts of the body in a new way, to have forced limitations so that I learned to be more thoughtful about my actions, to plan my activity with the knowledge that I must do it in a way that did not waste my ability to do it.  To learn that just sitting, sitting as the Buddha sat, can be sacred action and spiritual learning.

As a Buddhist, it is my goal to live each moment and not only that, but to recognize and honor the sacred within each moment as I experience it.  To then let go of the moment and accept the next in its turn.  I try to always seek the sacred in all that I encounter (which is a fine ambition, but like I said, I TRY) and to honor the sacred wherever I find it.  I’m human.  I get angry, I get bitchy, I can be unpleasant.  I fail, time after time.  And yet I also let go of *those* moments as well, to try and not let the residual emotions and negativity linger into the next moment, to stop the ripple effect.  Or to let the ripple move past me, and like Frank Herbert’s (Dune) “Litany Against Fear”, I let it go over and through me and when it has gone past me, I will turn and look and only I will remain.

(Inserted note regarding that literary allusion.  The litany reads as follows:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

This will find its way into a new blog about fear at some time in the future.  I can feel it congealing as thought that will desire written expression eventually.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.  Sorry for the interruption.)

Where was I?  Oh yes.  Living in the moment.  Finding the sacred in each moment.  Letting go of bad things (internal and external).  Trying to understand why I have had to go through what I have been going through and trying to find that sacred purpose in all of this being sick stuff.  And listening to Louis Armstrong singing about what a wonderful world, the words I’ve used as my title really stuck out.  I have always liked them, but they really hit home today.  The bright, blessed day.  The time when I was up and around, able to minister, able to live a “normal” life, do the things I wanted to do.  The dark, sacred night.  This is the time I have been living in.  In the dark, when the activities are not so visible, they are even (gasp) occult!  (Which only means “hidden”, really…nothing more).  In the night, which is a time for rest.  I needed to step back and take a breather from my ministry, needed the “sleep” from doing to find recuperation for my own sacred spaces.  To rejuvenate and replace that spiritual energy.  To dream, without a defined ending, of what might be and what I could do.  To be literally “in the dark” about where I was going, what I was doing.  Certainly seems that way.

And since everything is a circle and all cycles come back around to their starting point, I once again am having the dawning of another bright, blessed day.

Namaste, and a bright, BLESSED day to you as well.

A Friendly Discussion: The Scientific Atheist and the Tibetan Zen Buddhist on Prayer, Truth and the Meaning of Life

This is not a “typical” blog, but a reproduction of a conversation I had on Facebook that seemed important enough, interesting enough, to be shared with you.  The names have been changed to protect the inquisitive, but the ideas put forth are worthy of more thought and introsepction.  I’m still mulling them over in my head.  So here it is, a friendly discussion between a scientific Atheist and me, a Tibetan Zen Buddhist….

It began with a link on my friend, SB’s Facebook page:

Anonymous Comment:
I think prayer works because it focuses the prayer’s attention on doing something about the situation.  Christians are the voices and hands of Jesus.  The New Testament is about living the life that follows Jesus.  The Old Testament does speak of natural disasters that punish evil doers.  I believe that it rains on the just and the unjust.  Pat Robertson seems to me to be preaching only from his interpretation of the Old Testament.  Prayer should be a call to action.
Kitty adds her two cents’ worth:
Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. ~Author Unknown
Anonymous Comment:
That is true.  Prayer should lead to focus and actions.
(SB’s husband) JB:
‎”It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good, and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.” — Robert G. Ingersoll, Which Way? (1884)
“What is the purpose of prayer?  What can a finite being on Earth possibly tell an omnipotent, omniscient, Universe-creating deity that he/she/it doesn’t know already?  If prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever.”  Infidel Guy
Anonymous Comment:
I think that Infidel Guy and Robert G. Ingersoll lack ample experience to comment on this subject.
SB:
The whole point of this is that Pat Robertson is a nut job and has accused everyone of causing God’s wrath unless you’re just like him….yikes. I think that even devout Christians make fun of him. He’s just so wrong.
Kitty:
Yes, SB…and (in response to Anonymous), prayer is a mighty and powerful thing, but so many people tend to use it either as a way to get God to give them all the things they want or as the Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable: “look at me God, see what a great person I am”.  And sadly for too many Christians, “I’ll pray for you” is a rote and meaningless response to disaster, need and a request for help.  It’s a way to sound like you’re doing something when you’re asked to pitch in.  Jesus DID things throughout the Gospels and only PRAYED near the end of his human life.  I have always liked Mother Teresa’s praying–done as she was helping others, active physical praying with hands that were working, eyes open to see the sacredness in the people she was caring for.  Her entire life was a prayer.  THAT is the kind of praying that will make a change, not the mouthing of words that mean nothing to the one saying them and certainly not when the pronouns being uttered are I, me, mine.  And thus endeth the lesson for today.  Blessings to you all!
Anonymous Comment:
I was trying to say that.  Thanks.
JB:
To Anonymous:  FYI:  Ingersoll’s father was a Presbyterian minister who should have had some familiarity with prayer and passed it on to his son but he rejected it. Scientific studies in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 as well as others have established beyond any reasonable doubt that prayer has no effect on anything.  In fact in certain instances it actually has a negative effect on sick persons who realize they are so bad off people are praying for them and they get worse instead of better!  My experiences with it, when I went to church in my younger years and actually believed it might help, were uniformly and completely negative and accomplished nothing when attempting to help grievously ill loved ones: they all died.  Like the Infidel Guy says: if prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever as millions of Catholics worldwide pray for him every time he gets sick.  If it worked, we also would always get what we want, have millions of dollars and would never be sick.  This obviously doesn’t happen however so it’s obvious any results, either positive or negative from prayer, are sheer coincidence and belief in its efficacy is pure superstition.  You of course are at liberty to believe what you want.
Kitty:
Our conversation inspired me: https://knottykittehsavestheworld.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/i-pray-these-words-that-thou-may-hearest-me/

