Grackle & Sun

Morning Meditation: Atheist Prayer

I am an atheist. And I pray.

I recognized some time ago, long after I’d finally admitted out loud to the world that I neither believe in the existence of nor worship any personal Supreme Beings of any sort, that the one thing I missed about my religious upbringing was prayer. Why? I’ve struggled with this for a long time. It is too bound up in the usage and meanings of others. I’ve had to pick this thing apart piece by piece, knowing that if I could first identify and articulate what I meant by prayer, maybe then I would understand why I, an atheist, need it.

A significant part of this journey was reconciling, in both my inner and outer worlds, that I believe in things that may not fit most people’s definition of atheist. I am an animatheist. Animist and atheist. Suffice it to say that while I don’t worship any gods, I am deeply steeped in the spirit, and my life reflects that. We can get into this some other time. Preferably around a fire with a good hard cider. We will talk about strange phenomena, lucid dreaming, plant energy, daoist witchcraft, folk magic, hylozoism, Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, and the delightful and dark world of the subconscious. I promise, it will be fun.

And so here we are at the point where I tell you what prayer is to me. Prayer is a sort of meditation, one that works for people, like me, whose monkey minds cannot abide staring at walls with their eyes half closed, silent and still. The words of a prayer recited or chanted calm the monkey and unlock the stillness within. Prayer is a key. Prayer is also a gateway. By using an external mechanism, a symbol, such as prayer beads, in conjunction with the often poetic or heartfelt language of the prayer, the conscious is bypassed and the subconscious is tapped. Through prayer, we tuck our rational, linear conscious mind into our back pocket for a while and allow the subconscious to take over and to guide us, to speak freely from the deepest parts of ourselves. Prayer is a lens. It allows us to focus our intention and will. Through prayer we identify problems and ask our deeper selves for solutions. Prayer is a ritual reminder to be mindful, to be thankful, to be good, to be aware, to be better. Prayer is an acceptance of our humble state in this universe. Through prayer we acknowledge that we are not in control of all the things, and at the same time we acknowledge our connection to all the things and our responsibility to do what we can. Through prayer we practice and reinforce learning how to ease up and go with the flow. Finally, prayer is the yin to the yang of Action. Prayer is reflective and restorative. It allows us to still our thoughts, heal our spirits, focus our intentions, and gather our potential energy so that we may then go into the world and act with wisdom and kindness and understanding. Prayer helps us get our heads on straight, to get right with ourselves. So, even though I do not pray to any gods, I pray for these reasons.

I wanted to make prayer beads specifically because I wanted something to hold in my hands—not only to help me focus, but also as a reminder that Prayer and Action go together. That the same hands that pray for something must then go make it so. And so I made what I very tongue-in-cheek call my “witch’s rosary”.  In reality, as witch is not exactly a title I claim, it is simply my chantstrand.The beadwork was set to a prayer of sorts that I’d written a long time ago and is not symmetrical. It is made of handpicked white Job’s Tears and polished copper ore on red thread. There are more in the works, by request and also to be set to other prayers and chants. I think writing one’s own prayers can be very liberating and healing and can bring a great deal of clarity and solidity to one’s practice.

Many blessings to you all as you find your spiritual center. Remember that you can carve that out for yourself.

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21 thoughts on “Morning Meditation: Atheist Prayer

  1. So love this, Dre – the most cognizant explanation and description of prayer I have ever read. I am a Christian and fully appreciate your feelings of your own spirituality and the reason prayer speaks to each of us in our own hearts. Thanks for sharing this – K

  2. You sum it all up so beautifully and comprehensively. Prayer is the way to direct our overall being towards the right values in all our actions. And it is open to all of us, regardless of organized faith, community, background. Thank you for this post.

  3. I love this, especially your definition of prayer. Many people think of prayer as a giant vending machine to dispense their special wishes, but I wish they could come to understand this balanced and expansive view of it. It’s not about getting what you want, it’s about pausing long enough to see what you need to do, and how you can deal with those things you can’t do anything about.

  4. Interesting and thoughtful post as always.

    I’ve never learned to use prayer, but you make it sound attractive for the first time. I try to tie down the monkey with weaving and the very expression is probably why I don’t always succeed…

    To do away with the labels completely, here’s another one, I think I’m a sort of pagnostic. ;-)

  5. I read this and feel like i’m looking into a mirror, everything that you said here and plus the other types of blog posts (especially the one on your dye garden and leaning how to knit is like wrestling a octopus) is so much like my own journey! I am going to up date my blog and try and show you what we have done with ours here in Calif, weird i know, we even ordered the same seeds from Mountain herb farm in Oregon!! :) see you in the garden!
    V

  6. I love how well you express yourself!
    I was just reading a bit of this post out loud to my partner, and looked up to him smiling and said…… “it’s like she is in my head!”
    So many of our thoughts are the same……. and yet when I try to explain myself to others my jumbled up gemini brain gets all snarled with thought and I can’t quite spew forth coherent words.
    “atheopagan” is this a real word? Or something you coined? Fits me to a tee!

    • I’ve got Gemini brain, too! If i tried to say this out loud (which i have ), it would come out an incoherent mess. You’d be laughing. Writing is a long, painful process for me, but it is the only way I am able to be even a little bit articulate. Animatheist came out of my head, but atheopagan is a thing. I only recently heard of it when i found an atheopagan bumper sticker and then looked it up and found several sites related to it. Pretty cool. We are not alone.

  7. This is wonderful. I love the idea of prayer as a partner to action. I’ve never been comfortable with the “I’ll pray for you” or “I’ll pray for that” mentality, without an accompanying effort to actually do something about things.

  8. Cyndi Buckey on said:

    I don’t think there is a believer of any stripe who would take issue with your description of prayer. I think it was spot on. I am a Christian so obviously my prayers are addressed to the deity I worship. I am also a Lutheran who uses prayer beads because I like the action/contemplation connection. That and a bit of ADD which I think must be pretty common given the nearly universal use of prayer beads. Very well said and may you find blessings on the journey.

  9. I’ve only just found your blog . . . and love it. There is so much information here to help me in my work/play and I like you philospohy.

    As for this post . . . you have written exactly what I think and feel. As an atheist (and I don’t really like being defined in terms of what I don’t believe) I thinkt spirituality is not being the preserve of this who do have a belief in some divine being or beings but simply part of who we are. Prayer, communion with the deeper essence of the world is part of how I live . . . on a simple walk in nature, it can be felt if you slow down to a natural pace.

    I don’t have prayer beads but I do pick up and carry pocket-stones to rub between my fingers

  10. Pingback: Returning home | Local & Bespoke

  11. Susan on said:

    That was wonderful! I was ‘sent here’ by Local & Bespoke…THAT woman :) has sent me to so many extraordinary places and I am so grateful. Thank you for a proper way to pray………and roll up your sleeves and help!!

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