Category Archives: Prayer

Meditation: A Witnessing, Kind Presence (19:55 min)



Starting with scanning through the body and awakening the senses, we then rest in presence, with the breath as a home base. The meditation invites an openness to whatever arises, and a gentle kind attention if we encounter physical or emotional pain.  We end with a prayer that includes our own being and all beings (from the 2017 archives).


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Meditation: Calling on Our Inner Bodhisattva (21:12 min.)



We each have within us the very source of wisdom and love. This meditation calls forward that essence, our awakening heart, so we can seek guidance and nurturing for the parts of us that need a healing attention. 


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Spiritual Hope



Spiritual hope opens us to possibility and energizes us to manifest our potential for love and wisdom. In contrast to attachment or egoic hope, which is the grasping for what will benefit a separate self, spiritual hope arises from trust in the openhearted awareness (bodhichitta) that is always and already within us. This talk explores how, as individuals and as a society, we can nourish spiritual hope, and create the grounds for healing and radical transformation.

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness.”  

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

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Meditation: Calling on Loving Presence (18:18 min)



Often, when we’re really struggling, the only way to find compassion for ourselves is by reaching out to a larger source of love. We might for instance take refuge by calling on the Buddha, Divine Mother, God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Shiva, or Allah – reaching towards a loving awareness that is great enough to offer comfort and safety to our wounded self.

When we feel held by a caring presence, by something larger than our small frightened self, we begin to find space in our heart for the difficult currents of our life, and for the lives of others. The suffering that might have seemed “too much” can now awaken us to the sweetness of compassion. [Note: recorded during an IMCW 7-day silent retreat]

In French: Inviter la Présence bienveillante


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Conscious Prayer – Finding Refuge in Loving Awareness (retreat talk)



Prayer is a communing with our enlarged being. This talk examines less conscious forms of prayer, and how we can evolve the power of our prayers by opening into the depth of our longing, and reaching toward our true belonging (from the 2016 IMCW Spring Retreat).

How I yearn to belong to something, to be contained in an all-embracing mind that sees me as a single thing.
And I yearn to be held in the great hands of your heart.
Oh let them take me now.
Into your hands I place these fragments, my life, and you my God spend them however you want.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

A Prayer:
Refuse to fall down
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart
toward heaven
only you.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés


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Discovering the Power of Prayer



We all know the pain of separation and have a longing for connection. When we silently listen to and contact the depth of that longing, we are at the root of transformational prayer. This talk looks at what prayer is, who/what we are praying to, the shadow side of prayer, and ways of cultivating our prayers so that they become authentic vehicles for spiritual awakening.

Refuse to fall down
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven, …
ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart
toward heaven
only you.

A Prayer by Clarissa Pinkola Estés


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Power of Prayer: From Longing to Belonging



When we bring a full presence to prayer, it becomes a powerful pathway of homecoming. This talk explores how prayer heals the pain of separation, and offers practical guidance in what poet John O’Donohue calls “unearthing our ancient belonging.”

“What’s it like if you bow your head and whisper and call on something larger?”

from earlier that evening: Meditation: Relaxed Attentiveness

photo: pixabay.com


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Ask the Friend for Love – exploring living prayer



Prayer, when cultivated consciously, energizes and guides us on the spiritual path. This talk investigates the difference between wanting, with its narrow fixation, and the prayer that arises out of our deep heart’s longing. We explore how living prayer, the prayer that arises from consciously inhabiting longing, can carry us home to loving presence. As John O’Donohue writes, prayer is the bridge between longing and belonging. ~ (a favorite talk from 2010)

photo: Katia_M/Pixabay


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Conscious Prayer – Finding Refuge in Loving Awareness



Prayer is a communing with our enlarged being. This talk examines less conscious forms of prayer, and how we can evolve the power of our prayers by opening into the depth of our longing, and reaching toward our true belonging.

