by John Flynn
Speaking from experience having been raised Catholic where praying in most instances was a rote list of needs and wants done with a begging mentality and from a place of seeing God as external, usually some elderly, paternal Father figure living in the Sky somewhere. It sounds comical, but when coming from a place of fear, it can feel very real and bring much suffering, since it is a place of powerlessness and unworthiness.
Prayer is something Indigenous shamanic people have used long before religion was perceived as the sole proprietor. Let me back up here and lay some groundwork.
The Shamanic path is simply the path of Spirit, and holds that everything is Spirit and we, too, are Spirit at our core essence. It may feel like we are separate from each other and nature, but that is merely how we perceive the world through our limiting personality/ego.
For the purposes of this article I will define it simply as follows,
Prayer is talking with Spirit:
But talking is only one half of the equation, the other half being ‘listening’, which is meditation.
Meditation is listening to Spirit:
So for ease of use, let the word prayer mean ‘prayer and meditation’ or ‘talking and listening’ to Spirit.
And what if prayer to Spirit was really a prayer to our own Spirit-essence, the Great Mystery within our own being. Going a step further ‘our own being’ meaning every cell that makes up our bodies down to the DNA level. From that conclusion, we can derive that Spirit lives in every cell that makes up the body.
And what if instead of praying because of some obligation done daily/weekly with standard words repeated without connection to their target, it was rather a way of living life that is sourced from the depth of our own heart so that every thought and action became a prayer.
And what if heart means honoring, loving, and having gratitude to oneself first and foremost because ‘I am Spirit first and foremost’. The prayers that will emerge from this depth of feeling will have a profoundly personal and sacred orientation to myself and the world.
And what if these prayers were infused with inspiring energies such as love, gratitude, compassion, power, courage, wisdom, self-worth, clarity and trust, etc.
And what if there was clear intention and focus behind these prayers.
The results of the above combinations would bring about a very integrated state of being and feeling of empowerment, just to start with.
So the question now is how does all of the above tie into shamanism? Jose Stevens in his book ‘Praying With Power’, describes indigenous peoples in the following way ‘their life is a prayer, from gathering and preparing herbs to cooking, from building a shelter to visiting relatives, all is done in the spirit of prayer’. Prayer is inclusive throughout daily life because the shamanic path is a practice of presence. To achieve this state of presence requires an intense commitment to stay focused on Spirit, regardless of the distractions and dramas going on round us.
A simple practice to start with is, seeing Spirit first in everyone you meet, and the surface or personality second. Everyone you encounter is your practice, when you forget, start over, and eventually it will become habitual. If you want to make it more challenging, extend the practice to include plants, animals and trees, etc. This practice can by enhanced by the work of Jose Stevens in his excellent book ‘Awaken the Inner Shaman’. Another great source is from author Paul Selig in his first book ‘I AM The WORD’. Both of these texts are full of helpful prayers and simple exercises, that when practiced bring deep change.
Indigenous cultures are closer to living a life connected to Spirit than we in the Western world are, so we look to them for wisdom and mentoring. They can provide guidance in a world that feels confusing at times.
In conclusion, the main thrust of this article has been to show that prayer is an establishment of a very personal and powerful relationship with Spirit.