When is the last time you stopped everything you were doing: turned your phone off (yes, totally off!), sat still, closed your eyes and held your city in a thought-space filled with nothing but pure goodness? Does that practice sound too religiously transcendental? Does it seem impossible?
If you live in Los Angeles like I do, this very well may be what you are thinking. As a millennial, I am keenly aware that I am a part of the least religious and most overstimulated generation in American history. As an Angeleno, I am conscious of living in one of the most expansive, traffic-laden landscapes on the globe. But what happens when I take the time -- usually three times a day -- to stop everything I'm doing and serve my city through stillness and prayer? In my experience, I get scientific results. Let me explain how these results can be replicated and maximized for anyone.
Let's define prayer first. Prayer is not wishful thinking, trial and error petitioning without repeatable results. For me, the kind of prayer Jesus taught was scientific and for everyone. The three-step method he teaches through the parable of a man sowing a seed can be found in the fourth chapter of Mark's gospel, "The seed sprouts and grows... the earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps -- harvest time!" (The Message, Eugene Peterson).
For me, prayer is taking the time to get quiet and mentally plant a seed of hope in the soil of consciousness. This first requires stillness and intention -- defining the parameters, desires, and outcomes for one's vision of how to best serve the community. This time of stillness yields the first stem of grass.
Next, after contemplating myself into stillness, I ask myself, "What would Los Angeles look like if it were heaven? What elements of it are heavenly right now and what elements are not?" Beginning to envision this ideal location, more a state of Mind than a geographic space, yields budding qualities in my thought: harmonious movement, rainbow diversity, creativity, compassion, inspiration, and healing. And the not so heavenly? Idolatry, vanity, materialism, competition, rushing around, poverty, etc. may also come into the thought-space.
I then do a little weeding by reversing each negative quality until they become ideas that promote growth and progress. I allow examples of singularity to replace the pictures of idolatry, vanity transforms into unified action, materialism melts into expressive spirituality, competition becomes collaboration, rushing around slows down to mindfulness, and poverty becomes receptivity to good. This leaves only ripened grain in the mental field.
The final step is to get up and reap the harvest! Once we have clarity on the inside, we can go out in the city and live our prayers by intentionally pursuing goodness everywhere possible. Through living a life of trial and prayer, I have learned there is a science behind service -- and this science requires evidence-based results with tangible effects. Science does not discriminate, it does not show favoritism, it does not fail. It works -- all the time, every time. The science of aerodynamics enables anyone to fly a plane if they really want to. The science of chemistry generates combustion when carbon and oxygen are combined regardless of who is doing it. And the science of service yields development, progress, and goodness for the greater community every time prayer is put into practice.
Last week, the many seeds sown into the city of Los Angeles were revealed as fully-formed grain during a weekend-long workshop hosted by the service based non-profit, Ignite Good. 30 of Los Angeles' most diverse and innovative millennials, from Compton to Sherman Oaks, Hollywood to Culver City, came together in Downtown Los Angeles to strategize how to best reap this harvest.
We did this with the help of a public narrative guru that took us from our story of self, through the story of us, to the story of now -- another three step-framework that I would define as a type of seed germinating prayer aligned with the science of service.
Whether you have a non-profit you serve with or regularly bring about change in your community, your hope for a better world is a beautiful prayer with roots. By sharing stories, vocalizing our desires together, and taking action we choose to prove that there is a science to service that anyone can take part in. The seeds of service have been sown in Los Angeles for decades now. There is no need to wait for upcoming generations to make the difference we are hoping for. No more will religious service be considered a ritualized form of worship, but it will be known as getting out in the community, making a difference, and showing our faith by our works.
Take some time today to get still and lift yourself and your city into a heavenly place. Not only will you be taking a tangible, yet simple, first step into service, but you'll be joining thousands of others in proving that there is no reason to surrender to the status quo. Rather, we can see the abundance of opportunity and resources from right where we are and rejoice -- it's harvest time here and now!
Join the Ignite Good community in LA, Wednesday April 30th to hear the stories of my fellow Igniters.