I think this year I’d like to reclaim the word “prayer.”
If you’re not churchy-religious, this word might trigger a reflexive response, turn you off, push you away.
I get that.
Yet, when I stumbled upon a beautiful picture of reindeer appended to this quote last week, I breathed in a deep sigh.
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” — Meister Eckhart.
I read of a scientific study about the effects of prayer in a book a friend lent me. Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind is Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer’s attempt to reconcile her rational scientific background with a weirdly inexplicable experience. (She once hired a dowser to find her daughter’s irreplaceable stolen harp, after exhausting all other means. The dowser basically sent her the coordinates of the harp, down to a city block, and after posting “Reward” posters in that block, someone called, and the harp was returned. Dr Mayer retained a curiosity about the inexplicable ever since, and began collecting research.)
Researchers at Columbia University, expressing surprise at their own findings, are reporting that women at an in vitro fertilization clinic in Korea had a higher pregnancy rate when, unknown to the patients, total strangers were asked to pray for their success.
The findings are in the current Journal of Reproductive Health.
The researchers found that women who were prayed for became pregnant twice as often as those who did not have people praying for them.
The lead author of the report, Dr. Rogerio A. Lobo, Columbia’s chairman of obstetrics and gynecology, said he and his colleagues had thought long and hard about whether to publish their findings, since they seemed so improbable. In the end, the differing pregnancy rates between the two groups of women proved too significant to ignore.
”It was not even something that was borderline significant,” Dr. Lobo said. ”It was highly significant. And still I am not willing to say that this is the definitive answer, that there is definitely an association.”
Dr. Lobo said the idea for the study came from a colleague and co-author, Dr. Kwang Y. Cha, a researcher at Cha Hospital in Seoul.
Most mainstream studies, Dr Mayer found, suggest that one person’s prayer or distant mental intention (ie you can just be visualizing, meditating, or sending good thoughts to someone), can have documented positive effects on another person’s physical condition.
It’s a minefield – there are methodological problems, ideological problems, political problems.
But I come away with this idea: what can it hurt?
To light a candle. To meditate for someone. Pray for them. Not just to say “sending you good vibes” but to hold someone in your thoughts, in a concerted, focussed way, for a whole minute.
What might that do?
What if twenty of us did it at the same time, to the same person?
That’s what I imagined might happen when I asked Kat Ast if she would take on the instagram takeover for us. I could think of a million reasons why a woman, whose one year old is undergoing treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Christmas week, would take a pass. But what I hoped was that the photos would act as a focus for our “prayers”, our good thoughts, our love, our intention. Could we magic Bo well? How much I long for those kind of powers, that would let me erase all the suffering I see around me.
But, what if? Collectively… what if?
Hi everyone! Merry Xmas to those celebrating today! This is going to be a family take over featuring Kat (me), Jeff (my husband) and the real star, Bo (our 1 yo son)! Normally, we are super lucky and grateful to live in beautiful Pemberton on Lil’wat Territory. We moved to Pemby from Squamish 6 years ago when the Lil’wat Nation gave me my first teaching job at Xet’olacw Community School. I now work for SD48, but have been on mat leave and now medical leave for over a year. We will be posting from Vancouver this week. We have been living mostly at BC Children’s Hospital with some very appreciated breaks at the Ronald McDonald House (where we are at the moment) since we found out that Bo has Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) on Oct.7th. Thank you for this opportunity to share what life is like for a displaced Pemby family this week. *A reminder that the holidays can be a triggering time of year for many, as they are for me having lost my Mom to colon cancer 9 years ago on Dec.30th. Please remember that help is always available! Crisis Support Line: 1-800-784-2433 (24/7) OR crisiscentrechat.ca (noon-1am).
Right now, my little heathen boychild does the most heart-breaking impression of prayer only when talking to Santa. Leading up to Christmas, he would suddenly close his eyes and begin to whisper, “Dear Santa…” It’s as though there’s an instinct to it. He just needs some place to direct his thoughts, his wishes, his hopes, his questions.
Sometimes, when I go to yoga, the teacher will say, “set an intention” at the beginning of the class. Once, I opted to dedicate my hour to a friend who had cancer. By the end of the practice, I was in tears. Did she get anything out of that? Who knows. Who knows what invisible things are happening around us.
It didn’t hurt. It certainly made that hour feel even more precious, to me, as I moved my healthy body through a series of poses, suddenly aware of the energy coursing through me, the unrestricted breath, the blessing of that rude good health.
I do believe in the power of words, of to-do lists, of setting intentions and goals, of naming things. Those actions help me battle insomnia, and anxiety, and mind-swirl. They make the vast seem real, tangible, manageable. So maybe, this year, I’ll try making my love and good vibes a little more specific. Every book has a dedication at the beginning. What about dedicating other moments or actions to people, causes, a better and less broken world?