Power of Healing Prayer

Power of Healing Prayer

Heeding the Wake-Up Call of Terrorism
“There can be no sides in a round world.”

When the horror of September 11th smashed into most of our consciousness I had the good fortune to be shielded from its impact because I was miles deep and miles high in the Yosemite Sierra on my yearly quest for vision retreat. I was on my first day of fasting and solitude when the planes crashed. The huge granite mountains surrounding me formed a protective circle in which I saw and heard only the magnificent beauty of rock, sky, and wild, clear blue sky, bubbling brooks and the swish of birds swooping past my head. The last blossoming wild flowers of the summer season were resting in the warm Sierra sunshine and the cold winds of winter were still just over the next ridge. It was a serene setting of peaceful calm immersed in nature’s wondrous creativity in whatever direction my eye would rest.

That Tuesday night I had a dream in which I saw young people meeting in circles around the United States singing a prayer song about peace. They found strength for their mission by first going on pilgrimage to places of power in nature, such as the one I was in, and participating in rituals based on Native American spirituality, especially the Hopi, the people of peace. At the end of their prayer song, they would take tobacco out of a leather bag attached to their waists by a thong, say a prayer of thanks-giving to the Great Spirit, the Great Mystery for the gift of life and the gift of peace, then throw the tobacco out in front of them as a blessing to the people present and to all people all over the world. The song they were singing stayed in my mind and kept singing through me most of the night, even after the dream ended.

We are praying, we are praying, we are praying
– Peace in the World.
We are praying, we are praying, we are praying
– Peace in Our Hearts.
We are praying, we are praying, we are praying
Peace for All  People, Peace for All People.

At dawn the next day the peace chant started singing through me again as soon as I sat up to greet the rising sun. Four days later the four other questors and I came out of our mountain sojourn, got in our cars and drove about 45 minutes to a gas station to fuel up. I went in to the little general store to pay for my gas and asked the cashier if by chance he knew the score of last Sundays 49′er game. He looked at my like I was crazy but told me the score. Then he said, “Didn’t you hear the news?” “What news?” I replied, “I’ve been in the mountains for a week and you are the first person I have spoken to besides my companions since I came back out.” “Didn’t you hear about the terrorists?” he blurted. “The ones who blew up the World Trade Center in New York and attacked the Pentagon?!”

Needless to say, we were all stunned we caught up on all the details on the radio on the five hour drive back to the San Francisco Bay area. Before our re-entry back to civilization our last prayer together was giving thanks for the beauty, peace and teachings we had all received during our solo time, and for strength to integrate these teachings as we returned to our lives back home. Little did we know at that time that the ante had been raised or of the challenges that awaited us.

Since returning I have carefully observed my own reactions as well as those around me. I have also followed the mainstream and alternative media, and the huge array of email interchange that has flooded the internet. I grieve for all those good people who lost their lives and I grieve for their families who now must go on living without them. I grieve for the little children on those flights. What brings someone to such a point that they can drive the lives of innocent children straight into a horrendous, terrifying, violent nightmarish end? What happened to short out the instinct to keep danger from a child? What happened to short out that instinct in Nazi soldiers who herded mothers and children into the gas chambers? What happened to short out the American cavalry when in the dead of winter they pushed the Cherokee onto what came to be called the “Trail of Tears”? What short-circuited Harry Truman when he looked past the fact that hundreds of thousand of women, children and old people would be vaporized if he dropped the Atom Bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? What is there in each of us that can over-ride love and justify violence toward others?

Most certainly every one of the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center must be brought to justice. Their acts are a crime against humanity and they must be held accountable for it and punished for their deeds. But this will not bring peace, or security to our shores. And that is what I want, more than anything. I want security for us to be able to go on with our lives without having to worry about being blown up, poisoned, gassed, or whatever else terrorists can dream up to gain their revenge. I have a grandchild due to be born in a few weeks and I want that child to be able to grow up and fulfill their purpose in taking birth. I believe the best bet to have that kind of security is to create a world in which there are no longer conditions affecting people that drive them to commit such horrendous acts. In other words, we need to create a world that is a win-win for everyone, or else we will never be free of the violence that envelopes the planet that enveloped our society before the planes crashed into the World Trade Center.

Martin Luther King put it right on the line when he said–We are all “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly…In the struggle for human dignity….We must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives “.  King adds that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

In marshalling our stand Dr. King reminds us that “love is mankind’s most potent weapon for personal and social transformation “. He goes on to say that ” the law of revenge solves no social problems ” and that “only goodness can drive out evil and only love can conquer hate “. For “returning hate for hate only multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that…Forces that threaten to negate life must be challenged by courage. Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations…This requires the exercise of a creative will that enables us to hew out a stone of hope from a mountain of fear.” Dr. King affirms that “hate is rooted in fear and the only cure for fear-hate is love”, because “hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”

The acts of the terrorists constitute a wake-up call for us as a nation to begin to address the conditions that lead the people of so many countries to despise us. I think the vast majority of US citizens have been living in ignorance and denial of the role our foreign policy has played since the end of World War II. I think we need to educate ourselves about those policies and the violent impact and suffering they have caused for people, innocent people just like the ones in the World Trade Center–in Chile, in Columbia, in Guatemala, in Iraq, in Palestine, and the list goes on. If we really want healing, if we really want a peaceful world, then we need to break through our own denial and face, as well, our historical shadow and the truths of our creation as a nation. While the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights represent a noble philosophy and deserve our full support for their democratic ideals and affirmation of freedom, individual liberty and justice for all, we have in fact been living in a kind of schizophrenic trance since the very beginning.

