For the second time in our over three decades together, my honey has set up an “altar” to solicit the help of our departed ancestors and Guanyin. This time it’s for getting help to return me to wellness.
Neither of us are regular prayers; neither of us subscribe to any specific religion, and definitely not any institutionalized one. Neither of us have strong ideas about what there might be beyond the physical realm we experience while in our bodies on this earth. Some religious/philosophical concepts, like reincarnation, we relate to better than others, like hell.
In my honey’s memoir, How My Brother Got Married After He Died, he tells numerous stories about his personal encounters involving fengshui and other paranormal events. The many unusual experiences he wrote about are real, in the sense of not fabricated; he tells them as he saw, heard, and felt things.
He described the context of these supernatural events and explains them in the eastern philosophical words and practice of fengshui (wind-water, ancient Chinese system linking one’s environment with one’s destiny), baji (eight characters, Chinese fortune-telling), and yin-yang (cosmic duality). Yet he readily admits there could be other explanations for these events and he doesn’t insist on any cause-effect relationships.
Some may call us agnostic, loosely defined as doubting or beyond our knowing. Some might choose to call us fatalists (determinists), or even to brand us as faithless.
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.Thomas Aquinas
Yet we are open. Open to possibilities. We are comfortable with not knowing, not having answers to big questions. And we don’t judge the faithful or devoted.
When my honey lights incense, it is to connect with our dear departed as well as Guanyin, the Buddhist bodhisattva associated with compassion, often called the goddess of mercy, although s/he is without gender.
My honey simply asks them to get us through this challenge. He knows better than to ask for any specific result, as what he or I may want could turn out not to be what is best for us. (He learned this when he successfully chanted for his former wife and the effect was disastrous—as told in his memoir.)
How prayer helps us cope better with life’s challenges is a query that scientists (atheists and believers alike) have studied. There is solid empirical evidence that prayer can uplift our feelings during times of trouble. There’s even evidence that prayer can make us think better by reducing the distraction caused by negative emotions. Studies also show that for most believers, prayer isn’t a substitute for evidenced-based solutions to the multitude of wicked social, political, and economic problems humanity faces.
For many, the power is not in the prayer, but in the deity (god, goddess, or anything divine/sacred) to whom they pray. Prayer is the medium.
But that takes a faith I simply don’t have.
For me personally, my faith is more temporal, earthly. I have faith that most people do the best they can with the circumstances they were given. I have faith in the process. I set intentions, state affirmations.
To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.Alan Watts
Relax and float I do well. And my heart swells full with gratitude that my honey and so many dear friends around the globe love and care for me enough to keep me in their hearts and prayers. That, too, is powerful.
How does prayer fit into your life?