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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
V An Invitation It doesn’t matter if you don’t know whom you’re praying to, says Elizabeth Mattis- Namgyel. The very act of asking for help allows the heart to open and invite the world in. UDDHISTS TEND TO DISMISS prayer, which perhaps isn’t surprising. After all, aren’t we trying to get away from putting the responsibility for our spiritual development on something outside of us? And if we were to pray, whom would we pray to anyway? In this day and age, prayer is often seen as superstitious and embarrassing. We forget that we function in dualism most of the time and that there are benefits to knowing what we want and asking for it on the spiritual path. Prayer can help us do that. Prayer is like riding a bike—our steering will always naturally follow our gaze. The direction we go in is up to us. If we direct the mind toward making money, we have a better chance of earning money. If we don’t, it’s doubtful we’ll have enough to pay the rent. The same is true with our spiritual life. Spiritual progress—human progress—requires clear intention. So how do you pray? You can recite a particular prayer or pray in a spontaneous way, using your own words. Whichever way you choose, it’s important to make the prayer personal. You can do that by making the supplication specific so the practice doesn’t get abstract. You might begin by focusing on a friend who is suffering from illness or on a mistreated animal. Or you might supplicate for a way out of an unhelpful habit or addiction. At times praying will naturally segue into resting, beyond words or ideas, into the fathomless nature of being. Often we supplicate because we don’t know what to do. Praying can be a way of giving over to the mystery and movement of life. It expresses an acceptance that we don’t know everything and never will—that we only ever see a little piece of things. We don’t see the infinite web of intercon- nected relationships. Still, we have our part to play in that bigger picture, FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 35 B