Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Are Prayers?

Prayer Tree
Mixed Media with recycled prayer flags
8" x 8" matte, image size 3.75" x 4.5"
$25 including shipping in North America

This little piece has bits of recycled prayer flags.  Is this kosher?  I never quite know what to do with my prayer flags when the strings break and they are hanging all crazy.  I know they are sending their little threads of prayers off into the world but at some point the tattered bits need to come down off my city balcony and be replaced by new ones.  So I hit upon using the left over weathered bits in art work.  I mean you can't throw your unused prayers in the garbage, can you.  No, it doesn't seem quite right.  So they go out into the world again in pieces of art.

So tonight when I looked at this piece I wondered to myself.  Self I said, what are prayers?  And the answer came back that prayers are an asking for help.  We are just asking out in the universe, out there into the mysterious unknown.  We might ask for help for someone who is having troubles, or someone who has died, or  help for the world in general or some direction for ourselves.  We can pray for anything really.  My Zen teacher has talked about asking for help.  It was such a foreign concept to most of us when we first heard it.  "What is it good to do?"  is a question she suggested we use if we were having trouble in some situation.  And then she would say that the answer would come to us in various forms.  And that we might not always recognize it when it comes.  One of her suggestions is that we ask for help and then sit quietly for a bit.  If we are not hearing an answer she suggested we ask 3 times.

What we are listening for is the still small voice.  But the answer can come as a chance meeting, a phone call, an article that appears in the paper.  We must be ready and open to hear the answer.  And we must have faith that the answer will come and trust ourselves enough to know when the answer appears.  That always was a favourite question of us students.  "How do we know it's the answer?  How can we tell a real answer from something that we conjured up in our head?"  We didn't really trust that much and our hearing skills were not very good.  We were like people with really bad eye sight and cotton batting stuffed in our ears.  We were "answer challenged" types.  And patiently our teacher would say, "If you listen long enough and get  enough practice, you will know when the answer arrives."  Sometimes I hear my answer when I ask and sit and sometimes it takes a while.  It may arrive several days later when I'm in the shower.  The shower is kind of like an answer magnet for me.

And many of our prayers don't require answers.  We are wishing safety and comfort, safe passage and an absence of suffering for some sentient beings or part of the natural world.  Fascinating research has been done suggesting that people who are prayed for fare better in medical situations, even when they are prayed for by strangers from afar and even when they don't know they are being prayed for.  It kind of boggles the western, logical scientific mind, the whole idea of prayer.  But there it is....  Another one of those things that can't be understood with the head.  It is the heart, the authentic self that really understands... and it understands it in a way that doesn't easily translate into words.  Excuse me I have some listening I have to do.


  1. oooo - I love this piece! How beautiful - the art piece and the blog...

    I love what you wrote here that "the answer comes in various forms" - as life unfolds. I have experienced this too - *waiting* for "the answer" to arise from the space of Stillness, and it shows up somewhere else unexpectedly - or not.

    It seems it always comes down to awareness and listening...

    Thanks for this!

    And, OMG, I just realized you added me to your blog list! Now that was unexpected! :) Oh gee, thanks for that too!

  2. Asking for help - wow, I just wrote about this. and you know, I'm really lousy at it. I'm really enjoying these little art pieces you're making.