“Shira, I have not sat in the presence of a prayer like that for a very long time”.
She sat with her eyes closed for many deep breaths and I could feel her heart well up with something forgotten. Her eyes opened with a shine of the tears that rise from a well of profound love- therefore profound grief and therefore the gateways to embodied gratitude and authentic prayer are open.
For years I have been asked to share how I pray, how I know how to pray. The prayer that lives in me comes from multiple dimensions, many initiations, deconstructing indoctrinations, faith and a lot of deep listening. My prayer is attuned to an emergent force that is seeking the prayer from within me, extracting each word and vibration to hear itself.
The foundation for all of “my work” is prayer. I will not ever open a plant medicine journey, a ceremony, a healing session, a day of my life- without prayer. The act of choosing prayer engages the heart of devotion within me. Something indigenous and ancestral comes to life, a memory encoded in all things. Prayer opens the portal back to belonging to the more than human dimension.
When I open up healing space for a psychedelic session I express to my client that this is their journey. This is their time to really ask for what they need, to use their voice and be intimately involved with setting the container for themselves. There is so much healing in handing someone the agency to claim their space, take authority with their healing, create an altar and choose what would ally them and what would not. I do not need to bring my drum- the beat is always in our hearts, the music- there is so much sound in silence, smudge, singing bowls etc. These things may not resonate with someone for a variety of reasons, something else entirely might be what they need. The tools are allies but the medicine lives within me and within them. I can leave it all behind and let the empty space bring us something new.
But, I am very clear that in every space I pray. It is non-negotiable. If someone is uncomfortable with prayer, which no one has been, I am not their practitioner.
At every moment there is a third thing waiting to be born into being between myself and other, myself and the co creative forces of love to be embodied and spoken into the heartbeat of Life. That other can be a person, Ocean, Tree, Mother of Heaven, what have you, that pulls the prayer from the Universal DNA within my blood that remembers the incorruptible thread of unity consciousness that weaves us all together. I know what rises through me and it shapes itself according to who is sitting in front of me to help them remember their own prayer. I have never said the same prayer twice.
The caveat being that mantras, songs, ceremonial dance and some poems created as a sacrament for invoking the sacred are repeated to resound a vibrational frequency that brings to life certain deities and benevolent co-opting forces for the desired outcome. And, certain specific prayers can connect a person directly to a lineage, therefore allowing them to embody the medicine of that lineage.
They all have their place. Yet, as I have devoted myself to prayer I have come to know that the prayer that lives in the moment, in concert with presence and imminence, that lives inside my heart is the most healing and evolutionary. I could sit and go into hours of prayer trance in full communion with Universal Life.
It doesn’t have to be the blue Iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak. ~Mary Oliver
Without prayer we are without the sacred. Without the sacred we are without connection to our Soul. Without Soul we are lost, floating in a sea poisoned by plastic and oil and now dead fish full of plastic and oil and billions of masks. We are floating through life, souls starving, because our lives and therefore our landscapes have become bereft of the sound of authentic prayer.
Modern religious indoctrination says we pray to a thing outside of us and thus give away our power. It says if we pray and don’t receive it is because we are sinful. If we pray and do receive then we are good and worthy of reward and that worthiness is dictated by an external force that can take it and our lives away at any moment. Therefore we must conform and contract and shape ourselves more and more to a God fearing life. We must need more external control because sinners cannot be trusted to make their own sovereign choices or trust their own inner voice, their inner innate impulse to move towards or away from harm. How dare we pray to a tree for the breath that keeps us alive- because the God fearing life is what keeps us alive.
The innate prayer of our soul says we pray and enliven the God within us, the life force within us. We become an altar for life to play and all of its expressions to come forth, join and enhance our belonging.
Life was created from a prayer and a song. A desire for desire itself to unfold into form from a dark gestational hollow. A void of emptiness where nothing but endless possibility spirals until it is lassoed by the vibrational sound of longing pulling possibility into being. And, when these two forces meet, and that prayer is answered, there is a resounding cry of gratitude and joy. New little eyes spring open or sprouts pour forth to the light and a new fragrance, a new gift, a new sound unfurls itself to the world. Our first cry was a prayer of such enormous gratitude for having made it through the portal of so many prayers to be here, to touch, to breathe, to dance upon and amongst Love embodied- to make more Love, more of what we are. Each innate prayer living in each soul ties to that first prayer and creates more awareness of all that sustains us to become the holy embodied, sensorial, fully feeling fleshy, made of everything beings we are privileged to be.
Prayer distilled down is a vehicle of gratitude. Prayer is an expression of the embodied wisdom that we are interdependent for our survival. Prayer opens up consent. Do we, do I, have permission to proceed- and thank you, and thank you again, thank you so much. This is why prayer is non negotiable for me. This also opens the question- who gives you permission? (For another time)
Another reason why prayer is non negotiable is that reclaiming one’s innate prayer is an act of activism and can heal cultural appropriation which, as the Western domination of all things consumes plant medicine, is a vital piece to understand.
