“Please God, Please”
I used to pray to sweat blood as a little girl. Dramatic, I know. I was a Catholic schoolgirl, an only child. We rented a small house in a small town, and my parents were young and hip and generally let me do anything I wanted to. The liberal headspace at home, acres of wheat fields to explore alone, and daily Jesus, Mary, ‘n’ Joseph at school made for the perfect environment for me to become the quietly intense mini holy roller that I was. At one point, I used the nooks of my bookcase to create a home for Barbie, and for the Virgin Mary. A leopard-print chaise and a rosary. Heavenly, really.
I prayed. I prayed all the time. I prayed to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, to help me find my silver bracelet on the railroad tracks. I prayed to Saint Christopher to keep my dad safe on his drive to work. I prayed to Mary to help me see fairies in the woods. I prayed for stigmata to prove that I was on Jesus’ team.
In seventh grade I set my sights on becoming a Legislative Page in the Canadian Parliament. Pages are errand-runners on the Senate floor, usually between the ages of 13 and 15. In keeping with Commonwealth pomp and circumstance, pages follow meticulous behavioural procedures, wear black uniforms (bonus!), and are privately tutored for the duration of their stay. Hundreds of kids apply for the honour, and fewer than twenty are selected. I had never wanted anything so badly in my tweeny life.
So, I hustled. I wrote entrance essays and got letters of recommendation. And I upped the prayer ante. Father Flynn at my school had told us the story of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, and it had made a big impression on me.
So, under my Xanadu poster and a headboard covered in unicorn stickers, I lay in bed every night for weeks and gave it my all. As if prayer were helium and my skin were a balloon, I tried to float with pure devotion. Within that container of longing, I would plead with the Lord to Please make me a Page and I would make him proud of me. Please God, Please God, Please God. Please. Please, please, pleeease.
Well, the most I could physically manifest was clammy hands. Not one drop of blood. I had failed.
However, in spite of my inability to bleed with benediction, I was awarded a Legislative Page position that summer. After that, I dialed back my prayer program. Clearly, a good cover letter and pleading with God were enough to get me out of that small town.
THE DIGNITY OF DESIRE
My relationship to prayer has transformed in parallel with my relationship to life. My name for God has changed. My location of God has changed. My capacity to feel God has changed. What I used to call him, I now call Life. What I used to see as rungs on a ladder, I now see as a hologram. What I used to see as out there, I now see is everywhere. God is still useful terminology for me. But it’s so much vaster than I was led to believe in Catholic school.
This was a conundrum of course, because I didn’t want to feel more alone in the universe than I did at the worst of times, and I could certainly do with someone out there pulling cosmic strings for me.
I stopped requesting and started declaring. I went on a request fast. I didn’t ask anything directly of Life, and I ceased all prayerful conversation. Around the same time, I also stopped formally meditating. Intentionally. Not like when you don’t go to the gym one week and then a month goes by — not that kind of slow halt. I actually declared that I would not sit in lotus or pick up mala beads, or watch my breath for, well, maybe forever.
I’d given up organized religion to feel free, and my meditation practice — which hadn’t been that gruelling to begin with — had started to feel like just one more thing to do. Meditation had become an assignment for polishing my consciousness, counting my mantras — achieving.
So there I was. Not praying. Not meditating. And I became sincerely concerned that I might drift so far from my Soul that someone skilled in these matters, like a shaman or a Peruvian healer, would have to tow me back to shore. And drift I did . . . but closer to my Soul, actually. Right over to the shore of desire.
Since I could no longer look up to the sky and ask for stuff, and I didn’t have meditation to clear my head — but since I still very much wanted to get what I wanted, and to feel generally calm about getting it — I got in the habit of making declarations. Well, Life, this is what I know for sure: I want this to work out. I want to feel joy. I want to feel better than I do right now. I want to be super creative. Yep, I really really want that.
DECLARATIONS OF DESIRE.
I shifted from asking to receive something, and hoping it would be granted, to simply declaring my desire in all honesty. I immersed myself in the wanting, not the asking, not the pleading, not the striving, just the very pure wanting. It was the only thing I could verify. It was the only thing I could be sure of.
It became just me, and my desire, and the universe — on common ground. Not a hierarchy, not a waiting game, not a matter of good behaviour, or karma, or the law of attraction. And this resolute belief: that Life wants me to have what I truly want — in all ways. And I realized: my desire is my prayer.
DESIRE JOINS YOU WITH YOUR GOD, WITH LIFE.
Eventually I started meditating again, but with a clearer relationship to it: for the comfort of oneness, for the gift of sight, to disrupt habits. To be of service with my thoughts and energy. And for attunement to my true nature and all that is. For attunement to home — which is where I most desire to be.
– excerpted from The Desire Map