Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Welcoming Prayer

Yesterday I wrote about the welcoming prayer as a way of coping, and yet, when a friend called in crisis and I went to visit, I didn't offer it to her.

I felt bad about it at the time -- where was my faith? -- but I just couldn't see how it would make any sense to welcome this particular difficulty. And then, this morning, I continued on in my reading, and now I see I was missing a key ingredient in my understanding, and it's just as well I didn't offer her the prayer before fully understanding how it works.

The key, I see this morning as I read the rest of Cynthia Bourgeault's chapter on the subject, is this:

"What you are welcoming is never an outer situation, only the feelings and sensations working within you in the moment...Once we have endured and integrated what is on our plate internally, then what we do with the outer situation is for us to decide."

It's not that we are called to welcome the cancer, the incest, the back pain, the abusive ex-husband, the loss of income, or whatever else of that nature falls into our path. Instead, we sink into our bodies and feel our responses to those challenges making themselves manifest within us: a tightness in the chest, a sinking feeling in the stomach, a pounding heart.. whatever we are feeling. Once we are consciously present to those sensations, then we can choose to welcome the feelings that are being made manifest in those physical sensations -- the fear, the anger, the shame; whatever it is that is rising up within us.

To welcome those emotions, says Cynthia, "is to wrap your deeper self around them through the power of your compassionate attention. And here she quotes Rainer Maria Rilke's wonderful lines in Letters to a Young Poet: "Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in the deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love."

Once we bring our deeper attention to the dragon, surround it with the welcoming power of love, its energy can begin to wane. And then, after you have acknowledged it, befriended it, and watched its energy begin to ebb, you can say, "I let go of this anger (or fear, or pain, or whatever it is)." Or you can recite this litany, coined by Mary Mrozowski, the founder of the welcoming prayer:

I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.

And this works because, at its heart, the welcoming prayer is not about giving up things we want or rolling over and playing dead. It is, says Cynthia, "about connecting with an energy of sustenance so powerful and vibrant as it flows through our being from the infinite that all else pales in comparison. It not only flows through our being; it is our being."

Think about that: that there is something within us so bright and joyous that, when we can be in touch with it, all else fades into insignificance. It is that bright and joyous source that we can bring into awareness when we endeavor to welcome our inner demons. And it is that bright and joyous source that will fuel us as we step back into life and begin to cope with whatever situation we've been given. And the blessing in it all is this: that if we can stay awake, and remember, when things get rough, to tap into that source, then we come to see that the tough times actually gift us, by bringing us closer to that bright joyous inner presence that is the divine connection.


Annie Strickland said...

Oh, this is perfect timing!
Thanks Diane--these words ring really true right now.

Anonymous said...

I love the dragons, I had to read that quote five or six's so very instructive.