The original lexicon of prayer lives in the realm of Natural and Sacred Laws of Reciprocity that uphold inclusivity and abundance for all Life. These laws have been corrupted by religious entities that indoctrinate their followers away from sovereignty. When the prayer is taken from the people, our sense of true belonging is also taken and the separation wound, at the core of every single addiction, trauma and serious mental affliction I have worked with, is amplified.
This is why prayer is an ally to plant medicine. They both awaken the soul to an inherent sense of holistic belonging and of pure innate goodness. When this is remembered and integrated, when the authentic prayer in one’s heart is reclaimed as the birthright and language of belonging that it is, inevitably it points to that person having walked through the initiations and integrations that make for embodiment of Life- inclusive ways of living- Indigenous vs. colonizer ways of living. When you are praying and beginning to live mindfully from this place inside that remembers your place amongst all things, you become a transmission of what was oppressed under that which created our current appropriating and modern religious indoctrinating society. You become love embodied, wisdom embodied, Sacred Law embodied. When your expressions into the world are from this place, they will naturally be Life-inclusive. And we still live in a capitalist society.
We are always meant to learn from one another, other cultures, ways of life- that is reciprocity. It is what we do with the profound wisdom that comes through plant medicines and still intact indigenous teachings that determines if something is disrespectfully appropriated.
I was raised through my formative years and into my early teens as a Jehovah’s Witness, a highly oppressive religious cult. I clearly remember that when we prayed in service, I wouldn’t really speak out loud, I wouldn’t say the thing “in Jesus’ name amen” clearly. Every time the word Jehovah entered my mouth my tongue tied and the tear in my heart widened. There was nothing in my body that came alive when I prayed inside that cage. Something incorruptible inside of me would not let me give in all the way. I tucked this other incorruptible voice deep inside and there it sat waiting for the ripe conditions to flourish again. It remained dormant for 35 years under a beefy resume of addiction.
In 2012 I went through a dramatic life collapse and therefore a breakthrough. That suppressed voice and a prayer rose from the coagulated grief in the marrow of my bones and something came alive inside of me again. I was saved- literally. From that moment on I was guided down my path. From that moment on I prayed.
This “Godseed” that woke up in me directed me to the teachers and initiations that would ally the unique medicine I carry. Every altar I sat at, which were all erected from pagan and indigenous traditions of various sorts, held prayer as a centerpiece of its cosmology. So I learned certain ways to pray- again. This time these prayers touched something within me. And, yet there was still something missing at my core. I didn’t feel a full return to belonging. I felt like I was borrowing something of which I already had in me, but was afraid to open my voice to. As a western woman of European descent, I have been told repeatedly, in very subliminal ways, that nothing indigenous lives in me. Therefore I must give away my own authority again to these, although benevolent, traditional teachings, which deep down continued to propagate guilt and more shame where wisdom about right relationship and sovereignty “should” be.
Living in the Pacific Northwest Corner of the United States lands me within a specific ancestral and indiegenous cosmology of the Native People whose medicine once thrived here. Medicine that enhanced the livelihood of all of life to thrive here. With respect I learned the Wheel of Life, the directions and elements that guide life towards reciprocity and evolution that have been spoken here for thousands of years. There are particular associations between the elements and the directions from the Native Peoples of this land and through much of the Americas.
I then read Angeles Arrien’s The Four Fold Way” and discovered that those associations shift. Something was stirred up in me. Had I been praying wrong? Who is right? What do you mean they shift depending on where you go?
I followed the irritations and braved being deemed disrespectful and “white” and decided to listen to a tug in my heart. I have ancestors. Native people who lived the beauty way live inside of me. I just had to remember their song which meant moving out everything that corrupted it in the first place. Deep dive trauma work- deep dive beauty seeking.
I went to Ireland and discovered that the prayers of the indigenous peoples of these northern lands may have been the origin point for the Wheel of Life- according to an old well on the hill of Uisneach that no one is allowed to go near unless you happen to be me and stumble into the right circumstances for such things. That the pagan Earth religions of those lands had many prayers to many Gods and that those prayers and those Gods were allowed to shapeshift, evolve. I learned that there were fundamental elements that every culture prays to because at the core of Life we all rose from the same seed and the same Universal forces guide us all home, regardless of ancestry. And yet…
It wasn’t until a vision quest in Death Valley, a year after Ireland, that I once again sat at an altar of elders and traditions passed down and heard the similar Wheel of Life prayer, but with a whole new orientation of elements and directions. The frustration within me of hearing yet again a different way than what I had been hearing for many years was a great gift. As I sat for four days without food or much shelter I was guided to listen to what was true for me, from the land up into my bones. I met with each direction, or gate- the East, South, West and North. I met them, inherited them and listened to how they spoke to me and why.
