"All is welcome" has been a navigating principle in my life. I had to question it recently with the unexpected death of a friend. That same day another friend's young son was killed in a car accident. How is this welcomed?
People die and are killed every day all over the world, and the sadness is palpable. Having someone so close suddenly die breaks the heart wide open. Perhaps this is the gift: a cracked wide open heart has the capacity to feel more pain and compassion for the suffering of others.
Grieving the death of a loved one brings awareness to our own mortality and impermanence. With this comes gratitude for this gift of life.
My life is prayer, a moment-by-moment summoning up of my most loving and creative response to divine initiative. Prayer is how my body, heart and mind resonate with the shifting circumstances and challenges that the universe throws my way. In sadness, I weep. When I look deeply into the eyes of another, my heart fills with love and my eyes overflow with another kind of tears. In fear, I contract, witness my withdrawal and ask for support. In confusion, I seek intellectual clarity. My understanding is that the creative, loving divine presence is within both the circumstance and my response. The end goal of prayer as one's life's work is the capacity to assume increasing degrees of responsibility as a life artist. At any given moment, the shape of our life, our relationships, our attitude, and behaviors are a perfect snapshot of our artistry. It can be sobering to take a fearless inventory of our life and realize that we are painter of the portrait.
All spiritual traditions speak of freedom as a fruit of the life of prayer. The paradox is that freedom increases in direct proportion to our capacity to take responsibility. Absolute freedom is ultimate responsibility and vice versa. When we realize that nobody and no circumstance has the power to steal our freedom, we break the bonds of victimhood and shift from being creatures to creators--"creaturehood" is transcended, yet included. Understanding one's life as a continual prayer is the royal road to this wisdom.
One of the labels I allow myself is "evolutionary mystic." What this means is that I know myself to be one with the cosmic processes that gave birth to me. I am the cosmic evolutionary impulse to transcend itself and realize deeper expressions of truth, beauty and goodness. It is, I am, we are--a process that has come to conscious awareness after 13.7 billion years. We are the presence of this universal creativity seeking to transcend itself and realize greater depths of beauty, goodness and truth. The "self" is not a discrete thing waiting to be found. It is not hiding. Like it or not, it is on public display. Rather, the journey is about expressing oneself as a manifestation of divine, universal creativity.
To use theological language, we are the divine heart and mind enjoying the ecstasies and devastations of what it means to be human. This practice of life as prayer helps us to shift out of the illusion of separation and the suffering caused by this isolated self- sense. We expand into an understanding and experience of self as a single, unified and unifying process seeking to give birth to a unique human (you) and, on a collective level, to the emergence of the new human. As the presence of the universe in human form evolving, we are its intimate expression. We are a living, learning universe, constantly experiencing and adapting to shifting life conditions. Rather than organizing our lives to cushion the crises, prayer as life's work reframes the various crises of life, planetary, relational and personal. These are reimagined and undergone as provocations that elicit new and necessary intelligences that will increase our capacity to make of our lives a more radiant offering, serving the ongoing evolution of the planet.
In my tradition, there is one prayer that encapsulates all that I am saying in a nine-word sentence, uttered by Mary, mother of Jesus: "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). This could be shortened to a single word, offered with sincerity at the beginning of our day. "Yes" to the birth of the sacred, in, through, and as me; "yes" to the birth of deeper intimacies in my relationships and community; "yes" to a collective shift in consciousness so that our social, political, economic, and technological systems are realigned in service to this one Earth community; "yes" to the divine invitation to assume, with grace and humility, responsibility for this sacred emergence. "Yes," and let it begin with me.