Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.
On this day when we gather and give thanks for the people and the gifts of our lives, when many of us will eat beautiful food and rest from our work, I’m happy to see the connections to Thanksgiving in this prayer and to be able to do it here, on this blog that I really love, and with you, readers, that I so appreciate.
In last week’s post, I spent some time reflecting on the first few lines of the Lord’s prayer. I’ve been saying the prayer at the start of my yoga practice for some time now, and it seems like every day, there’s some new, useful reflection that comes from it.
For me, the Lord’s prayer ties me back into some of the things I really liked about the spiritual community of my childhood–to church and to Bible stories, to song and to standing up and speaking words in unison as a congregation. Maybe I’m more interested in this remembered experience since I’ve started Vedic chanting lessons with my friend, Becca. Chanting invokes a feeling of being connected across time and sound to other chant-ers. It’s similar to what I feel when I pray old prayers. Connected.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Daily. We aren’t requesting a whole week’s worth of bread, or for provisions for the month, or coverage should we reach end times. we are asking for what we need to sustain us today.
And I love the reminder that we are given our bread, the food that we need. Most of us work for the money to buy food at our local store, but money doesn’t provide the food. The food we eat is given to us—by the earth and water and sun, by the plants hold the intelligence that let’s them produce and reproduce, by the farmers who devote themselves to growing and harvesting the food, to the people in between who help make it available. So often I eat without any thought to where my food comes from, but to take a moment to acknowledge what is given inspires in me immense gratitude.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
Let’s face it, we need forgiveness all of the time. We can offer it to ourselves (I’d like to forgive myself for using the mousetrap on the little mouse that moved into my bathroom…), we can offer it to others (I’m currently working on forgiving the plumber for overcharging me last week.) But when we ask to be forgiven by a divine, omnipotent force who sees all the ugly scary stuff inside of us that no one else knows about, when we believe we can be forgiven, this is some powerful stuff. It’s not like the little relief I get when I apologize to my friend for failing to return her call. I think of it as a deep internal, personal, spiritual belief that at our core, we are good and no matter what we do, we can recover. We don’t have to hold all the ugly stuff inside, we can let it go so that our goodness can shine. If we can allow ourselves to receive that and then offer it to others, then our experience of the world is radically improved.
And lead us not into temptation,
Strength. Virya. Sometimes we need some extra help with our very special and unique set of temptations. I’ve got my ongoing thing with sugar, coffee and booze. I’ve also got a tendency to judge a few family members harshly and unfairly. I like to stay up late, even when it isn’t good for me. I can get into a mode where I’m really hard on myself.
I find it hard to imagine that a benevolent God that’s providing bread, forgiving all the crazy secret stuff I do, and delivering me from evil is setting me up with unreasonable temptations, so I think of this as a request for help to notice nice-and-early, when there is temptation I’d be better to avoid and for the strength to do something different: Tapas (effort), Svadhyaya (self-awareness) and isvarapranidhana (belief in a higher power) are the three legs of the kriya yoga stool and are aspects of steering clear of temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
I don’t really know what evil is. Try to define it and see what you come up with. There are some images, some characters, maybe some corporations that come to mind, (first thing I thought of was Monsanto… not kidding) but deliverance from a general evil isn’t very meaningful to me. So, I’ve been thinking about this as deliverance from suffering. And I do think a lot about suffering in the context of yoga practice, because in simplest terms, yoga provides a way of seeing that helps us to reduce the suffering in our lives. The yamas and niyamas are attitudes that help us to have less suffering. The rest of Patañjali’s 8-limbed path does this, too. And I can dig the feeling that there’s some power, God or a divine energy, that’s rooting for me, and with my participation, can deliver me from any suffering I may create for others, the kind I create for myself, or from the kind that comes my way.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
This closing sentiment invokes, for me, humility. Namaḥ. Not me. Obesience. This earth where I live, the cosmic forces that keep it all going, and the reverence due to these powers greater than myself, none of these come from me. This very sweeping acknowledgement that someone or some power other than myself deserves great honor for being the source of this wonder is a relief and a great gift.