Write Your Own Prayer to Whom or Whatever You Wish

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The following are notes that my friend Gillian assembled after attending a workshop led by poet, theologian and peace activist Pardraig O’Tuama – “Write Your Own Collect”

 A Collect is simply collecting your desire into one request.   

It has five folds:

1.  Name who or what you are addressing the prayer to

2. Say something more about who or what you are praying to

3.  Name your desire

4.  Give a reason for your desire

5.  End with some small song of beauty or praise.

You can start with any of the five folds.  Decide through which of the five doors you prefer to enter.

Ask for only one thing, that you desire now.    If you write it down you can review it for the week, month, year or a few years.  

Pay attention to what you want; to the undercurrent landscape of your desire.   Naming your desire could mean an encounter with the sacred.  

You can address your collect to whomever or whatever you choose –  A tree, a child that you love, a pet that you love….anything at all.  

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Here is an example of a collect by Padraig O’Tuaoma

God of watching, 
whose gaze I doubt and rally against both, 
but in which I nonetheless take refuge, despite my limited vision. 
Shelter me today, 
against the flitting nature of my own focus 
and bring me to the calm place 
in which to stand. 
And when I falter, which is likely, 
give me both the courage and the kindness to begin again with hope and coping. 
For you are the one whose watchfulness is steady. 

April 23, 2020 Walking Myself Home – 58 Years Later

A Story About an Old Story.

When I was six years old, we moved from Nanaimo to Victoria, 100 km south, still on Vancouver Island; my parents, my older brother, my baby brother and me. We were still newish immigrants, having moved to Canada from Ireland a few years before.  Soon after our move to Victoria it was time for school to begin. I had been jealously watching my brother going to school without me, and now it was my turn. 

The day before school began, my mother walked my brother and I to St. Patrick’s School to show us the way. Then, September 4, 1962, was The Big Day – the first day of school.  I don’t remember much about that day, although I am sure that I was thrilled to be donning my new school uniform, and I probably had new notebooks and pencils, O Glory! I came to love my grade one teacher – Sister Mary Jerome. Her gentle face wrapped in her white wimple, and her dramatic flowing black robe and veil. She would be the one to teach me to read – a most precious gift. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.

Strangely, I do not remember any of these lovely things from that first day. The memory that stuck in my brain is the walk home from school that day. Somehow, I walked alone. And I got lost. I missed the turn onto Cranmore Road and ended up at a corner store on Cadboro Bay Rd., with no idea where I was. Fortunately for me, this was before the days of “stranger danger”, so I went into the store and told them that I was lost. The next thing I remember is a nice lady taking me to her apartment, and giving me a big glass of ginger ale with vanilla ice cream in it – a float. It was heavenly; I had never tasted anything so delicious. Then, mysteriously, my father showed up to take me home.  This is all I remember of my first day of school.

It was not until I was a young adult that I thought much of this memory, but when I did, I was outraged. How could my mother have left me to walk home from school on my own? Negligence! Poor little me – carrying too much responsibility at such a tender age – how could my mother have left me so alone! I have been resentful about that day for decades.

Then, fast-forward to April 2020, I was rereading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Anger – Wisdom for Cooling the Flames.  I came across a section entitled, “Healing the Wounded Child Within”. Here’s a paraphrase of Thich’s words:

Sometimes the wounded child in us needs all of our attention. If you are mindful, you will hear his or her voice calling for help. Stop what you are doing and go back and tenderly embrace the wounded child within you. 

“Breathing in, I go back to my wounded child.”

“Breathing out, I will take good care of my wounded child.”

Embrace her.

Talk to her.

Listen with compassion. 

The “wounded child within” that came into my mind was the one that was lost, on that first day of school, 58 years ago. As I prepared for my morning walk, I decided to imagine that I was walking my six-year-old self (Little Dee) home from school. So off I went, leaving our lovely home in Lantzville, on a sunny spring day in 2020.  As I walked I pictured Little Dee in front of St. Patrick’s School, in her navy blue tunic, white short-sleeved blouse, tie and knee socks. She was about to leave on this fated walk home. 

“Wait”, a new thought, “where was my older brother? Why was he not there to walk home with me?” Sixty-four-year-old me (Big D) had been walking for about 5 minutes when this revelation presented itself to me. That was fast! It had never occurred to me that my brother and I were meant to be walking home together. This shed a new light on the picture.  Maybe my mother was not as neglectful as I had thought. In my imaginary walk, we had not even left the schoolyard.

