In 40 days, I will turn 40 years old.
So, I am embarking on a special celebration of my life.
Out of an ancient compulsion to live an examined life, I will celebrate through meditation, chanting, writing, and prayer. I am calling my celebration: 40 Days, 40 Years, 40 Prayers. Anyone is invited to celebrate with me. If you want to participate, please follow the blog posts. Better, please meditate with me. (You can find instructions on how to practice the meditations in the “Menu” button on this website). Best of all, chant your heart out and pray, pray, pray!
How do we succeed in prayer?
What kind of question is this?
This is the kind of question that shows up in my journal of notes I took during a course I recently completed at a yoga school in Los Angeles. The course was a Kundalini Yoga teacher training course called “Conscious Communication.”
In the course, we studied the teachings of Yogi Bhajan. The last part of the course, we dove into Yogi Bhajan’s teachings on “Communicating with the Infinite: Prayer, Grace, and the Flow of Spirit.” Yogi Bhajan taught that “prayer is the most powerful technique to communicate to the unknown.” He encourages us to learn to communicate prayerfully and develop a prayerful attitude. As a group of yoga teacher trainees, we discussed the difference between prayer being a request to a distant deity versus prayer as a power to tap into one’s own unknown. We practiced the “Meditation to Teach You To Pray,” and we sensed, while sitting still and holding a particular vision, that our own prayer can send powerful waves all over the globe.
During yoga teacher training, yogis enjoy powerful experiences of connection and expansion of awareness that many people claim cannot be captured in words. Nonetheless, I love to write. My love for writing itself is as profound as any of those deep yoga experiences, so I have decided that even if many people claim (and even sacred texts assert) that certain experiences supposedly cannot be put into words, I should write about those experiences anyway. Something about the experience can and ought to be put into words. After all, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. And prayer is communication. We communicate with words and beyond words and through silence. Great words, like music, can enrich the silences.
Yogi Bhajan’s teachings are straightforward and clear, but they are also deep. I am someone who loves to write and think and question. I like to understand and expand my thinking and feeling and awareness about something by writing about it.
So, these 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday, I wish to explore what it means for me to develop a prayerful attitude. I wish to examine my life through my relationship to prayer. This is a 40-day-long celebration! One continuing birthday party!
And since this is a celebration of my life, I choose to write this exploration in the form of a personal essay. I will begin at the beginning.
My earliest memories of my childhood experiences of prayer involve a bedtime ritual with my father. We enjoyed a daily routine in which he would tuck me in to my bed at night. When he entered my room, I turned playful. I would hide myself beneath the covers. He would feel around the covers with his hands and then say, “What is this strange lump?” I would remain very quiet and still while he pretended to be baffled by the mystery beneath the covers. Then I would make a silly sound or burst out laughing and pop out from under the covers in an attempt to frighten or surprise him. Of course, he feigned utter surprise, and we shared a good laugh.
Then my father would say, “Okay. It’s time to say your prayers.” I would proceed in the way he had taught me to pray to thank God for anything I could think of. I’d say, “Thank God for having a nice day, playing a lot, doing a lot of stuff. Thank God the dog didn’t bite off her own tail while chasing it today. Thank God for my bicycle. Thank God for friends and family. Thank God for the Candy Lady.” My father had taught me that prayer was all about simple acknowledgements of gratitude and blessings. He taught me to end every prayer by blessing everyone in my family: “God bless Mommy. God bless Daddy, etc.” even pets—dog, bird, and fish—would receive my blessing. Then my father would kiss me good night.
How has my relationship to prayer transformed through these 40 years? Before I turn 40 on October 3, I hope to deepen, expand, and enrich my prayerful attitude. I write to examine my life through the lens of my relationship to prayer.
In “Conscious Communication” Yogi Bhajan gave us the “Meditation to Learn to Pray,” offering us a chance to relate to prayer like complete beginners, as to offer a fresh experience of how to pray. What is prayer? How shall I pray so that my prayer is an effective communication between my known and unknown? In that childish game with my father, I hid under blankets: I was the mysterious unknown. I am, still, the unknown. And I plan to write to build a more sophisticated relationship between the unknown and known parts of my own awesome consciousness.
To enrich my experience of prayer, I am committing to a special 40-day personal sadhana, or spiritual practice. I am committing to two meditations taught by Yogi Bhajan. In the mornings, after Aquarian Sadhana, I will practice 11 minutes of “Meditation for Word Power.” I will live my day in gratitude. Then, in the evenings I will practice the “Evening Meditation for Effective Prayer Isht Sodhana Mantra Kriya.” In blog posts, I will elaborate more on these meditations, why I chose these meditations, of the thousands Yogi Bhajan taught, what these meditations mean, and their effects. After all, I can’t quite know their effects until I actually experience them. Thus, I must write. And in this way my writing, my meditating, and my chanting, my navel pumping and my tongue movements are all my way of celebrating this life.
A prayer for Day One:
May this 40-day celebration serve to renew myself and others with God’s light!