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Your Unfolding Path
December 2001

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Carol's Current Column

by Carol Adrienne, Ph.D.

Carol Adrienne's work and teachings have been a great inspiration to me!  In August of 1998, about four months after my father passed away, I read about one of Carol's workshops in a Learning Annex catalog and synchronistically found her book on a bookshelf at the bookstore.  The themes of her teachings were familiar and comforting, as they confirmed the thoughts and ideas my father had shared with me shortly before his passing.  Her books and workshops ignited my spiritual curiosity, setting me on my soulful life path, which led to the very creation of SoulfulLiving.com!  Carol's participation has been an integral part of SoulfulLiving.com, at its soul level!  Thank you, Carol, with all my heart!
~Valerie, Founder and Soul, SoulfulLiving.com

How We Pray

What are you praying for? World peace? A relationship? An affordable apartment? What happens when you don’t see any results in a "reasonable" amount of time?

A wonderful new book, The Way We Pray, Prayer Practices from Around the World helps readers get in touch with the enormous diversity of communications with divine spirit Author, Maggie Oman Shannon says working on her first book, Prayers for Healing (Conari Press, 1997) created a strong fascination in her with this profound and prevalent human practice. Since then, she says, she has greatly expanded her concept of what prayer is. "I was interested in how, as human beings, we experience the divine through our five senses," says Maggie. "Angeles Arrien [author of The Four-Fold Way and The Nine Muses and who is a cultural anthropologist], says that the cross-cultural definition of prayer is setting sacred intention. This helped me see prayer forms as being whatever enables someone to set a sacred intention."

When I asked her if she feels sacred intention simply means asking for something you want and expecting it to be given, Maggie was adamant that the intention behind prayer was much greater than that. "To me sacred intention is not simply defined as asking for something you want. Many people, for example, have said to me, ‘I’ve been praying for peace and it hasn’t happened.’ When we pray but see no response, there is an implication that there must be something wrong with us, our methods, or our connection to God. First of all, I’m not sure we can always immediately recognize an answer to our prayers. We may receive exactly what is needed, but not have the wisdom to see that yet. I believe that the practice of prayer is an intention to dwell in the sacred and to honor the sacred. Prayer helps us to see our lives as sacred.

"I get concerned that people think of prayer as a cosmic gumball machine," continued Maggie, "where you put in your prayer and hope to get out the prize. My response to a woman who said she had been praying for peace was that maybe the purpose of prayer is so that we can be changed. Through prayer, we can gain courage, or clarity, or conviction about what we can do to work for peace. I would not want someone to read my book and only see fifty ways to have a warm, comfortable experience with the Divine. I think prayer is a beginning, not the end of action.

"There are many amazing studies that show that prayer is a force that can literally change or influence a situation. But we can’t control when and how our prayers are going to work. What we can do is focus on what actions we can take as an individual in the world. I believe we are meant to come out of prayer with a commitment to action." Maggie believes that by consciously placing ourselves in the presence of the Divine, we are elevated and deepened. From that state, we often receive clarity about the next steps we need to take. Our responsibility is to act on those things that we receive in prayer.

The Way We Pray describes an abundance of practices from affirmations to master-mind groups to the use of prayer beads, bowls, flags and other rituals such as sweat lodges. Prayer is more a state of mind than a protocol. Maggie remembers, "One person told me about being deeply moved while sitting in silence in a grove of trees. At the time, he didn’t consider that moment as a spiritual experience because it didn’t take place in a church. However, when this idea was pointed out to him, he expressed an amazement and a joy that gave him the freedom to continue to spend time in nature or to visualize a favorite natural setting during his workday even when he couldn’t get away. Expanding his sense of the sacred opened up a new meaning to being in nature and how he could tap into that source.

Maggie says that writing her book opened up a deeper, wider reverence in herself. "I started with an initial list of ninety-eight practices and whittled it down to fifty. I had had personal experience with many of them, but not all. Ikebana, for example, the Japanese art of flower-arrangement was new to me. Now when I place flowers on a table or on my altar, I am much more conscious of their beauty and their message. Gardenias floating in water remind me of how we can rest effortlessly in the presence of God."