In 2020, as I continued my walk, up into the Lantzville Foothills, I began to imagine my mother’s situation on that day. She had just moved to a new city, so she was trying to organize the house and find her way in a new city.  She had a toddler at home and no car. Also, in her defense, it was 1962. The streets were not as the busy and dangerous as they are now. And, children were generally trusted to roam pretty freely without the frantic worry that plagues today’s parents. By today’s standards, most of us would have been considered neglected children. Also, It is quite possible that my mother had planned on meeting us after school and I told her, “No Mummy, I can do it by myself!” just as my own daughter told me many times when she was a young child.

O the judgment I had piled onto my mother! This was a story that I had told myself as a know-it-all twenty-something, before I had my own children. I had never stopped to question the version in my head or imagine my mother’s experience of that day. I continued to remember it that way until this week. 

For the rest of my walk I imagine myself as Big D walking Little Dee home. When the hill got steep I gave her a piggyback, “I’ve got you Little Dee”.  I told her that everything was going to work out all right in the end. I could guarantee it. By the time I was on my way back down the hill, we were swinging our arms and singing, “We are all just walking each other home” (Ram Dass).

Just now, as I write this story, I am looking down at my journal and reading the words that I wrote, a few days age, to describe myself as a young child:

“So serious, trying so hard to get it right, trying to please, frightened, alone”.

It strikes me, hard, that all those words probably describe my mother at that time of her life as well, only with big people problems. Now what I feel is compassion for my mother. She would have been thirty-five years old, alone with three young children, with out family or friends, in a new city and a new country. Poor Mum…

Ours was not an easy relationship, and her life got much harder as the years went by. Loneliness, more children, illness, and family mental health challenges made our life a struggle. But even still, the lens of compassion is a more constructive way to recall those times. Time to leave the lens of self-pity behind. 

My mother and I did make our peace in the last years of her life. I wish I could ask her about that time, but she died several years ago. It’s is amazing and kind of shocking that I could carry anger about my first day of school for most of my adult life, without questioning the validity of my six-year-old’s perspective. 

Sorry Mummy.

April 22, 2020 – May I Suggest?

Today a friend sent me this beautiful song. It is so appropriate for this unique and challenging time. This is a live 2017 recording by Red Molly. Have it a listen.

“May I suggest? May I suggest to you? May I suggest this is the best part of your life?”

“May I suggest, this time is blessed for you, time is is blessed and shining, almost blinding bright.”

I hope this doesn’t seem to be a glib suggestion to those who are truly suffering through this pandemic. For most of us who are isolated and inconvenienced, this is a good time to ask, “What gift does the pandemic have for me today?” – a beautiful question proposed by a friend of a friend, who is currently recovering from Covid 19 in her home in Ireland.

April 16, 2020 – Dr. Bonnie Henry Shoes

“Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

The Dr. Bonnie Henry shoe is coming soon! And it’s pink! And I must have some!

Designed as an homage to Dr. Henry, Fluevog plans to donate all proceeds from the pre-orders of these shoes to B.C.’s foodbanks. 

What a wonderful way to celebrate the extraordinary leadership of BC’s provincial health officer. Dr. Henry has shown us, and apparently the world, what graceful strength and compelling leadership looks like. Everyday she speaks to us with calm, clear and compassionate words. Backing up her on-camera persona is an impressive history of experience including with SARS and Ebola – she knows what she’s talking about! Dr. Henry has trusted the public with the truth; trusted us to act responsibly when we understand the facts. Thank you.

And she’s got style! Those fabulous shoes, that pink leather jacket, wonderful necklaces do not diminish her effectiveness as a leader. They are just an added dimension – a delightful one.  

Here’s another homage to Dr. Henry. Have a listen to Phil Dwyer’s The Ballad of Bonnie Henry voice and banjo by Tina Jones from Gabriola Island. It is so important to enjoy and celebrate the positive these days.

April 15, 2020 – The Power of Choice

Here’s another gem from Richard Wagamese:

Move in the direction that brings you closer to the Creator, in all things.

The trail will be revealed and the helpers will come to you. 

Ask yourself: “is what I’m choosing moving me closer or further away from the Creator?” 

Give thanks for the power of choice.

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When I read about this power to choose, I was excited to have this touchstone to refer to. Choices are taking on a different meaning in recent weeks. In some ways we have many fewer choices – STAY AT HOME! That’s the edict. But there are many new choices that come with our change in circumstances. Each day is a new opportunity to get creative. How will you spend your days at home?  The answer to that question is different for each of us. 