(If you haven’t read this blog o’mine, you might want to, because then JB’s response will make more sense.  Just saying.)
JB:
It would be nice if these things worked but I haven’t changed my mind.  I studied and tried the visualization technique(s) over the years too:  nothing.  Maybe I was doing it wrong or maybe they’re all just wishful thinking.  There’s no science to back them up I’m pretty sure.  I just definitely know it’s not for me.  I ‘m open minded and  really wish they did work believe me!  We could certainly use them!  Unfortunately I remain steadfastly unconvinced.  Got any proof?
Kitty:
My husband.  Took me 48 years to figure out how to ask for him, but I did get him.  And between you and me and the fencepost, I also believe that we create our reality, so if you think it, it will be.  Have you ever seen “What the Bleep do We Know?”….it will bend your mind and expand it and pull it around like taffy.  Too much to go into in a simple comment space, but we may have to all meet up some day and talk about it.  Chaos theory and infinite possibilities–and infinite probabilities, all existing simultaneously until we look at one and lock it into reality.  And after we have discussed all of it, maybe even watched the movie together, we’ll have to have a Three Stooges marathon to help us settle back into this world.
SB:
Kitty, I would love to see a conversation between you and JB in person….two of the most intelligent people I know…would be so interesting! I also enjoyed the article about prayer…
Kitty
I blush in modesty….thank you for enjoying my little effort to get some of the craziness in me head straightened out on paper.  HUGS
Anonymous Comment:
I’d like to listen also.  Maybe they should write the book.
JB:
I can’t write a book now.  My son and I are struggling through researching all the Confederate casualties at Gettysburg now.  Over 20,000 names!  What a pain!
(Reply to Kitty): I did see “What the Bleep” but can’t say I share your enthusiasm that we create our own reality.  Believe me, I wish we could!  I and the people I know would be much, much, much better off than we are now!  The premise of the film was that quantum mechanics proves that a conscious observer is necessary to create reality.  Not true.  Would the universe not exist at all if no one were here to observe it?  Of course it would.  Did dinosaurs consciously create their environment (including the asteroid that destroyed them)? The assertions of the movie are very similar to the Advaita and other Hindu teachings I’ve read over the years but I now know this is false by simple observation.  We’ve all seen unconscious things in our daily lives but know full well the universe continues to exist without their consciousness.  The universe might end for them but certainly not for us and it’ll still be here when we’re gone as well.  I’ve never heard of anything in science which supports a theory that consciousness creates everything.  Certainly not the theory of quantum mechanics which, as I understand it, explains what MIGHT be going on at the quantum level but the observer assumption is not part of the theory because it cannot be tested in such a way that if it were false it would fail any test.  You would have to see what would happen without a conscious observer monitoring the experiment and that’s impossible and thus unscientific.  Even if the assumption were true, assuming we create our own reality is going quite a bit too far.  Even David Albert, the professor from the Columbia University physics department who was featured in the film, is quoted in Salon.com as saying:  “I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film … Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed.”  That should give you some indication as to how many scientists view the movie.  I’m sure you can find many others as well.  Physicist Richard Feynman said:  “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum   mechanics”.  I think I’ll take his word over the producers of the film.  The examples provided in the film are silly also.  The claim that natives couldn’t see Columbus’ ships because they didn’t know what they were is ridiculous.  There were many problems with the 1993 transcendental meditation experiment in Washington, D.C. too (the murder rate actually went UP during the period of the experiment not down).  The people who reviewed the results were also followers of the Maharishi, there was biased data selection in the Emoto experiment portrayed in the film, etc., etc.  Many of the people involved in the production were affiliated with new-age institutions such as the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Maharishi University of Management and many, like the movie’s producers and directors, were devotees of Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior channeled through a woman named TZ Knight.  I really don’t think this even approaches scientific inquiry.  To get an alternative viewpoint to your way of thinking, you may want to read the following, among many others sites:  http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/04/what_the_bleep_.htmlhttp://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=83 In the end, the idea that the universe is all and only about us, and that everything in our lives are products of our minds is to me erroneous and self-serving. Try selling that idea to tsunami survivors in Southeast Asia or all those dying of cancer or heart disease every day.  I don’t think they would agree.  Oh, well!  To each his/her own!  Sorry to ramble on so!!
Kitty:
No apologies necessary.  You told me some new things that I did not know, and I’d like to address some of them.  I had suspected that the film had been biased, because of the inclusion of “Ramtha” –and the fact that (his) words were given as much credence as the scientists’ comments.  And I consider the film to be PART of how things might work.  If no one were here, would the universe still exist?  Of course.  Because of the infinite possibilities, because each and every possibility exists, no matter who sees it or not.  Schroedinger’s cat, you know.  Doesn’t matter whether the experiment is observed or not, it does exist.  Just because we cannot observe it does not make it nonexistent.  We are limited by our collective “What we know” and the agreement that “THIS” is the world. MY concept of us creating our reality works like this: We have at least two realities.  One is the common world reality, where we agree that “this* is a chair, and that *that* is a tree.  We also have our own personal reality, which may or may not mesh completely with that world view.  