When we think of prayer, we usually think of people getting on kneelers and asking for stuff from the gray bearded old man in the sky. But are there PRAYERS for the deityless?
Welcome to The Whole Phil podcast, I am your host, Phil Reese, the DJ, that’s my Facebook name, Really Phil Reese, that’s my Twitter, Phillip J Reese, that’s my Instagram, my dot com and my real life. Tweet me right now, hashtag #getyourwholephil and tell me about yourself. I am a loving, lovable, chubby, queer, sober, spiritual, vegetarian, feminist radical leftist web developer, and deejay in DC. This is the podcast where you get your whole Phil. I talk about whatever I want, with whomever I want, and do whatever I want, because there’s no rules, no format, and no fucking censors. Let’s start the show.
Today is Sunday, May 3, and we’re talking about what prayer is for the deityless.
When most of us think of prayer, we think of worship of a deity. Getting down on a kneeler, making the sign of the cross and repeating a 2000 year old mantra. But can those of us who don’t have a deity pray too?
I’ve talked before about what spirituality means to me, and how you can be spiritual without having a deity — even atheists can work on their spiritual side. But how does prayer fit into that?
If the essence of spirituality is the health of your higher mind, as opposed to advancing your rational mind through learning new things, then prayer are those things that advance your higher mind — the part of you that deals with your personal morals, ethics, and your relationships with your immediate communities, your greater society and the universe or nature itself. Prayer is what you do internally to make sure you are on the path to becoming a better human being, and you don’t need a deity to do it.
When you focus on yourself, when you are self-involved, when you are driven by your own id, when you lose sight of your positive goals, when you beat yourself up over things you can’t change, when you take the good things in your life for granted, when you hate others and lack empathy for others — even the people it’s hard to have empathy for — when you manipulate others to get what you want, when you undermine others or throw others under the bus, when you fight against the natural flow of the universe and nature: all of these things do damage to your higher mind.
While I am not an atheist, my conception of a higher power is not a personified, anthropomorphic being. I believe in the flow of the universe, the natural progression of time, the power and energy that moves around and throughout everything. Because I believe that my higher power is the flow of the universe and nature, I harm my higher mind when I fight against these things, and I want to stay spiritually fit, because I believe that life is best when we work with nature rather than against it.
When we come back, we’re going to talk about how PRAYERS can help those of us without a deity to build up our higher mind.
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Now on with the show.
Every day I turn my will and my destiny over to the care of the flow of nature, and try to open my mind up to see that flow so that I can follow it. In order to do that I say my PRAYERS. I don’t pull out a rosary and say 53 Hail Marys though. Here is what I mean by PRAYERS:
- I Park my ego–or id — and my self-will and self-interest.
- I Reassess and realign my goals and hopes.
- I Affirm to myself my good qualities and the positive qualities I want to foster more of.
- Your — or rather my — gratitude list happens every day. I practice the joy of appreciating the good things in my life, and remember I am grateful for those things, so I don’t take them for granted and risk losing them.
- I Empathize with everyone, especially my enemies and people who I could easily dismiss. As difficult as it is, and as often as I can fail at it, this means people like Donald Trump, famous homophobes, and other evil people.
- I Return to the flow of life, nature and the universe, and I atone for anytime I’ve screwed that up.
- I Serve others, and show generosity and compassion.
Park your ego, Reassess your goals, Affirm your positive qualities, Your gratitude list, Empathize with everyone, Return to the flow of nature, and Serve others. P. R. A. Y. E. R. S. Prayers. That’s how I execute my PRAYERS even though I do not have a deity.
A lot of people who have a deity don’t even do all of these things. That’s why we see that a lot of people who have a deity are very unhappy. While they put a lot of focus on “R”, their goals and their hopes, they treat prayer like it’s their Amazon wishlist, and they are angry when the old man in the sky doesn’t deliver. But PRAYERS aren’t about what I want, or what my will is. That’s why the first thing I do is park my will in the garage and put it away. How is nature flowing, and how can I get into that current and follow it, instead of fighting it. If my goals and hopes — my wish list — aren’t in line with that flow, I jettison them. If I hold onto them, I’m going to get sucked into the undertow and drown.
A few words on empathy, probably the hardest part of this. If you only show empathy for people who already show you empathy, you’re not doing anything difficult. The more difficult act is to show radical empathy. To empathize and see the humanity in even the people who have behaved the most inhumanely. This doesn’t mean excusing them of their wrongs. If they’ve not atoned for their wrongs, there is still an imbalance and I don’t endorse that. But I can forgive and see the basic human dignity in everyone. I can. I don’t always do, but I can.
This is an important and powerful step to making your higher mind HELLA strong. You don’t have to like people to empathize with them. You don’t have to sign off on what they’ve not atoned for. But you do have to afford them basic human dignity, give them the space and freedom to atone for their wrongs if they decide to, and forgive them and move on whether or not they take that opportunity. Grudges and resentments are a poison that I drink expecting other people to die. So dump the poison out.
Just because I have empathy for evil people doesn’t mean I’m going to start watching the Cosby show, go to the Super Bowl with George W. Bush as my guest, or playing R Kelly in my DJ sets. They still have not atoned and I cannot sign off on the imbalance in justice that they are refusing to correct. But I can move on, and at the very least, put them out of my head and let them be the flawed people they are on their own time — nowhere near my life — and let them go.
If PRAYERS were easy, everyone would do them. This is hard work, and I often fail at following this as well as I should. My id is very strong. I often foolishly think that my way is best — better even than the way of the universe itself. And reality often hilariously reminds me how very incorrect I am, when I do this. That’s why I try to start my day parking my id and my will, and opening up my mind, to how I can best operate in the world I already live in, instead of trying to force the planet to bend to me. That opens me to be able to practice the rest of my PRAYERS.
That’s it for today. I hope you’re enjoying the show. If you like what you hear, please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, just search Whole Phil or go to bit.ly/findwholephil, and please drop me a rating. Tweet me at @reallyphilreese with topic ideas you think I should cover.
About my DJ gigs: which I usually discuss here. I don’t have any right now. I still have my day job, and my rent is paid every month. But my monthly income has been cut by at least one third, and things are tight. I live in DC, after all. That monthly paycheck is spent pretty much as soon as it comes in. There are people struggling much more than I am, but things get dicey at the end of the month. I hope to set up some virtual DJ sets soon, so keep an eye out for that, but if you want to support me and help me break the ramen cycle with a pizza or burrito every once in a while, my venmo is at phil-dash-reese. That’s at p-h-i-l-dash-r-e-e-s-e.
But please remember there are people right now with NO income who need it more than I do. I did want to put that out there, though. In the mean time, do keep a look out on Twitter and the Phil Reese the DJ Facebook page for upcoming announcements of virtual DJ sets. Ben Norman I and I did a great Kicks & Giggles virtual set last week, streamed from both of our apartments uncut, which was a technological marvel and was a lot of fun. I can’t wait to do more of these.
And, finally, remember, be good to yourself, love yourself, and we’re all in this together.