“The acts of the terrorists constitute a wake-up call for us as a nation to begin to address the conditions that lead the people of so many countries to despise us.”

To wake up, we need to listen to wisdom elders like Martin Luther King and the Dali Lama who says–”instead of just blaming, we need to look for causes and seek understanding”. We need to practice “compassionate listening”, especially to the “other”– those who are angry with us, so we can learn about the pain under their anger and where it comes from. We need to listen to Black Americans, and to Native Peoples of the Americas, we need to listen to the people of Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, the Puerto Ricans and Hawaiians whose islands we are using for test bombing. We need to listen to the “collateral damage” of 500,000 women and children of Iraq being killed by the indiscriminate bombing and economic boycott of ten years by our country.

We need to listen to the children in the third world who work for a few dollars per day making fancy athletic shoes so we can be “weekend warriors” and corporate executives can pocket millions. We need to listen to the mother’s of the “disappeared” in Argentina whose lost their husbands, sons and fathers to a government we supported that herded thousands of people into a stadium to be brutalized, tortured, murdered and then disposed of — as many as ’0,000 unaccounted for. As acts of terror now come home to our shores we react with justifiable horror as Islamic fanatics murder “our” innocents. Where was the sense of horror when it was being committed on foreign shores? What’s different? Our capital investments were at stake in those other countries so our policy was to ignore that terror since it served our economic interests. What kind of morality is that?

We need to listen to the truth that while our nation was forged with high ideals it was also forged in violence, racism, genocide, and theft of the grandest order–both of land from the indigenous peoples and of the freedom of millions of Black Africans enslaved to our yoke for the purpose of making money through their unrewarded labor. The effects of these acts are still with us today and until we own up to it we will never have peace and security in this land. Add to this mix the fact that we use 60% of the world’s resources but are only 6% of the world’s population which we use to our advantage while the rest of the world suffers, i.e., millions of children die yearly of starvation while we continue to spend millions of dollars on the latest model car, hair product, cereal, clothing, etc., not to mention the millions of dollars advertising spends yearly to get us to buy these things we don’t really need. Do we not see our country, since its inception, has murdered the innocent, here and abroad, but when someone from the outside turns that same murderous disregard on our innocent ones, we condemn them as evil incarnate, never facing or owning up to our own dark shadow? No wonder so many people in other countries see us as the bad guy, the oppressor, yes, even the terrorist.

We are urged by our leaders in Washington to “get on with our lives”, “get back to normal”, start flying again, traveling, buying, spending. Whoa, is it just me thinking that what we consider “normal” is part of the problem in the first place? Normal got blown apart on September 11th and the deaths of the 6,000 innocent people cry out not just for revenge, not even just for justice, but instead to create the kind of a world where something like that never happens again, to any body, anywhere. I agree with the politician who said, “Instead of making things normal again, we need to make things better!”. Now is the time to come forward with what this “better” would look like.

And who would it be better for?  Just people in the United States?  Just my grandchild?   Or would it include all people, all grandchildren all, over the globe? The only way we are going to have a better world of peace and security is if everyone is included in a more equitable distribution of its’ resources. If we leave anyone out, then it is precisely those left out who, given today’s technology, have the ability to use that technology for destructive purposes becoming tomorrow’s terrorists.

So now is our chance, our opportunity to honor the memory of all, by working together to create a world that comes forth from “the projection of the ethic of love to the center of our lives ” as Dr. King put it so beautifully. For this to happen requires some major shifts in our thinking, attitudes and consciousness. It calls for us to be more than anti something — be it anti-terrorist, anti-violence, or even anti war, or anti-racism. We need to come forth with what we are for! What is our highest vision, our grandest dream of what this world could be like using our creativity, imagination, inspiration and “ethic of love”?. No, this is not the time to go back to “normal”, but to create a new way of being and living that is not based on “me-ism “, but that is instead based on “we-ism ” — the recognition that all humanity is interwoven in a web of connectedness in which any node that is touched vibrates out into all the other nodes effecting us all — “the web of mutuality “!

So where do we begin? First off, by healing the perception that we are separate–separate from one another, from the environment, from people far away that we can’t see and who dress different from us and talk a different language and worship in ways that we consider strange. We need to re-connect to the reality that our ancestors knew intimately through humanity’s “ur” religion — animism — the understanding that all creation is alive, conscious and interwoven in an inescapable circle of relationship. As the Lakota prayer says so eloquently, “O Mitakuye Oyasin “- all my relations”, meaning–”We are all related”.

