Praying the News

How can reading or hearing the news be as much a part of your spiritual practice as studying sacred scriptures or everyday prayer?  How can the news help you clarify your particular service work when the needs and opportunities are so great?

Praying the News Begins by Being Fully Present To It

“Reality shows” can be watched as entertainment.  Genuine news demands that we be fully present to what is and allow it to affect us, even when there’s nothing we can do about it. That means honoring life as a mystery, not as a problem to be solved, but as a paradox where we are called to go deep into the heart of compassion without agenda or attachment to outcome.

Every faith has so much to teach us about surrendering to the wisdom and will of something greater than ourselves, whether or not we use the word God.  I have been particularly touched by the work of the late artist/peacemaker/oral surgeon Frederick Franck, who taught me the Dutch word “schouwen.”  Franck saw this as a way of seeing life in all its dimensions, so perceived separations between us and the other dissolve. This kind of practice, Franck said, opens us to inspiration.  It liberates creativity and builds respect for self and others.

For Franck, schouwen led him to humanitarian service throughout his 97 years of life, authoring The Zen on Seeing and 29 other books, and creating the beautiful trans-religious oasis, Pacem in Terris in Warwick, New York.

One Way to Pray the News

Please join me, right where you are, in praying the news.  As you do so, edit the following prayer as you see fit.

Let us now attune together, heart and soul, as we enter the mystery together.  In the silent fullness of sweet surrender to what’s most eternal and wise, let us rest for a moment and refresh our souls.

Into the heart of this quiet mystery, let us place our care and concern for whatever is happening.  Let us bless it by seeing it just as it is, right now.

Let us bless it by envisioning the best for all concerned (even if we do not yet know what is best); let us bless it again by calling forth the best.

Let us bless our own questions about the news as we reflect: how do outer events mirror our own gifts, faults, etc.?  How are we like the dazed wanderer or the tyrant or the healer we see in the news?

How are we being called to serve this particular challenge or follow this opportunity or vision?

How can we do what calls us, when so much calls?

The News Isn’t Just What’s Reported on “The News”

The real news includes the ongoing reporting of your intuition, your instincts and other elements of your natural genius that are too often quashed. When those gifts come alive, we see life more clearly.

The most dramatic experience of praying my own news happened during what is now known as the Loma Prieta quake in 1989.  Then, I felt the bristles going up and down my spine warning danger long before my mind registered “Earthquake! Big one!” and way before I felt the building sway wildly.

Hyper-alert, one part of my brain reviewed quickly a recent show on “How to Survive the Big One” on the local PBS station.  I saw this information almost as if it were an internet home page, allowing me to skim quickly the various offerings and to click for further information.

At the same time, I surveyed the room for likely dangers and my safest spot.  Almost immediately, my two bad knees (from torn tendons in separate accidents) bent easily, and I was under my desk fast.  I heard the same inner voice that has guided me to my husband, my right work and other good things in life.  “You are now going to learn the difference between fear as a fault and awareness of danger as a gift,” it said.

Under the desk, I became aware of that part of my psyche that some call the mask or persona, which was obsessed with whether or not my crystal glasses at home were safe or if colleagues who were then laughing and talking throughout the quake were going to tease me afterwards.  Underneath the mask level, in what the Pathwork calls the “lower self,” I was just furious.  How dare God put me into this situation where I could get killed?

Underneath all that, the quiet voice spoke again.  “You could always die at any moment.  The question is, how are you going to live your life in the meantime?”

In that instant, I surrendered to the choice to live fully in the present, at least for that moment. I was overcome with awe and wonder, as if I was riding the power of earth and feeling how it connected the approximately 7,000,000 of us who live in the Bay Area.

Afterwards, the awe and wonder continued,  as I became more aware of both the power of humans to build with the earth and the impossibility of taming it.  In the weeks to come, it was always amazing to watch buildings that looked irreparable to my untrained eye be made whole again, while buildings that looked safe to me bore the red tag of unsafe and had to be torn down.

Ever since that quake, I have had a clearer touchstone for what it means to see more clearly what is and to be guided by a force much greater than ego or will. This is what it is like, my personal news archive reminds me, to be engaged with life and let it teach me, let it call me to work more from that sense of connection to others and the earth. This is a reminder of how much can be learned and experienced in a short time, for the Loma Prieta quake itself lasted only 15 seconds.

What’s Your News?  How Does It Call You to Live and Act?

In the days to come, I pray for the renewed commitment to keep praying the news, to find my best service for Haiti, for my hometown, and elsewhere. Without prayer, it feels impossible to take in the news.  With prayer, I can sometimes see how the little I can do, the little I can give, can grow and be enough.

What’s your prayer?  What does your prayer guide you to do?

As always, many blessings,

Pat McHenry Sullivan