Maggie’s focus on writing, research, and the sacred is an unfolding process. "I was surprised to find out," she says, "that I had started files on a lot of these practices years before. When I was writing the book, I would be in a group of people and someone might mention a practice like the God Box. It felt like things were happening to support the project. I think it’s very important to share our understandings and experience of the sacred with others. When someone says, ‘Lets’ pray about it’ that could mean a lot of different things. Having a wider range of possibilities helps create more and more openings. I’ve noticed that when people are willing to talk about the divine, the conversational level deepens very quickly. Everyone feels touched."

Prayer is one way to make us more mindful. Simple acts take on more meaning. By connecting with the everyday divinity in front of us, we begin to see layers of meaning or purpose that we don’t always appreciate because we get so busy. Praying is a way of letting our intuition give us answers or clues even when our head is not sure of what to do. However, we need to be committed to not only listen in stillness, but to act on we know. When we don’t act on what we know is right, we tend to feel uneasy, depressed, or even ill.

One of my favorite morsels of wisdom in The Way We Pray, is the chapter on Japanese haiku poetry. In order to write this ultra-concise poetry, one must bring complete attention to what is sacred and potent. Maggie quotes Basho, one of Japan’s most noted haiku artists, who says, " Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one—when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there."

Frequently when counseling clients searching for satisfying and prosperous work, I notice that all too often we tend to think our career is going to bring us all the satisfaction we otherwise might lack in intimate relationships or the fulfillment of personal goals. I wonder how we might find the satisfaction we seek by simply tuning into what is right in front of us? Maggie quotes a professor of mathematics, John deValcourt, who began to write haiku poetry on his son’s seventeenth birthday. "They came out of meditation," John explains. "I would get up very early in the morning, sit silently, and they would just emerge. Some thought or insight would come into my mind, and I would write about it." John gave a good friend who was diagnosed with HIV seven poems which reminds us that everything is appropriate to write about.

Maggie’s suggestions are:

  • Try incorporating writing haiku into the time of day that works best for you—early morning, during a quiet lunch break, before you go to bed. Sit quietly, and spend a few minutes simply breathing. When a thought, insight, image, or memory comes to you, pick up your pen and jot down the essence of it. Then, begin to craft your words into the haiku form of your choice, focusing on the number of syllables in each line (five/seven/five or three/five/three). Experiment, and stay with the format and content that helps you to best express that ‘hidden glimmering.’

Maggie Oman Shannon reminds us that prayer can be a place where we rest, feel our feelings, and a place where we can transform ourselves. "More and more I believe that service or outreach is a natural extension of prayer." Why share a Prayer for Peace here at SoulfulLiving.com and prepare the ground for the seeds of peaceful actions to take root and flower? Namaste.


To contact author, spiritual director, and life purpose coach Maggie Oman Shannon visit her website at: www.thenewstory.com, email her at Maggie@newstory.com, or call (415) 333-6424.

Notice to readers:
I am looking for personal anecdotes about:

  • Health and Life Purpose. Have you experienced improved health related to aligning with your life purpose or spiritual development? Please email me at cadrienne@spiralpath.com: Subject: Health and Life Purpose.
  • Finding A Good Man: Are you a single woman between forty and sixty-five looking for the right partner? I will send you a questionnaire if you email me at cadrienne@spiralpath.com. Subject: A Good Man.

Carol Adrienne, Ph.D., is an internationally-known workshop facilitator and author whose books have been translated into over fifteen languages. Her books include The Purpose of Your Life: Finding Your Place in the World Using Synchronicity, Intuition, and Uncommon Sense; Find Your Purpose, Change Your Life, and The Numerology Kit. She also co-authored with James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy: An Experiential Guide and The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision--An Experiential Guide.


Click Here to Learn More About Carol Adrienne


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