We in the west have lost our awareness that all life lives within a circle of relationship, what some indigenous peoples call “The Sacred Hoop”. Our very language, English, reflects this breaking of the Hoop. Most of English vocabulary consists of nouns and adjectives–words about things and their qualities. And since language structures our perceptions of reality and what we consider most important, it is instructive to realize that our very language conditions us to perceive reality as composed of separate and distinct objects — things — and that these “things” are what is most important in life. Most indigenous languages have a different emphasis — verbs — words which tell about relationships–how the various life forces are doing in their interactions with one another. Indigenous spirituality emphasizes the value of living in harmony and balance with all of life instead of the pursuit and accumulation of” things”.

Our societal emphasis on materialism — things– along with the impact of the Protestant work ethic which values doing over being, a capitalistic economic system that puts profits over people and serves as a breeding ground for greed, arrogance, insensitivity, competition and violence against people and the environment, along with fear and guilt-based, patriarchal religions, all add up to a very powerful mixture that results in a society that exploits nature, people and countries for the purpose of a continuously improving bottom line on next quarter’s corporate returns.

“To get the security we all desire and to sustain a world at peace, we must create a new ‘normal’, one that recognizes and lives in harmony with the Sacred Hoop…”

This kind of myopic bottom line based on financial profit is what gets us into the predicaments we face with terrorists attacking us as we sip our morning coffee. Make no mistake about it, we are not in the Middle East or anywhere else defending democracy but because of our economic interests which we are dependent upon to keep our “way of life” going in its “normal” fashion. What price does the rest of the world pay so we can live our normal lives? I don’t think we have to go very far today to get an answer to that question. We must Heal the Sacred Hoop and Develop a New Bottom Line–one that is not based on greed, capital gain, consumerism, or materialism. We must construct a new bottom line based on love, kindness, caring, sharing, economic and social justice for all the world’s citizenry, education, health care, and support systems that recognize every human being is sacred and deserving of nurturance and support to realize their fullest creative potentials.

We are fortunate in these challenging times to have available the wisdom teachings of indigenous spirituality, which contain laws of right relationship. Found in the their creation stories, they shed light on one way to re-enter the Sacred Hoop with an intention to heal, respect and celebrate the gift of life in all its diversity and wonder. These “laws” aren’t man-made. They come from the creative force of the universe- Great Spirit, Great Mystery, as mirrored in nature. These “laws” have to do with the hierarchy of creation. In this evolutionary hierarchy Earth came first. Then came the plants which are dependent upon the Earth. Then came the animals who are dependent upon the plants. Then came humanity which is dependent upon them all. The earth, the plants, the animals don’t need us. We need them. So in the scheme of things we humans are the most dependent and therefore we have the biggest responsibility–to learn how to live harmoniously with those forces our lives are dependent upon.

We are also “determiners”. The plants, animals and earth live in basic harmony with each other. We on the other hand, have the power to destroy the whole lot of them. We are the ones who have developed the technology whose usage determines what the fate of the planet will be. Therefore it is imperative that we re-learn how to live in harmony and balance with the earth, the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom. This starts with the recognition that we are dependent upon them for the very continuation of our lives and thus we must recognize the sacredness of reciprocity–I.e., we must no longer just take, take, take. We must also learn how to share and give back–with respect, love, caring and generosity.

Native People did this through their elaborate ceremonies and rituals which helped them stay in right relationship with all of life for tens of thousands of years. Yet many of these same Native societies also have prophecies predicting the challenges of the times we are now living in and these prophecies go back before the coming of the European invasion force. They speak about people no longer living in right relationship with Mother Earth and the forces of nature they called ” Spirits, Gods or Goddesses”. They speak about people violating and desecrating the sacred places of power and forgetting their spiritual obligations to give back to the sources from which they drew their lives. For this is our responsibility as “determiners”– we need to feed the creative forces of nature–the spirits, so to speak– in exchange for their feeding us. For ultimately life is about relationship and the quality of relationship, not about things. Even within the sub atomic structure underlying the physical world, there is the complementary relationship of the electrons, the protons, the neutrons, all working together in cooperation and harmony. Without this harmony of right relationship there is “nada”, nothing.

All of life is about relationship. We desperately need a new bottom line that recognizes this and honors it in the way we go about living and meeting our needs. To get the security we all desire and to sustain a world at peace, we must create a new “normal”, one that recognizes and lives in harmony with the Sacred Hoop which includes all peoples, all countries, all nations, all parts of the creation. One that eradicates poverty, racism and discrimination, one that involves participatory democracy for all the world’s citizens, one that supports sustainable living conditions through environmental protection, restoration and integrity, and one that truly supports “liberty and justice for all”. May it be so!

With prayers for peace in the world, peace in our hearts and peace for all peoples.