(given at the 2016 IMCW Spring Retreat)

photo: Shell Fischer


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Blog: The Transforming Power of Mindful Prayer



Although not always highlighted in the West, prayer and devotion are a living stream in Buddhism. The earnest wishes expressed in the practices of lovingkindness and compassion—May I be happy, May You be free from suffering—are forms of prayer. The aspiration to find refuge in the Buddha (or Buddha “awakened” nature) is an expression of devotion to truth and freedom.

When we’re suffering and turn to prayer, no matter what the apparent reasons for our pain, the basic cause is always the same: we feel separate and alone. John O’Donohue, in his book Eternal Echoes, writes: “Prayer is the voice of longing; it reaches outwards and inwards to unearth our ancient belonging.” This is a beautiful description of what I call mindful prayer. We reach not just outward to know our belonging, but with mindful prayer we also turn inward and listen deeply to the suffering that is giving rise to our prayer. When we are willing to touch the pain of separation—the loneliness, the fear, the hurt–, our longing carries us to the tender and compassionate presence that is our awakened nature.

I experienced the transforming power of mindful prayer some years ago when I was suffering from a broken heart. I’d fallen in love with a man who lived 2000 miles away, and because we couldn’t weave our lives together, the relationship ended. The loss was crushing, and while I accepted my grieving process for the first month or so, as it went on and on I felt more excruciatingly lonely than I’d ever felt in my life.

In the room where I meditate, I have a Tibetan scroll painting (called a thanka) of the bodhisattva of compassion. Known as Tara in Tibet and Kwan Yin in China, she’s an embodiment of healing and compassion. One morning, as I sat crying in front of the thanka, feeling crushed and worthless, I found myself praying to Kwan Yin, wanting to be held in her compassionate embrace.

For a while, this seemed to help. Yet one morning, I hit a wall. What was I doing? My ongoing ritual of aching, praying, crying, and hating my suffering was not really moving me towards healing. Kwan Yin suddenly seemed like an idea I’d conjured up to soothe myself. Yet without having her as a refuge, I now had absolutely nowhere to turn, nothing to hold on to, no way out of the empty hole of pain.

At that moment, even though it seemed like just another concept, I remembered that, for the aspiring bodhisattva, suffering is the trusted gateway to awakening the heart. I remembered that when I’d remained present with pain in the past, something had indeed changed. I suddenly realized that maybe this situation was about really trusting suffering as the gateway. Maybe that was the whole point—I needed to stop fighting my grief and loneliness, no matter how horrible I was feeling or for how long it continued.

I recalled the bodhisattva’s aspiration: “May this suffering serve to awaken compassion” and began quietly whispering it inside. As I repeated the prayer over and over, I could feel my inner voice grow less desperate, more sincere. I knew it was true—I could awaken to the love I yearned for by directly touching the fullness of this suffering. The moment I let go into that truth, the change began.

That day in my meditation room, as I let the loneliness cut more deep, scarcely able to bear the searing pain of it, I realized that I was longing—not for a particular person, but for love itself. I was longing to belong to something larger than my lonely self.

As I let go into the yearning, I distinctly sensed Kwan Yin as a radiant field of compassion surrounding me, cherishing my hurting, vulnerable being. As I surrendered into her presence, my body began to fill with light. I was vibrating with a love that embraced the whole of this living world—it embraced my moving breath, the singing of birds, the wetness of tears and the endless sky.

Dissolving into that warm and shining immensity, I no longer felt any distinction between my heart and the heart of Kwan Yin. All that was left was an enormous tenderness tinged with sadness. The compassionate Beloved I had been reaching for “out there” was my own awakened being.

Whenever we pray, we might begin by reaching out, and in that way remember the warmth and safety of connectedness. Yet, we ground our prayer by reaching inward to the raw feelings of loneliness and fear. Like a great tree, mindful prayer sinks its roots into the dark depths in order to reach up fully to the light. When the pain is deep, the more fully we touch it, the more fully we release ourselves prayerfully into boundless, compassionate presence.

Adapted from Radical Acceptance (2003)

Enjoy a guide to prayer here (blog).

Enjoy this talk on Lovingkindness

More resources on Intention and Prayer

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