“We’re praying for you.” It’s a sentence I hear a lot these days. My dad says it when he hangs up the phone. My friend Mindy forwarded me the message from her church prayer list, letting her know that they would pray for me as she requested. I got a card from Kathrin last week and Barbara yesterday telling me they’re praying for me. I have cousins and uncles and aunts and friends and acquaintances and strangers praying for me all over the world.
I’m have not been sure what to make of it. I’m not a religious woman, and I don’t have a concept of a benevolent father God who listens to prayers and makes choices about our fate. And yet I am a spiritual woman, and I believe that there is something bigger than human consciousness, something I absolutely don’t understand. I know that prayer can’t be causal with healing, because otherwise wonderful people would never die of horrible illnesses. And I also believe that prayer isn’t useless either, because there are studies suggesting that transcendental meditation, at least (which is like prayer) is associated with better health outcomes when many people are engaged in it and direct their attention in a particular direction. And I guess, I am starting to believe in it because of something personal too, something that can’t happen in a research journal.
When I was in Europe, my friend Mark offered to give me a kind of a healing blessing. He had spent months in India learning to do it, and it basically required him to channel energy through him and pass it to me. He gave me this blessing twice in person, and both nights I slept more deeply than I remember sleeping. And, as a bonus, he told me that he and his wife would continue blessing me from a distance, that I just needed to lie down for a few minutes a day and feel receptive to this blessing. Since I’ve left Europe, I’ve been doing this.
Here’s what I think I’ve found. Each day, as I go for my nap or lie down to go to sleep at night, I don’t just reach to feel Mark and Charlotte’s blessings, glorious as they are. I think what I feel is bigger than that. It’s almost as if Mark’s blessings have guided me to a place where I can access the prayers and blessings of all of you who have been writing to me or telling me that you’re praying for me or sending me love. As I close my eyes to meditate before I sleep, I imagine that those prayers have formed a river of light, and that I can go and visit the river. I dip my arms in the light and bathe my face in it and let it splash over my whole body. And then, soaked with light, I feel your blessings upon me, and I sleep.
Sleep is no small thing for me. For the last 74 nights as I have tried to go to sleep, I have been either waiting for a surgery or recovering from one while waiting for the histology to find out my fate. I have been more afraid than I ever remember being. And for most of that time, I have been not sleeping well; the monsters really do come out at night. For the last 9 days, though, since I can go down to the river of your prayers, I have slept beautifully, even when I’ve been too sore to move.
Here’s what I think about this. I think that at least some part of what this higher consciousness is, some part of what God or Spirit is, is Love. There are so many forms of love. The extra hug I get from Aidan before he goes to school. The dawn texts from Melissa every day. The chicken dinner Jim brought this afternoon. The way Naomi set up a Netflix account for me so I could watch TV on my computer when I was too tired to read. The flowers from Robyn. The squeeze of Michael’s hand when Stan talks about the next surgery.
I think that prayer is a pure and liquid form of love, without form or touch. At first I thought this river of light was my river, with my prayers, but now I am coming to believe there is just this one river, and that it belongs to us all. When I dip my arms in, I am bathing in the prayers of everyone who is praying for me, but also of everyone who is praying for Chris, and everyone who is praying for Johanna, and everyone who is praying for each of you in your pain and trials and difficulties.
To be human is to be in pain and difficulty, and to be human is also to have access to this river of light that connects us. So tonight, I will imagine each of you who are contributing to this roiling river with your love and your prayers. I will add to the river with my prayers for Chris and Johanna and those in my life who are sick or sad or lost, which maybe in some small way, is all of us. And when I close my eyes to go to sleep, I will imagine that each of us in our need will be on our knees by the riverside, dripping in light.