Mentally ill people certainly do not mesh with the common world view–but I don’t think that their (other) world view is necessarily false.  They may actually be seeing something different than we are that is just as valid, just as real–just not what the rest of us have agreed upon in order to interact with a common starting point. I believe that we create our reality with the choices we make.  And I mean every single choice, not just the obvious major choices like which college you’re going to attend, or taking this job over that.  I mean, quite literally, EVERY choice.  Which means that every action is essentially a choice, this over that.  And each time it happens, there is a branching from the path–but every other choice also branches off, infinitely.  I believe in infinite universes; we don’t see them because we are focused on our common world view.  (It is possiible, occasionally, to make choices that bring us back and connect us to an alternate branching made somewhere in the past.)  I also suspect that some of the paranormal activity we do acknowledge (some more than others, haha) is actually “bleed over” from other universes.  The dinosaurs exist in other realities where the asteroid did not wipe them out. Our secondary reality is our own, personal reality.  Again, it may mesh completely with the common world reality.  But think of how many times you thought things were going swmimingly, only to discover that the other person/people in your life were unhappy with the situation?  Your view of the shared reality was different from theirs, causing conflict because you didn’t hold a common view.  Thus your shock when the lover suddenly (to your mind) ends the love affair, or the dismay to discover that while you thought you were doing a great job, your boss did not…and you’re no longer employed. What is reality?  What is real?  “Real” is like “Truth”.  Very dynamic, very fluid–and mostly based on your point of view.  (Thank you Obi Wan Kenobi, for pointing that out.)  The reality of our world today is vastly different from the reality of the world 20 years ago, 40 years ago, 300 years ago.  Choices changed it.  But again, I believe that somewhere, where we no long focus, there is our world, in a different reality–but just as “REAL” and just as valid as the one we are living in today.  And get ready to have your mind blown: if we could look at those worlds, we could see ourselves–the alternate self who made another choice.  Who is to say that *we* are really the person whose name is Kate or John?  Maybe WE are the “alternate selves”.  The wonder of this concept of mine is that it doesn’t matter.  Whether we are the dreamer or the one in the dream, our perception of ourselves and of our world is “real” and valid.  It is the truth.  Well, it is OUR truth. And like Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?  Is truth unchanging laws?  We both have truths, are mine the same as yours?”  Even scientists are working within this paradox of infinite choices, infinite universes.  They observe their experiments and get AN answer in THIS common world reality.  I believe that there are other results in other realities.  So our scientific knowledge is also limited by the agreed upon, common world reality.  Doesn’t mean we should stop trying to find things out… And as for your being “Dumber than dirt”…that inquisitiveness you talk about is what I refer to as “questing intelligence” and I prize it over any super IQ level a person can show.  You can be very smart and not have that drive, that “want to know why”–and frankly, I consider smart with out wanting to know why as very boring.  You, sir, are NOT boring!  This thread is precisely the kind of discussion I enjoy the most.  So now the ball is back in your court…looking forward to your next volley of thought! Namaste!
SB:
I think JB and Kitty, that you both, with your inquisitive and intelligent brains, should write a book…a back and forth of ideas and realities. It would be really really interesting. At least an article of these comments would be fantastic and we could both use the money! My son and I will sell it for you! Loved reading all the comments. JB…you have met your match with Miss Kitty.
JB:
SB: I think you’re loco! Kitty is smart but any scientist with any knowledge at all would probably laugh at me! I’m just a curious novice, that’s all. Thanks for the mention though!  This isn’t a “match”.  Just a friendly discussion that’s all!
Hi, Kitty: Each of us perceives the universe from our own perspective depending on all that has happened to us during our lifetimes.  Agreement of our personal realities create our perception of the universe as we know it (a chair is a chair, a star is a star, etc.).  In that context, mentally ill people do mesh with the world view in that the world view agrees something is wrong with these folks (like myself for example!).  The choices we make most definitely do create our reality but I’ve read that we actually don’t make these choices consciously.  Rather, our brains compute all our decisions on a second-by-second basis based on environmental factors, other people’s ideas, and past experiences without us even being aware of what’s going on.  I believe more than one experiment has proved this.  We think we, as individuals, are making these decisions but it’s actually just our brain computing what to do next without our knowledge.  Because of this, I, and many others, don’t believe we humans really have free will.  We just instantaneously react to our environment based on what we’ve learned in life.  Depressing, I know!  As you say: anything anywhere in the universe does affect all other things in the Universe to one degree or the other no matter how slight that effect may be.  The effects are so insignificant in the overwhelming majority of instances, however, that they really have no effect at all and aren’t even considered in our daily lives.  My movements for example do affect the planet Jupiter to an infinitesimal degree but this doesn’t make any difference in the overall pattern of things.  In other words:  there are some very weird truths in the Universe but they don’t matter if they don’t affect us.  I think this may apply to consciousness and the Universe and am fairly convinced that our consciousness does not in any way affect the Universe.  Just my opinion of course.
