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What Building a Pond Taught Me About Prayer

October 12, 2018

“Prayer doesn’t work,” a patient said to me recently—“I pray for things and I don’t get them, so I don’t believe in prayer anymore.” I told him there is a way to pray that works every time. I discovered a metaphor for that kind of prayer while making the pond at the center of the garden in our backyard. The guy at the pond place said that before I dug anything I needed to place cinder blocks around the pond’s perimeter that were level with each other all the way around. This would ensure that when I filled the pond with water it would not be full on one side and six inches low on the other.

 

 

For a while, I puzzled over how to get 43 cinder blocks placed around a circle twenty feet in diameter exactly level with one another. Then I realized that all I needed to do was put one block at the center of the circle and level every other block off of that one. After finishing this part of the project, I got to wondering what I place at the center of my life to measure everything else against. The more I thought about it, I realized that my ego (or what Thomas Merton called the false self) and the broader culture keep trying to put things like success, money, or recognition in the center. Whenever those false-self gods are in the center, the circle of my life gets out of whack. For me, prayer has become a daily way to recenter, and the only answer I need from this kind of prayer comes through the recentering and what follows: living from my true large Self instead of my false small self.

 

Here’s a nested meditation from Now is Where God Lives inspired by that pond project. I like the way this writing form allows me to use a light, playful approach to words to address concerns that often feel heavy in adult life.

 

 

Prayer recenters the circle of my life.


 

Prayer recenters the circle of my life

on the Great I Am Who Am.


 

Prayer recenters the circle of my life

on the Great I Am, Who am-

bushes me with bliss!


 

Prayer recenters the circle of my life

on the Great I Am, Who am-

bushes me with bliss

or whispers "Here, here now" as I cry.


 

Prayer recenters the circle of my life

on the Great I Am, Who am-

bushes me with bliss

or whispers "Here… here… now" as I cry

out, "My God, my God, where are you?"


 

Maybe St. Paul counseled “pray always” because life is always giving us reasons to get off center: a minor annoyance, depressing headlines, feeling rushed or stressed, or comparing ourselves to others. For me, a longer period of recentering the circle of my life on God in the morning needs to be followed up with shorter “boosters” during the day. These can be as brief as a single slow breath that symbolizes my connection to the ever-present Source and Center of my being.

 

 

Kevin Anderson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, and speaker who lives in the Toledo, Ohio area.

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All writing excerpts on this site copyrighted by Kevin Anderson.  For permissions, email wingedlifeinfo@gmail.com

Crecopia moth photo in header used by permission of Scott Rosenfeld, scottrosenfeldphoto.com