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Do You Pray?

Metastate is about honoring each other’s stories, no matter how different, and creating a more complete picture of our hopes, our fears, our dreams. We’ll share our conversations here and invite you to add your voices to the discussion. Pull up a chair and join us as we recount the stories and lessons of our lives…

Darrée:  While teaching my former students about Typhoon Haiyan, I asked how we might contribute to the relief efforts. They suggested sending water, food and clothes. Then one boy who rarely spoke in class said, “We could pray.” Another asked, “How do you pray?” I must have looked terrified. I wanted to say something meaningful, but I was afraid that another student was going to correct me with his Christian or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness definition. I regret not being able to say more at that moment. 

Maryn:  I can’t remember a time when religion was openly discussed in the classroom. People seem afraid of it. By respecting everyone’s right to their beliefs, we stopped being able to talk about them.

I wonder if this has caused a kind of spiritual void in our youth. Not that they have to be dedicated followers of any one religion, but I get the feeling that many haven’t been introduced to these higher concepts beyond paychecks and designer goods. 

Darrée:  I think there is a way to talk about spirituality without the constraints of individual religious beliefs. For instance, I would rather appreciate the spiritual cultures of multiple faiths than choose and be confined by one. I think it’s more important to distill lessons from all faiths than to form single perspectives for the rest of your life.

Maryn:  I wholeheartedly agree. Some beliefs resonate at certain times and not in others. Our body of wisdom should evolve as we evolve. I like carrying around a variety of teachings and approaches because you never know what you’re going to encounter. Much of my spiritual understanding is a kind of surrendering to powers greater than myself, so I begin to feel very small and realize how much of the world is still uncharted and mysterious. What has been your experience with spirituality?

Darrée:  In college, I took a course entitled “Self and Society” in which we read many of society’s most influential texts – everything from the Bible and Bhagavad Gita to Gloria Steinem and Confucius. Based on my free spirited upbringing, it was natural for me to develop a fascination with spiritual leaders like Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, and Lao Tzu. I was intrigued by this tenet in Eastern philosophy of accepting change as a constant. It wasn’t long before I discovered the I Ching (Book of Changes) and started comparing it to everything in my life. That summer, my stepfather and I shared many conversations about why America was so broken and how Eastern philosophy was going to save it. I’m interested in your practice with the I Ching and your developing consciousness. How has it affected your life?

Maryn:  It has been my entryway into a spiritual belief system and practice. The Book of Changes has played a part in every hard decision I’ve made since college. I felt so lost during that time and would often seek its guidance on big questions like, “How do I move forward in this relationship?” Also, petty ones like “Do I really have to write this paper?”…I received the sign for Youthful Folly many times. As I continued this practice, my questions got better and I could penetrate the deeper meanings of the teachings. I depended on it as I would a treasured friend. I knew I could always trust what it said and that it was what I really needed to hear, even if it was hard to swallow sometimes. 

Darrée:  I think it’s important to cultivate that kind of openness with the spiritual realm. To understand spirituality or to communicate in the language that honors it, we have to take steps away from our physical needs and away from tangible pleasures. I try to check in with this deeper place as often as I can. Have you seen the film Spirited Away? Sometimes I feel like I live in that world with demons and saints connected by this karmic thread of master plans and contingencies. I wonder why people have been dealt the cards they have. I’m always wondering how the puzzles of people’s lives connect to each other and what lessons we’re here to learn. Buddhist monks give out tokens of remembrance to people they meet, so their karmic ties can survive future lifetimes. It’s a way of saying, “Please take this so you remember that I was a good person once.” It’s a beautiful gesture and I think those histories are recorded for everyone.

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