The concept of multiverses is an accepted one in astrophysics and cosmology although I don’t pretend to know all the particulars of this mathematical concept.  It’s of course possible dinosaurs still exist in another universe but there is no way to prove it.  I don’t believe in the paranormal although there may be some biased evidence pointing to it.  As someone named James Huber once said:  “I’m a strong atheist.  I believe that gods are by definition supernatural beings, that the supernatural by definition violates natural law, violating natural law is by definition impossible, and impossible things by definition can’t exist.”  Narrow-minded?  Maybe:  but it makes sense to me.  Truth is subjective.  What some believe to be true is obviously not true for others. Choices DO change everything but you lost me when you said, “somewhere, where we no longer focus, there is our world, in a different reality–but just as “REAL” and just as valid as the one we are living in today.”  “Where” would this other world be?  In a multiverse of some sort?  OK.  But how can we prove this and isn’t proof and evidence the basis of all science?  Without proof there is only faith and that can’t be used for much of anything.  Imagine us using faith to get to the Moon for example.  Yes.  We could indeed be in another multiverse but, while this concept is fascinating and certainly possible, how does that help us in our own multiverse here and now?  In the realm of our universe truth in my opinion is what can be demonstrably proven through experiment and hard facts and this would be accomplished through the laws of physics.  Sure they’re not perfect by any means and we obviously don’t understand them completely (apparently they cease to operate in a black hole for example) but they explain much of the observable universe as we know it and are very useful in our daily lives and the progress of society.  They would be my “truth” against which to measure things, but that’s just me.   I don’t believe the Jesus story (there are nothing but the gospels to substantiate his existence and these are suspect) but I do agree the universe or universes is (are) infinite as are all possibilities.  However, all we know is THIS reality here and now and we are unquestionably limited by that fact.  While we can speculate about other realities, unfortunately at the present time all we can know and use is the reality we’re in.  I agree completely that we MUST continue to pursue knowledge wherever we can in all disciplines as this will result in the progress of mankind and maybe in the eventual survival of our species (the Sun will fry and envelope us in a couple of billion years if we don’t find another place to live). I’m a very curious person and that’s what drives me to investigate things as much as I can in my limited little universe.  Thank goodness for inquisitive people such as yourself or we’d still be living in caves!  In my opinion, it’s the “why?” in life that drives society and our species to be better and better.  When the search for knowledge is throttled, civilization deteriorates and that’s what I’m afraid is occurring in the U.S. with the results of the 2010 elections and the advent of the Tea Party and its disciples.  I think the entire country is “dumbing down”, and this scares me to death!  Ignorance is NOT bliss in any context!  Thank goodness for open minded folks such as yourself and your quest for knowledge! Without it we’d be in deep, deep trouble!  I’m used to dealing with people on Facebook who are satisfied with what is or was and are easily offended by things I say.  My conversation with you is a very fresh and enlightening experience for me!  At least you listen.  I really enjoy these little exchanges also.  You can’t learn unless you listen to the other person.  It’s been nice listening to you! Oh, well!  Back to Travis’ and my Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg research project. We’re WAY behind schedule and our book is due to the publisher this summer.  It’s interesting but VERY tedious!
SB:
(to Kitty) I’m proud of son’s book (he took JB’s original research at the national archives and worked four years on researching each man there plus other information) and he found a great publisher and it was published last year. Now they have a contract for the companion book to be finished this summer but is a harder book to research because of lack of records in the south.
Kitty
Hey there, JB! Read your comments, and now I have some of my own to share: “Each of us perceives the universe from our own perspective” – absolutely.  Couldn’t be any other way.  And yes, we do then agree on the “norm” of the shared pers…pective of our current living situation.  But I would argue that “the world view agrees that something is wrong with (the mentally ill)” does not mean that they are wrong—only that we perceive them to be wrong because they don’t agree with us–on the common perspective.  But that may find its roots in my belief in reincarnation (For a full explanation of this, see my essay on this subject on www.cotcg.com, in the Library under Essays, called “Choosing to Live Again”).  When you live life after life, experiencing all that there is, perhaps being “tuned in” to alternate universes (as part of your life experience) may be a symptom of mental illness for those within what is your “common universe view”.  More simply, those who agree with the common view would of course view those who did not as wrong, “not all there”, or mentally ill. I would agree with you that many, if not most, of those choices are made on a very subconscious, even UN-conscious level.  Most people are simply not aware of themselves and their surroundings on a conscious, thinking level at all.  But choices must be made, and the brain WILL compute it, with or without input from the “self”, or ego, whatever you want to call the person of the person.  And most certainly our past experiences and our environment (nature and nurture) will strongly influence even those unconscious choices. Free will is an interesting concept.  It requires a precise definition before you can really apply the term.  If you say that free will is the opportunity to choose whatever you want without a specific limiter of what the choice is about, it does exist in a sort of symbolic, non-attainable way. (At least, not without a high cost, I think—the self awareness necessary for it is not something that is encouraged in our world, no matter what your nationality.)  Yes, we do rather tend to react as you say, instantaneously to our environment based on what we’ve learned in life.  So many people go through their lives in a sort of fog, just drifting like smoke through the air, going where the winds take them.  