HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 22, 2017 – 12:00am
A few days ago, Lydia and I were walking around our neighborhood as part of our exercise when we met an old friend who was walking on her way to our parish church. After the usual greetings, she told us she was going to join other people in praying the rosary at the church. This was her daily routine, she said. When we asked her what she was praying for, she looked at us seriously and said she was praying for the state of the world, which needs a lot of fixing. I can understand that, I told myself. We talked some more until she bid us goodbye.
I remembered my mother who was quite a prayerful woman. At the height of the Cold War, she prayed for the collapse of communism, the godless evil of her generation. My siblings and I would roll our eyes when she included the conversion of Russia as a special intention during our nightly rosary.
It just seemed so impossible then. The USSR was a strong, mighty fortress that dominated a big part of the world and geopolitics. It had a military that was ready to fight the most powerful nation in the world, the USA.
There was a certain child-like quality in the way Mom practiced her religion that I used to scoff at, kind of. Maybe it was a generational thing. I thought she was too dependent on faith, whatever faith was. I was a haughty young man. But on the day the Berlin Wall fell, I felt humbled that my mother’s seemingly useless and unrealistic attempts at reshaping the world had become real and had manifested.
Since then, I began to take prayers seriously, especially the prayers of the elderly. They certainly know more about this than I do. Their faith is strong and they never give up. Thank you, Mom, for this valuable lesson. I have learned that to engage in prayer involves the summoning of very strong forces to change how things are.
As I have gotten older, I notice I am turning more and more to prayer. I don’t know if this is a natural tendency as people age. I just know that I do and with good reason: I have prayed many times and my intentions have been granted many times.
I do not care to analyze the science, or the absence of it, behind prayers. I just know that it is a powerful force that does good for the one who prays and the intended beneficiary.
I also look at prayer as something that refines me in some ways. It clears my mind as I focus on my true intentions. I get to know my own fine print.
Sometimes, I pray for something specific to happen until I realize that what I really want is for everything to just be all right. And that means that what I specifically pray for to make things all right does not have to tie God’s hands to the “how” it must happen. I have to surrender to the ways of the Higher Power. Maybe I am actually praying to God to make me accept whatever happens. Maybe that’s what it means for everything to be “all right.”
The other Sunday, I saw a woman in her 30s and her father enter the church and walk to their pew. I noticed that she walked very slowly, assisted by her father. Her right hand was clutched in a fist and placed close to her stomach and her movements were very slow. Her strength was coming from the left side of her body, which was dragging the right side. She must have suffered a stroke at her young age.
All throughout the Mass, I kept looking toward her, checking to see if she was all right. I prayed for her. After Mass, I told Lydia and my granddaughter Ananda that I had this urge to go and talk to her. I went up to her and struck up a conversation.
I simply expressed to her the empathy I felt at that moment. I told her and her dad that I wanted to pray that she be healed. I apologized for intruding too much by expressing myself in a straightforward manner. She was crying but I could feel her joy seeing that a stranger cared about her condition. I promised to pray often that she recovers completely.
I have observed that one characteristic of the prayerful is humility. I am still learning that. One must accept that we have very little control over things. This is where my prayers of gratitude originate. I often pray not to ask for anything but only express joy and gratitude for just being alive and being where I am right now. I give thanks for the person I have become and living in the time and place that I am in, surrounded by people I love and who love me.
I also do Zen meditation, which is a form of prayer. Zen is a letting go of concerns, a distancing from the world and one’s ego to meet the bigger Self that embraces and includes all sentient beings. A few days ago, I imagined during meditation that God was actively healing the woman I met in church. I also often imagine spreading love to friends, loved ones and even strangers.
Many times in the day, I find that I am talking to myself. When I notice this, I consciously decide and make my inner dialogue a conversation with God, or what others may want to think as their higher selves. You may want to ask: Am I really talking to God? Often, I think I am. Do I get answers? Yes. One answer He gave was that He would heal that woman. I believe that.
Sometimes, I ask if I am just talking with myself. It’s a real possibility.
And then I hear God say, Does it matter?