Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dawn Prayers, Day 1

"It's a beautiful letter", he said last night, "of information, but I don't see where they actually tell us to do anything."

And that was where my mind kind of went, "Ping!"

We were talking about the recent message from the Universal House of Justice, dated 1 August 2014. And, you see, I can't imagine a letter from the Universal House of Justice like that in which we are not given some sort of indication of something to do. Of course, it may not be overtly stated, and you may have to hunt for it, but I think all of their messages give us guidance for some sort of action.

So what about this one?

Well, I'm not really sure, but this is what I found: "a place where souls gathered at daybreak for humble invocation and communion before flowing out of its doors to engage in their daily pursuits."

I mean, the whole letter begins with a bit about interfaith relations, or at least that's what I read in the quote referring to "the Lord of all religions", and then talks about the importance of community building and service. And while these are on-going things, it was this bit about gathering at dawn that caught my attention.

My train of thought, if you want, was really along the lines of "how can we prepare for a Masriqu’l-Adhk√°r in our own community?" And this is what I came up with. Let's try dawn prayers. Let's see what happens when we get together at daybreak and offer humble invocation before going forth to engage in our daily pursuits.

And so, this morning, at 5:45, my wife and I headed out of our home and down to the far end of the beach at the Esquimalt Lagoon. (We were way down by Lagoon Road, if you want to join us some day.)

There really is something about leaving the home to do it. It's not the same as just heading downstairs in your pajamas and saying a prayer or two while curled up on the sofa with a warm cup of coffee. It requires a degree of effort beyond just setting the alarm clock and heading back to sleep a few minutes later. There is a degree of sacrifice if you're not used to getting up at that time. It does mean changing the habit of one's routine to include that extra time in the morning. It does mean heading to bed a little bit earlier. But, hey, isn't all that a good thing? Isn't a major part of religion about using what we discover to change our behaviour for the better?

Anyways, we got there around 6 am, and were amazed at the lonely beauty of the beach at that early hour. There were tons of birds, and some seals bobbing their heads in the water. There were the early morning clouds still blanketing the mountains in the distance, with occasional flashes of lightning throughout. And there was the sound of the waves. Oh, the sound of those waves, with the piercing cry of the gulls, and bursting honks of the geese. What a symphony of sound.

We decided to grab our drums so that, just in case, others might know what we were doing: praying (that's a local Native tradition, drumming while praying). My wife grabbed some sweetgrass to smudge with (that's a Native ritual of cleansing with smoke), and I grabbed some blueberries (that's a traditional berry in the area that I eat before prayers) (but only because I was hungry). We parked our car (a traditional means of transportation to go from one place to another), at the far end near the restrooms (that's a traditional.... never mind).

And then we got out and sat on a log and began.

We must have gone on for about 30 minutes, reciting prayers, drumming, keeping beat with a rattle, and chanting. And it felt so good.

It felt SO good.

Of course, to be honest, there were some times when I felt that the various things my wife brought were a distraction, but that's ok. While smudging may not be part of my tradition, I don't insist on someone else not doing it. I just need to learn to not get distracted by it.

And while I sometimes found the drums distracting, that's ok, too. If they help someone else focus, great. I just need to learn not to be distracted. No problem.

We were getting ready to go when this man, who was watching us, waved to me. He had ridden his bike down to the lagoon,  heard the drums, and decided to stop. He saw a little sign near where we were that said "open", and figured that we had put it there. Well, we hadn't. We hadn't even noticed it. But we were glad he came by.

As he walked up to us, I read aloud the words on his shirt. "This little Indian loves Jesus".

It turns out he was visiting from Hawai'i, and had decided to ride the bike while waiting for his family to wake up.

We had a great conversation, shared places to visit. We all told a bit about our lives, our tests and our victories. It was truly delightful. I gave him our number, and asked him to call us. I hope he does. It would be wonderful to visit him near Volcano National Park some day. Perhaps he'll come by tomorrow, too.

Oh, and tomorrow we are going to bring down our white board to invite people to join us. We may not say "open", but we will sure be inviting. Perhaps we'll say "A gathering of gratitude - please feel free to join us."

This was a wonderful way to begin our day, and I look forward to trying this every day for the next week, just to see what happens.

Perhaps I'll make a habit of it.

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