If free will means that we can choose our destiny—the path of our life—then it most assuredly does exist, but again most people just prefer to have someone else do their thinking for them and make their decisions based on external stimuli and past actions.  As far as making a difference in the universe, I must humbly but staunchly assert that you sir, are incorrect.  We DO make a difference.  Most people do not make perhaps a difference that we can see or measure…but we all make SOME difference.  The very fact life exists makes a difference to this universe, which would otherwise be nothing but interesting rocks and stars and gas giants, etc…Carbon-based life was a choice, rather than silicon or helium based life forms.  But as individual humans, our differences measured against the infinite scope of the universe would be so small as to appear non-existent.  You can’t prove that we make a difference, but you can’t prove that we don’t.  So I shall stand on this side of the argument and hold your hand from where you stand on the other. And Truth is most assuredly subjective.  We are in complete agreement on that one.  As for un-provable concepts (other realities, for examples)…I guess it’s word-chopping, but I prefer to consider them as “un-provable but viable” rather than “faith”.  To quote that great scientist, Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black): “Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” (Substitute the words “it was accepted as scientific fact” for “everybody/you knew”.) Just because we cannot prove it today does not make it UN-provable.  Our scientific methods and learning are as fluid as Truth.  So YOUR “truth” (against which to measure things”” is also a dynamic, changing truth and open to new knowledge, new proofs.  But that’s just me! Thank you for your kind words.  It is the “why” that drives me and the force in other’s intelligence that I seek out.  You are right when you say that so many people (and not just on Facebook, sadly enough) are “satisfied with what is or was and are easily offended by things [being said]”.  I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do…it’s things like Sci, History, DIY, Discovery and those type of channels.  I adore “How It’s Made” and “Modern Marvels”.  Fortunately, so does my husband—although he probably wouldn’t BE my husband if he did not also share the need to know why.  And the discussion we are having (I was only using the tennis allegory, I do NOT consider this a match for how could we tell who had won? LOL) is the kind of talk I adore—and I’m glad we’re having it.  Would you mind if I use the marvelous cut’n’paste to put it all together into a blog?  I agree with SB that it should be put “out there” for others who might want to join in.  Let me know… And I am impressed that you are a published author…my publishing is all softcopy, nothing in hardback yet!  I appreciate that you take the time from your research to have this little chat with me.  We can talk about Jesus some other time, because I have some interesting ideas about him too.  <Grin> Namaste!
JB:
Right and wrong are subjective concepts established by the society we live in.  Nothing in essence is really “right” or “wrong”.  We just use these terms to define things in that way based on our subjective interpretation of things as the m…ajority of society interprets them.  Everyone is “right” in their subjective opinions but others think them “wrong” based on theirs.  What we consider “crazy” people are by their own standards perfectly normal (people think I’m “crazy” but I know I’m not; ha, ha).  But what does that really all mean when you get right down to it?  We have different subjective perspectives but so what? Scientists are now relatively sure that the universe came from absolutely nothing.  No divine entity, no god, simply not anything.  As physicist Stephen Hawking said, “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.  It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”  Physicist Robert A.J. Matthews of Aston University in England says the same:  “It is now becoming clear that everything can — and probably did — come from nothing.”  And the astronomy department at Cornell University the same:  “Space and time both started at the Big Bang and therefore there was nothing before it.”  If this is true (and based on science I believe it is) the remainder of your assumptions are unfortunately null and void.  There is no “divine” to return to after many reincarnations because there was none to begin with.  I unfortunately do NOT believe in the concept of reincarnation itself.  Believe me….I wish I did!  It would give me some comfort in my old age!  My first question to believers in this concept would be what actually reincarnates?  Science has found nothing in the human anatomy, physiology or neurology, which could possibly do this.   Human thought, memories, consciousness and everything else we associate with being “ourselves” comes from the brain.  All of these things can be influenced by alcohol, drugs, a rap on the head, and most importantly death.  They all die when our brains die.  What can possibly survive to be reincarnated?  A “spark”?  What exactly would that be?  As I’ve explained before, I also don’t believe in “free will” or that we really make our own choices.  Our brains do that.  As you say, our choices DO affect our lives (including the choice not to choose) but I don’t feel we really have any choice in any of these decisions.  We simply react to what’s going on now based on our unique past experiences and what they’ve taught us.  I’ve never heard any scientific description of “spiritual planes” or “mentor/guides”.   These are all in an invisible spiritual realm of some sort and as John Stuart Mill said, “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”  I therefore don’t rely on invisible support to get by.  As one very cogent individual once said, “If we were made in his (god’s) image, then why aren’t humans invisible too?” To me our “sense of purpose” is what we learn as we develop in life.  To learn to do “good” rather than “bad”; to help life rather than hurting it; to find the truth in myth and superstition; in short, to the best of our abilities be a useful person helping civilization progress and become better and more knowledgeable as it goes.  In essence, be “Another Godless Atheist for Peace and World Harmony” as someone once said.  Acceptance of this concept doesn’t require reincarnation but simply a willingness in each of us to help improve the world in some manner or the other no matter how little our contributions may be during our lifetimes.  