We should seek not so much to pray
but to become prayer. – Francis of Assisi
On Saturday, the feast day of St. Francis, I went with a friend on a six mile hike. It was a mixed terrain. We walked through water, forest, stone, field.
We encountered deer and four horses.
Leaves fell around us as we walked and walked.
Our muscles ached.
It was beautiful.
And when I thought to myself that maybe I shouldn’t spend my whole entire day hiking, when that little fist of anxiety clenched at me and said, there are things to be done – chores and work, I breathed into it. I breathed into the clenching. I asked myself what could be more important than stepping one foot in front of the other through the woods, encountering a buck who stands and gazes back in cautious peace.
Afterwards, I came home and filled a tub with hot water and salt and oils and flower essences. I lit candles all around the room. I turned up Krishna Das. I slid into my bath and the music flowed through me.
I did the thing I do in my bath, I talked to God and cried and listened.
I felt answers in my bones and watched.
And when I had said what I needed to say and heard what I needed to hear, I just floated there in the water and I looked down at my body.
The same body I’ve cursed at and tried so hard to change and in that moment, in the water and the candle light, it looked beautiful to me. It looked like what it is – a sacred creation.
And I realized that if I could hold to that truth, if I could stay there, ever in the knowledge that my body is holy and beautiful just as everyone’s body is holy and beautiful, it would change the way I speak and think and act, not only toward myself but toward the world and everyone I meet.
I think this is what it is to be a prayer.
I’ve been trying something new in traffic. When I’m sitting at busy intersections and cars are turning left in front of me, I try to love each driver as she or he passes by me. They’re talking into their cell phones, they’re hanging cigarettes out the window, they’re singing along with the radio, they’re concentrating on the road, they’re talking to their children in the back seat.
One right after the other, men, women, young, old. I love you, I think, as I gaze at them. You are the face of God.
I don’t always feel the love, but every now and then I do and it’s extraordinary.
It feels like dissolving into the stars, no edges.
It feels like the sun pouring down through my crown, like honey, like oneness.
Because it is oneness.
It’s easy to talk about love and it’s easy to feel love toward the people we know, the people who are kind to us, the people we treasure.
It’s easy to talk about philosophies and ideologies and the big picture.
It’s a little bit harder to put one foot in front of the other in Love, to speak love and offer love…to everyone. In every moment.
It’s a journey of failing and trying again and failing and trying again.
I think this is how it is to live prayer.
And just like a prayer that you recite, the feeling doesn’t have to be there. The action, the word, the intention, the invitation – none of these things need the feeling, but when you do them, when you fail at love and try again, over and over, the feeling comes. It shows up.
And you remember that this is truth. That this is all there is.
You are love.
I am love.
This whole world a temple.
This whole world.