As I was driving yesterday, I listened to a snippet of a sermon that really made me think about guilt. I’ve heard this particular man preach before, and I truly believe he is sincere, but at the same time, limited. He was talking about prayer time and said; “Don’t let the world pull you away from your time with god. Don’t leave god to answer the phone. It might be someone just wanting to sell you something!”
And I thought, “That is the problem. We believe, and have been taught, that we must “set time apart” for god, as if the Spirit of Creation can only be found by getting quiet and shutting everything out. And another problem in our thinking is the idea that god can be left out of our lives, or must be found….that “he” is somehow hidden.
I understand the need to center ourselves, have our quiet time, and all of that. I also understand the need at times to turn off the phone, go on retreat, and get quiet on purpose. Setting time apart for this contemplative period can be deeply satisfying, but we should drop, forever, the idea that when we are not having this time, for whatever reason, that we have temporarily “left god”.
I cannot even count the number of people who, over the years, have told me that they were struggling with guilt and feelings of inadequacy for not meditating or praying on a regular basis. It is as if we think there is some sort of pre-existing correct path (set up by a god that is outside of us and has made many firm and right rules) but we haven’t been given the program for this “event” so we keep fearing we’re missing something and are not doing it (life) right.
We search for routines that made us feel (at least temporarily) secure and we then vow to stick to our plans….and when we don’t, we feel guilty. Rigid rules and routines regarding prayer (or anything) will eventually suck the life out of it.
Hold your plan loosely.
See god (your inner divine self that is inseparable from all that is) in your planned prayer and in your decision to answer the phone instead (even if it was a telemarketer). See god in your meditation, and in the eating of that bowl of ice cream (that you decided to have instead of mediating). See the ice cream as meditation and the phone call as the prayer.
“Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d
by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.” Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself