stimulating profound conversations about living and dying well
What is a prayer?
In her poem “The Summer Day,” Mary Oliver writes,
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed
This poem is about paying attention – stopping long enough to notice the world going on around you. Long enough to feel that you might be part of the Big Story – to feel, and to know through feeling that you have always been home.
Prayer is the thing you do when you let the intelligence of your heart inform the intelligence of your mind. It’s the thing you do after you’ve exhausted all your strategies for staying in control of your life – to finally surrender to the knowing that wonder and gratitude are at the core of what it means to be fully human and alive.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Oliver doesn’t give us 12 steps to heal our lives – no suggestion as to what it all could mean. Rather, she beseeches us, as meaning-making creatures, to find our own way into an understanding of mortality – to be humbled, grateful, and so blessed by the opportunity we have to be here now. Prayer is a verb, a doing. It is the willingness to wipe the fog from the perfect mirror of your days, by your own hand. It is the understanding beyond all our conditioning that the world is not against us. It is the only way of reclaiming our wildness and kinship with the wilderness, which is the foundation of how we must grow together now.
And so I offer you two more questions, that you may carry them in your pocket as sane companions in this confused and heart-rending time – as rumours of your wholeness and how it all could be:
What if you made a prayer of every choice, word, thought, breath, and movement from waking to sleeping, every day of your life?
Persephone Passages and Sacred Embodiment Founder Juniper Quin riffs on birth, death, and everything in between. She lives in North Vancouver, BC in the traditional and unceded territory of the Coast Salish nations with her husband, father-in-law, and an ever-expanding family of mostly edible houseplants.