Around the Medicine Wheel with Jim Frank

—Don’t we all want a map with a big arrow that says, “You are here!”

Prayer as part of my wheel of spiritual practice.

The Medicine Wheel has wheels within wheels and one of these is my wheel of spiritual practice. I try to live a life based on a practice of prayer, meditation and self-examination, an East, South and West which gives me a North of balance. In the Wheel of the 12 Steps this wheel is found in the West of the wheel of the South, the sixth step.

Prayer is in the East of this Wheel of spiritual practice because of the special vision that it both reflects and brings into being. When I pray I acknowledge the existence of God, that there is a creator, but since I am acting when I pray, I am also calling myself into existence. In this sense I am joining in an act of co-creation. My prayer confirms both my existence as well as the existence of God. In prayer, when it is in its most perfect form, I seem to merge with God and the difference between the prayer and the person prayed to disappears. I remember that as a child I was taught that heaven was the “beatific vision,” being in the presence of God. I believe this gives me an ideal of prayer to reach for. Joseph Rael places in the East the principle idea of Unity and Diversity. I think this fits what prayer is for me, this merging with God but also an acknowledgement that there is a God and I am not that God.

In the sweat lodge, we welcome all prayer. And we say, “How can anyone talk to God and that be wrong?” But one of the lessons of doing ritual is that things done in a way that reflects a certain flow does work better than others. In the sweat lodge, the prayers are as follows: In the East we pray for ourselves. Sometimes this may be as simple as praying that I make it through the ceremony. In the South we pray for our families, what I call “those people that help us be who we are.” In the West, we pray for our enemies. Here I do pray for those with whom I have differences but I include in that prayer all those who I have not prayed for in the South. In the North we pray for our dead, our ancestors, our teachers, and all those who have died as well as those future generations that have not been born yet. In my daily practice this is loosely followed.

Each morning, when I have brought my coffee to my meditation space, even before I sit down I start my prayer. It begins by my thoughts of gratitude for my life, for the life of my family, for the life of my friends and the life of my ancestors. When I sit I spend a minute looking at my altar that is beside my chair. On it there are lots of little tokens that people have given me. I may reach out and touch a few of them and say a special pray for the intention of the person that gave it to me. Gratitude keeps coming back to me, partly because I am so filled by the abundance that I have been blessed with, but also it just comes out of the habit of prayer that I have done for many years. One of my first spiritual advisers once told me, “God is a sucker for gratitude.” So even when I am praying in supplication, I like to start with gratitude.

This is how I start my spiritual practice. Of course prayer is not confined to my spiritual practice and there are other forms of pray that may show up at different times during my day. These may or may not be part of my spiritual practice. They may be part of the blessing of my spiritual practice. Like when I feel some challenge and I pray to God for strength or wisdom. Sometimes I will talk to God when I feel I need some extra help giving love and tolerance to others. Sometimes, just out of boredom I may find myself repeating a simple prayer, what the nuns called an aspiration. I love that, aspiration, each breath is a prayer. One of the things I love about being with indigenous people is their sense that everything they do is a prayer. Joseph has often said, “Work is worship.” When I am at my best I find myself doing that too. But I need to make the clear intention of prayer in my daily spiritual practice. That is where my day begins.

Next I will write again soon about Meditation, the South of my wheel of spiritual practice.

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