Everyone pulling together would create miracles.  Maybe it’ll happen one day!  We can only work toward this goal and hope. Remaining in the Zen “now” moment, while useful during our lifetimes, unfortunately stops when this moment reaches the death or malfunction of our brains.  After that there unfortunately is no “now” for any of us.  I wish there was!  Is there any proof the now continues? Of course we make at least SOME difference in our daily lives but only to those in our immediate vicinity as we encounter and interact with them during the day.  We can also influence others by what we say or do or otherwise communicate.  Others make a lot of difference to a lot of people (Obama for example and other world leaders), BUT physically, compared to the enormity of the Universe, the solar system or even our Earth, we make no difference at all.  If we did the Earth would react to each of the 9,000 or more human deaths which occur each and every day (over 11 million this year alone).  Some 103 billion people have died on the Earth, yet it keeps humming along without them.  Our body mass, compared with that of Jupiter, the Sun or the Universe, is totally insignificant in all respects.  It’s like we don’t exist at all.  That’s what I was trying to say. Life undoubtedly exists in infinite variety in any numbers of localities in the universe but that life has absolutely ZERO effect on us here on Earth.  Our civilization also has zero affect on those civilizations (unless they picked up some of our TV transmissions at some point:  ha, ha).  I, and many scientists, think carbon-based life was simply a chemical accident.  As Dr. James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) has said, “I don’t think we’re here for anything, we’re just products of evolution.  You can say ‘Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose’, but I’m anticipating a good lunch.” Silicon or helium based life forms, as well as any number of other combinations; probably exist in one form or the other throughout the universe.  We just don’t know it.
According to physics, we DO make a difference but only in our immediate small areas of habitation.  Our mass is infinitely too small to affect much of anything and its effect decreases with distance so, as I previously pointed out, we as in…dividuals DO affect Jupiter but the effect is practically nonexistent since we’re too small and far away.  Jupiter affects us also but again in a minor way as gigantic as it is, it’s so far away.  You’d best not hold my hand:  SB might get jealous!  Ha, ha! As I said:  literally ANYTHING is possible and potentially viable but unfortunately not provable.  I stand on the side of provable rather than that of speculation, myth, fantasy or faith.  In my book, faith is good for nothing but imagined false comfort during hard times. I remember Jones’ little discourse alright.  Of course we don’t know everything at the moment, and humanity may never accomplish this, but science through learning, study and experimentation has got us to where we are today and I would much, much, much rather accept this “proof” and approach than depend on myth, superstition and faith.  You’re right:  scientific “truth” at this moment in time is of course not the final truth, but science becomes more and more refined, precise and evolved on a daily basis and I’m confident will one day be able to explain our current mysteries as it has done in the past.  I hope we continue on the path of knowledge rather than descend again into the myths and superstitions of the past.  Think where we would be if not for the Dark Ages when the myth and superstition of the church ruled the roost!  If we continue the path of science, imagine where we’ll be in another 100 years! I’m strongly of the opinion that religion of any sort, belief in the supernatural, and belief in the efficacy of spells, rituals, etc. is simply wishful thinking on our part.  We humans feel small and helpless (and we are:  I’ve read that the only reason humanity survived is because the carnivores of the time didn’t like the way we tasted!) and sincerely want to have some sort of control over our lives.  Believing an invisible entity is watching over us, that we survive death, or that we can somehow influence our surroundings to our benefit is purely and simply a way to help us get through the day and make us feel better.  It’s nice to wish these things were true but there is no evidence they exist.  Oh, well!  We can always hope!   I watch the same channels you do and LOVE “How It’s Made” and similar presentations.  I find them fascinating!  It’s wonderful and marvelous what the inquisitive, every striving mind of man has accomplished over the centuries.  Hopefully we’ll keep it up (we must to one day survive the bulging Sun)!  The neo-conservatives and Tea Party have me REALLY worried however!  They’re “dumbing us down”! I’m really not the brightest bulb when it comes to this kind of stuff:  I’m just curious.  I’ll probably be embarrassed and put to shame if a true scientist joins the conversation!  Still and all:  I might learn something so it’s up to you if you want to “blog” what we have said.  I’m sure others will think me stupid (as well I might be)!  I also must devote more time to my son’s and my work on the Gettysburg Confederate casualties so may not be able to participate for much longer (if that matters).      My publications are all strictly reference material for Gettysburg aficionados (number of soldiers in individual units, number of casualties, a long list of the Federal dead and other casualties, burials in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, etc., etc.) and the rest of the country could care less (hence my very small royalties twice a year or so).  Your article was very well written and knowledgeable.  I just don’t agree with its basic precepts which of course means ZERO to everyone else in the world, ha, ha!  Like I said:  I enjoy trading ideas with folks, but most of those I’ve encountered on Facebook are rather strongly tied to their ideologies and don’t much countenance by observations.  Oh, well!  “Different strokes for different folks”, I guess!  Exchanging ideas with you has been fun though!  Thanks! I’d like to hear what you have to say about JC because I, with scholars such as D.M. Murdock (Acharya S.), Earl Doherty, Ken Humphreys, Jim Walker and others really don’t believe he ever existed at all.  Interesting huh?!  All the best, and have a good one!  (The End:  I’ll bet you’re happy!).
Anonymous Comment:
OMG………………..
JB:
OMG what?  Just a friendly discussion.

I Pray These Words, That Thou May Hearest Me

What is prayer?  Prayer, as found at dictionary.com is:
1. a devout petition to God or an object of worship.
2. a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.
3. the act or practice of praying to God or an object of worship.
4. a formula or sequence of words used in or appointed for praying: the Lord’s Prayer.
5. prayers, a religious observance, either public or private, consisting wholly or mainly of prayer.

I would add one more definition: Prayer is the VISUALISATION for the manifestation of the ACTUALIZATION you desire.  In other words, you just think the things you want or the change in the real world that you are hoping for.

Let’s start with the Christian concepts of prayer.  There’s The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the prayer that the pastor does to lead sinners to Jesus.  There’s prayer in church, at meals and over the sick or dying.  There’s the blessing prayers at a baptism, child dedication or a wedding.  And for many, there is the daily prayers of their lives, an ongoing communication with their God.  As a Christian, there are so many ways of prayer, so many types of prayers, that it can lose its meaning in the hum of the automatic repetition of words that have no thought behind them, no visualisation for the type of result that is desired.

Prayer is a mighty and powerful thing, but so many people tend to use it either as a way to get God to give them all the things they want or as the Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable: “Look at me God, see what a great person I am”.  And sadly for too many Christians, the pat comment of “I’ll pray for you” is a rote and meaningless response to disaster, need and a request for help.  It’s a way to sound like you’re doing something when you’re asked to pitch in.  Jesus DID things throughout the Gospels and only PRAYED near the end of his human life.  I have always liked Mother Teresa’s praying–done as she was helping others, active physical praying with hands that were working, eyes open to see the sacredness in the people she was caring for.  Her entire life was a prayer.  THAT is the kind of praying that will make a change, not the mouthing of words that mean nothing to the one saying them and certainly not when the pronouns being uttered are I, me, mine.

I want to specifically address memorized or “group” prayers, such as the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer) or the Hail Mary.  I’m going to start with a dissection of the Our Father, to start you thinking about what it is you are really praying when you repeat the words you’ve said so many times.  I will warn you that I am not a Christian, but do believe in a Supreme Deity.  Whatever words you use to speak to YOUR concept of Divinity, YOUR god or God, this prayer is still a good one for you because of what the words mean — to you.  I am only offerring my ideas of what they might mean, so you are free to agree or disagree, but as long as it makes you think, my job here is finished, my friend.  Where was I?  Oh yes…

“Our Father, who are in Heaven” — naming the Divine (such a futile practice, but it’s like saying “Hi Mike” when you call your friend.  Lets the person on the other end know that you are talking to them) and opening a dialogue with that Being.  This, by the way, is completely for YOUR benefit.  It actually opens your awareness, alerts your mind and soul, that you reaching out to the Sacred One (Or Ones, or God, or any god.  Once you realize that this bulky and awkward method of naming the Divine/Deity/gods/God/Allah/Jehovah means ummm ANY Sacred Being to which you turn for help, we can stop using it and get on with our discussion of prayer.  I’ll just use the shorthand of “G/god(dess) to cover it, ok?  Just saying.).

“Hallowed be The Name” — acknowledging the Sacred and the fact that even while the naming of the Divine limits it to that concept, any name used for it is a Sacred Name.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s Jesus, God, Allah, Jehovah, Ishtar, Horus, Odin, Brigit, Quetzacoatl, or Harvey.  Whatever (name placeholder) you use to describe/name/address your G/god(dess)…you acknowledge and state the sacredness of that name.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” — Things would just be so much better if everybody honored the sacred and lived their lives according to the knowledge that ALL is sacred.  Compassion and respectful conduct towards not only other humans, but animals, the environment and the planet becomes second nature when your attitude is one of honoring the sacred within all.  Earth could become Heaven if we all behaved that way.

“Give us this day our daily bread” — Not a demand for things we want.  Let me say it again, so that it really sinks it.  This phrase does NOT mean I can demand that G/god(dess) give me all the things I want or think I “need”.  This is an acknowledgement that we are provided for, on a very basic level, if we ask for it–and in fact, we are blessed with an (over)abudance if we will adopt the posture of grateful begging.  Look to the Buddhist monks for this.  They do not always fix their own meals.  They have what are called “begging bowls” which they take out into their community and each person gives them some food.  In this way, the people who are giving receive the blessing of sharing what they have–and they never share more than they can afford to give.  They are not pauperized, giving up their “taxes” to the monks.  It’s not a demanded thing.  They either have food to share or not.  The monks are blessed with food for their body and the honor of receiving those donations.

Small side note here: As Americans and as Christians, we have it drilled into us that it is “more blessed to give than to receive”.  I call bullshit.  Giving can be a wonderul blessing–as long as it’s not an ego stroke, doesn’t inflate the person’s concept of self because they are oh so generous.  Receiving can also be a great blessing.  You are allowing someone else the blessing of the giving and you learn how to accept with a full and happy heart, grateful without being embarrassed or ashamed of the need, without resentment at having to ask in the first place.  It is no small thing to know how to receive honestly, openly, in perfect harmony with the giver.  It is a blessing for both sides of that equation.  Now back to what we were talking about.

One more comment of the concept of “grateful begging”.  For a long time, I have used this analogy when talking to people about having things and abundance: how do you hold the most amount of sand?  If you grasp it, it will slip through your hands and be gone.  BUT…if you hold your hands out, cupped together, the sand will fill them and overflow.  This is the abundance that G/god(dess) wants to give to you.  If you grasp at things, you will never have as much as if you stand with your hands held out, in this attitude of grateful begging, ready to receive the amazing and overwhelming abundance that will come from the Sacred Being you are connected to.

“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” — frankly, if your life is dedicated to honoring the sacred, if your goal each day is to mark and show respect to all that is sacred as you encounter it in your daily routine, temptation and evil are not going to be problems for you.  Well, not as much.  Temptation, being tempted…happens to everyone, but needs to be acknowledged for what it is: the desire to have something that is not yours.  Whether it’s an actual item or an intangible like a lifestyle or position, it’s still not yours.  And by desiring more, you are in effect denying all that you have been given….turning your nose up at the G/god(dess)’s gifts.  Stop it.  (And I say that to me, as well.)  Delivery from evil…I believe in evil.  It does exist.  It occurs any time and anywhere that the sacred is NOT honored, not respected.  Evil is the opposite of the sacred and frankly, I don’t think that it’s scaled.  There’s no such thing as “just a little evil” or one act being a “lesser” evil.  Deny the sacred and that’s evil.