All of my initiations into and teachings about Sacred Law that rose from the lands of Peru, Mexico, Ireland and every land that has received me integrated into embodied wisdom. The inherited doubt in my own ability to learn and receive in the name of true indigeneity began to melt away. This doubt is wedged into the epigenetic DNA of trauma passed down due to colonization and the systemic indoctrination of fear. Lives were taken for praying to the many Gods and Goddesses, spirits and allies of place and land and for Life to be in balance.
I formed a personal relationship with the sacred allies of this blessed life by learning the “old way”- listening to the greatest force we as humans know to teach us about life- Mother Gaia and all that is woven into her flesh from the Universal Womb of Wisdom. Rather than repeat something handed to me, I took the gifts handed to me and allowed them to inspire my own- which is reciprocity and sacred evolution in action. Because this inspiration of my own gift, from other soul centered gifts, is given from the sacred, I am naturally moved to live life in step with a love that includes all beings. The prayer that rises from within me, is from within me. I feel it deep in my heart. I know that to which I pray and it speaks its language to and through me.
This remembrance and inheritance does not make me some saint. There are many layers of corruption of having to live a life where there is inevitable hypocrisy as a byproduct of existing within this current societal climate that resists Sacred Law at all cost to maintain control. I drive a car. I forget my grocery bags at home and use plastic for my produce sometimes and forget to turn off the water when I brush my teeth sometimes and consume more resources than a human needs more than sometimes because my Ancestor’s prayer was ripped from their tongues. In some cases literally.
The fundamentals of prayer I have learned that cross culturally exist and the teachers and cultures that have kept them in tact is why I give thanks to those who walked before me, not from some guilt or fear or feeling indebted. And I pray my own way from the great teachers from within my soul because I know that embodied inheritance of right relationship and gratitude cannot breed appropriation.
When I pray over plant medicine and on behalf of my client for the container in which I will be a satellite for many cosmologies colliding and finding right order again, I am bringing an element into the space that allows for the full expression of the Universal lineage of Sacred Law and all of those who held this medicine in the beauty way. I pray over the magic mushrooms, not because they need reminding (I hope to never have that power) but because I am reminding the slumbering DNA that contains the Universal life codes within the humans in the space that it is safe and welcome to activate. Therefore, we become a magnetic force for similar resonance where the Gods hear us and can step in as the allies they are and we are reminded, often in life changing ways, where and to what we truly belong.
Prayer isn’t about gaining a thing to enhance your life from the outside. It is about returning to a place inside that holds the directions and guidance for everything you need for a thriving life. One then becomes a vibration for goodness and sacred abundance.
A great confusion around prayer is that we are praying for “God’s” sake or the Ancestor’s sake, or… The more than human world, the formless and once formed that contain this benevolent and life aligned energy we seek exist within Sacred Law. These life forms already know the truth of our blessed soul. They don’t need our prayers for their sake. And they come alive with our prayers because their memory and their medicine lives within us.
So, we pray mostly for human’s sake. Prayer is a vibrational code that awakens belonging within us and connects us to the cosmological order of Sacred Laws and the allying forces that live within them. We therefore pray because we are grateful and aware. We don’t necessarily pray for an outcome and yet, we are allowed to pray for an outcome. Prayer has tremendous power. And every prayer will always be answered. It is all perception of what that answer looks like.
There are many studies that point to the power of collective prayer in healing. If prayer is so powerful then why doesn’t it “work” every time?
Universal vibration is highly intelligent. The majority of our wishes and prayers for healing point at the negative and are aligned with the same fixing and fighting model of resolution that is the seed of the wound or the war in the first place. And, many of the prayers are disconnected from a fundamental, most forgotten truth that lives within the soul of humanity- the only thing that truly heals is love. In order to know love as a function and a feeling, one must allow grief. And in this grief, if one is so fortunate to allow such a medicine to cleanse them to the core wound of forgetting the precious gift we have all been given, is where one will find their fully felt authentic gratitude for this gift and therefore their fully felt authentic prayer. Pray- Love- Grieve (I think that’s a book title)
There is a prayer in you. It is your resounding gratitude for this life. It will sound like whichever composite of inheritance rings true for your soul. Mother Goddess, Mother God, Mother Mary, Father God, Great Spirit, Holy Spirt, Jesus Christ, Mother Earth, Mother Ocean, Pacha Mama, Father Mountain, Father Sky, Cedar Spirit, Bear Spirit, Plant Spirit, Great Creator, Star Nations, Ancestors of all time, the four winds and four ways, those that walk the beauty way, the Faerie and Fay- Blessed be, Aho, Namaste…
“Amen, Amen, Amen- and a little woman”~ my teacher Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Hey! As always there are many layers to discuss, nuances, caveats. Life is continually evolving, nothing fixed. Let’s be amazed and vulnerable in our learning. And as we travel through the layers let’s pray our hearts out for this blessed life.
~Send your questions here. About anything. Soon the Q&A will only be for paid subscribers as it is like a mini mentorship with me.
And private mentoring sessions are available in person and via Zoom with lots of…
Plants- Prayers- Purpose…
Shira’s Contemplations and Stories is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.