For me, this time at home is an opportunity to dig into some creative projects that have been neglected. The recent past few months has been a quiet period in my life, so when the pandemic orders to isolate came about, I was ready to challenge myself. I have been spending regular time to painting, play music, walk, meditate and – building a website. 

For others, who are in need of respite, this time has been one of retreat. Freedom from structure and outside demands is their path to the Creator.

For some, this is an extremely challenging time – fear, anxiety and depression are constant companions as they self-isolate. Sometimes just getting out of bed can be a creative act! 

The point is to make your choices consciously. Are the choices you are making bringing you closer or further away from the Creator?

April 12, 2020 – Happy Easter?

Happy Easter…happy spring…happy renewal…

Here’s a message I received from my dear cousin Michele this morning. It’s got me chair-dancing. Thanks Michele – and Pharrell!

Easter, Passover, Ramadan, whatever your views on traditional religion, this is a time for family and friends to gather. Tonight our family is gathering on Zoom, from our three cities and seven households, to celebrate our connections. Many of us are finding that our imposed isolation from Covid 19 is causing us to appreciate our bonds, and actually connect more than we ever had. We now have a standing dinner date with our daughter who lives in Vancouver. We haven’t eaten together this regularly since she was…13?

My friend Marion has just reminded me of these beautiful words from Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring 

Forget your perfect offering 

There’s a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in 

In honour of Easter (I’m from the Christian tradition), I’ll offer a prayer that helps me to set my intentions for the day and the season ahead:

God of the Universe,

In whom we are all one,

I surrender into your constant current.

Open my mind that I might be free of judgement,

And help me to accept the world as it is today.

Open my heart that I might give and receive love.

Open my hands that I might give and receive blessing.

Guide my feet as I walk my path today.

Open my eyes to see the miracles along the way.

I ask these things with a humble and grateful heart.

Amen, amen, amen…

Aah woman, aah woman, aah woman.

April 9, 2020 – The Great “I don’t know”

I have been reading Richard Wagamese’s book of poetry – Embers – very slowly; a page or two at a time. A good friend gave it to me for Christmas. I find it fascinating how certain books find me at just the right time. Richard’s writing about his spiritual journey has given me a beautiful and unexpected gift. He opened my eyes to the possibility of praying again.

It has been years since I felt the desire to pray. I grew up in the Catholic Church and then spent many years in the evangelical church. Both taught me that faith meant knowing and believing – I was required to give intellectual assent to certain facts – the virgin birth, the existence of heaven and hell, and most of all, that believing in the divinity of Jesus, is the only way to be saved. And if you were not saved….well…you were doomed.

Richard’s words showed me that it was possible to pray in a new way. Prayer that can come from the great unknown. Prayer based on not knowing anything at all. Not prayer that comes from a faith that excludes all those who do not believe the same things. The most freeing words of all, I have found, are – “I don’t know.”

It is possible to pray to the great unknown – the great mystery. The real effect of such prayer is in the opening that happens in my own heart, when I pray. Anything else will be the icing on the cake.

A new prayer to begin my days:

Spirit of the Universe, in whom we are all one

I surrender to your constant current.

Open my mind that I may be free of judgement and accept the world as it is.

Open my heart to give and receive love.

Open my hands to give and receive blessings.

Guide my feet on my path today and open my eyes to the miracles along the way.

I ask these things with a humble and grateful heart.

Amen, amen, amen.

Aah woman, aah woman, aah woman.

March 31, 2020 – Let us begin…

First of all, let’s clear something up. The word CRONE has come to mean an ugly old woman. We are wanting to reclaim the archetypal image of the old wise women, the one with the magical powers. Crones as strong women with powers of endurance.

Those of us in our 3rd Act (i.e. over 60) are discovering a new world of time and freedom. Freedom from the restraints of work and raising children. So, how will we use our magic powers – our time, freedom, wisdom and creativity? Our prescribed roles are no longer relevant so it’s time to reinvent ourselves. 

The downside of freedom from our former roles can be lack of purpose and community. We are also discovering the challenges of inhabiting aging bodies. Health has never felt as precious as it does now, especially right now, while we are in the grip of the global pandemic that is Covid 19. Never have we felt so isolated and needed community more that right now. 

I hope that this website can facilitate connections with like-minded women. I hope you will find community and inspiration on these pages. I hope you might even decide to contribute. 

So, here we go…