“For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory for ever, Amen” — A reaffirmation of the Sacred and all that comes from the G/god(dess), forever and ever.  Amen.  So Mote it Be. Namaste.

Having “deconstructed” the Our Father…let’s turn our attention to the Hail Mary (and all other memorized, repetitive prayers).  I would offer the suggestion that rote prayer (any prayer that is a set, memorized bunch of words) serves the same function as a mantra–and indeed, IS a mantra.  What is a mantra?  Let’s go back to dictionary.com and see what it says:
Mantra:
1. Hinduism . a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism: If I hear the “less is more” mantra one more time, I’ll scream.

So it’s a word or formula (string of words) chanted or sung as…a prayer.

The object of a mantra is to focus your mind on the task at hand.  The Little Engine That Could (“I think I can, I think I can”) and Dory’s “Just keep swimming” are both mantras for our daily lives, a formula for getting through or succeeding where we need the extra focus to achieve.  But when you repeat a mantra specifically within the precepts of sacred space (in English: saying Hail Mary in church), you are focusing your mind, your consciousness, on the sacred, on G/god(dess) and your connection to Him/Her/It.

I recently saw this and thought it very pointedly correct: Prayer is when you talk to God.  Meditation is when you listen to God.  So I prefer meditation as a regular activity over prayer simply because I need to listen to what G/god(dess) is trying to tell me.  If prayer (or meditation) is a conversation with G/god(dess), it should be a two way street, not a monologue of “I want this” and “I need that” and “Give me all the good stuff”.  Have you ever started talking to someone, with the point of asking them to do something…given a long list of why they should do it, pleadings about doing it quickly…only to have them look at you and say, “But it’s already done, if you had given me a chance at the beginning of your speech to tell you…I could have saved you the breath and effort you just made.”?  I suspect that’s how it goes with G/god(dess).  As Infidel Guy says, “What is the purpose of prayer?  What can a finite being on Earth possibly tell an omnipotent, omniscient, Universe-creating deity that he/she/it doesn’t know already?  If prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever.”

The only argument I would offer him is that prayer does actually work.  All that we ask for, all that we seek is given to us, beyond our wildest imagination.  We just need to remember that sometimes, the answer is “NO!”.  And sometimes, the answer is “Yes, but you’re going to be sorry.  Learn this lesson well, My child.”  As I said up there in the opening paragraphs, prayer is a mighty and powerful thing.  Be careful what you pray for, because you may get it.  And think your prayers through very carefully.  Mark Twain wrote a story called “The War Prayer” —   (http://www.ntua.gr/lurk/making/warprayer.html for the entire story, totally worth the read, please do!)  — which clearly demonstrates what happens when you pray for things without thought for the consequences.  Your prayer for wealth might cause poverty for someone else.  Your prayer for health might lead to a physically able life filled with spiritual dis-ease.  (Yes, “DIS – ease”…lack of ease)  Your admittedly benevolent prayer for someone else might actually create hardship because you interfered with the sacred progression of their life as it was to be.

Prayer is a lot more than just some words strung together and flung out into the Universe, with the faint hope that *someone* out there will hear and answer us.  Prayer is the creating of the image in our minds (VISUALIZATION) of the events we hope to see come true (ACTUALIZATION).  Remember?  That’s where we started this conversation.  And here is where I am going to get controversial: Prayer most often seems to be about these three pronouns: I, me, mine.  Even when it’s ostensibly for someone else, it’s still “Hey G/god(dess), *I* want you to heal Joe/help Kerry/guide Sam to You.”  I think it’s a really good idea if You listen to me and do what I think is best.  Arrogant, just a little?  I am not saying that all prayer is like this, just that enough of it is we ought to really reconsider even praying at all.  Leave G/god(dess) alone, He/She/It has enough to do without listening to our pathetic whining.

If you must pray, do it in motion.  Do it with the attitude that you seek what is your life’s path, the life that the G/god(dess) gave to you, to find the sacred in all.  Pray by planting a garden of vegetables that will feed your family…or feed hungry people in your community.  Pray by preparing a meal for family and friends.  Pray by tending to the sick, fighting for the downtrodden, holding the hand of the dying, greeting the baby that has just been born.  Pray by walking as you are able to cut down on the use of fossil fuels.  Pray by recycling to reduce the strain on this planet we call home.  Pray by giving time and money to those who need, within your neighborhood or city…or across the world.

Pray by being honest in your business transactions.  Pray by doing your job faithfully and diligently, striving to achieve by being the best *you* and by your effort.  Pray by listening to your child and really paying attention to him/her.  Pray by knowing where your child is and what they are doing–and by being a consistent and fair disciplinarian.  (If you discipline, punishment is generally NOT necessary.)  Pray by honoring your parents and all of those who were there to help guide you in your life–whether through just your actions or by taking care of them, in turn, in their old age.  Pray by showing your true and living devotion/faith to G/god(dess) to those who do not believe as you do–without denigrating their beliefs and with the understanding that there are many paths with just one destination. You can pray with your entire being, by seeking the sacred with any action or thought you have, with every moment in your day.  If you do that, you will pray by living a holy life.  You will be praying by honoring the sacred wherever you find it and therefore honoring with every act and every word, the connection between all of us.

And at the end of the day, meditate….to hear what G/god(ess) will say to you.

And I close this with the Sanskrit word, Namaste.  It means this:
“I honor the place in you where Spirit lives.
I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me,
Then we are One.”

Namaste, indeed.