Praying to One’s Self

A friend recently asked if I ever prayed for anything. My response was yes, but not in the conventional way. I don’t pray for intervention in the world, but for intervention in my mind, for that’s where I most need help.

We usually think of prayer as an appeal to some higher power. We might pray for someone’s healing, for success in some venture, for a better life, or for guidance on some challenging issue. Behind such prayers is the recognition that we don’t have the power to change things ourselves—if we did, we would simply get on with the task—so we beseech a higher power to intervene on our behalf.

Trying to change the world occupies much of our time and attention. We want the possessions, opportunities, or experiences that we think will make us happy—or conversely, avoid those that will make us suffer. We believe that if only things were different we would finally be at peace.

This is the ego’s way of thinking. It is founded on the belief that how we feel inside depends upon our circumstances. And if things aren’t the way we think they should be, we start to feel discontent. This can take various forms—disappointment, frustration, annoyance, impatience, judgment, grievance—yet whatever its form, the root of our discontent lies not so much in the situation at hand, but more in how we interpret it. For example, if I am stuck in a traffic jam, I can see it either as something that will make me suffer—being late for an appointment, missing some experience, or upsetting someone—and so begin to feel impatient, frustrated, or anxious. Or I can see it as an opportunity to relax, and take it easy for a few minutes. The same situation; two totally different reactions. And the difference is purely in how I am seeing things.

When I catch myself feeling upset in some way, I find it helpful to remember that my annoyance might be coming from the way I am interpreting the situation. If so, it makes more sense to ask, not for a change in the world, but for a change in my perception. So that is what I pray for. I settle into a quiet state, then ask, with an attitude of innocent curiosity: “Could there, perhaps, be another way of seeing this?” I don’t try to answer the question myself, for that would doubtless activate the ego-mind, which loves to try and work things out for me. So I simply pose the question. Let it go. And wait.

Often a new way of seeing then dawns on me. It does not come as a verbal answer, but as an actual shift in perception. I find myself seeing the situation in a new way. One memorable shift happened a while ago when I was having some challenges with my partner. She was not behaving the way I thought she should. (How many of us have not felt that at times?) After a couple of days of strained relationship, I decided to pray in this way, just gently inquiring if there might possibly be another way of perceiving this.Almost immediately, I found myself seeing her in a very different light. Here was another human being, with her own history and her own needs, struggling to navigate a difficult situation. Suddenly everything changed. I felt compassion for her rather than animosity, understanding rather than judgment. I realized that for the last two days I had been out of love; but now the love had returned.

The results of praying like this never cease to impress me. I find my fears and grievances dropping away. In their place is a sense of ease. Whoever or whatever was troubling me, I now see through more loving and compassionate eyes. Moreover, the new perspective often seems so obvious: Why hadn’t I seen this before?

The beauty of this approach is that I am not praying to some external power. I am praying to my self for guidance—to the true self that sees things as they are without the overlay of various hopes and fears. It recognizes when I have become caught in the ego’s way of thinking, and is ever-willing to help set me free.

Peter Russell is an author and teacher focusing on consciousness and contemporary spirituality. His books include The Global Brain, Waking Up in Time, and From Science to God. Peter believes that the critical challenge today is to free human thinking from the limited beliefs and attitudes that lie behind so many of our problems— personal, social, and global. His mission is to distill the essential wisdom on human consciousness found in the world’s various spiritual traditions, and to disseminate their teachings on self-liberation in contemporary and compelling ways. He has a rich website, full of articles, audios, and videos of his ideas at: peterrussell.com

34 responses to “Praying to One’s Self

  1. thank you. I need help with praying. Its such a lonely activity – sharing with myself the fact that I can’t do …. on my own. Knowing, from our teachers, that this is an internal process; that the way forward exists below or beyond my normal reasoning process, does help me to quieten my thoughts. But then I face myself, and most of the time there’s nothing here!
    Even though I’m encouraged to have come this far, and I can stay in this ‘unknowing’ with respectful attention, my ego just loves to take pot-shots at the seeming silliness of my situation (and so do my family and friends!)
    My sense is that I’m on the right path, even though I feel lost and alone here. Do I just have to get used to this state, and trust it? Imogen.

    1. Imogen. Yes you are on the right path. If you can relax into that ‘unknowing” allowing it to be as it is without resistance, or judgment, you may notice an ease and joy within, and a deeper comfort with the state.

    2. Imogene, many of us can relate to the way you feel. However, it gets better – much better. Also, spiritually speaking, you have begun working toward PHD status, where many friends and family may be in kindergarten. Sites like this one are very helpful as there are people of like mind. Hang in there. Love and light to you…<3. Shaz

  2. I loved reading this. Such a gentle but powerful approach to the problem-tangles that seem to get tighter and tighter when you keep pulling at them. “Is there, perhaps, another way of seeing this?” Just feeling the question makes me relax. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for this post. I really appreciated it!
    As a woman who is steeped in the Christian tradition and open to all spiritual truths, I understand this article as praying to one’s self that is connected with the Higher power within us, the deeper dimension or Being as Eckhart calls it or God within us as I like to call it. I know this is very likely what Peter Russell means. So when I pray, I don’t pray to a Higher power outside of myself but a Higher power that is within me and all around me. The Love that connects us all! And my perspective changes from my Ego to my Higher self or my False self to my True self. Thank you for your beautiful work at eckhart teachings,
    Bettina

  4. All that is said here makes sense, but it is easier said than done. My mind agrees, but can you suggest other tools to use when my actions can’t follow this common sense approach. (ex: being caught in traffic is a good example and being late for a meeting or a test, etc – easy to rationalize, but not easy to change perception)
    Can you expand upon the concept of “letting go”. Does letting go involve the mind? And is letting go always the technique to use when feeling stressed or sometimes do you need to release by telling the person that is causing you the stress how you are feeling? Do you always let go, or do you do something or speak out when you feel strongly about it? (Maybe when you fell disrespected, as an example)

    1. I am not suggesting you “try” to change your perception – that would engage the ego-mind again – but rather relax and invite in another perception. If it comes, lovely; if not, there is no harm in asking. It is being open to the possibility.
      As for “letting go”, I reframe it as “letting in and letting be”. I expand on that on my site at http://www.peterrussell.com/TV/vidcall/bmletgo.php
      Telling someone about your stress may help – but only if you can do so in a way that allows them to feel loved and supported rather than attacked or hurt.

    2. The words that Susan used indicate an inclination to “come from the ego/mind”, rather than to let go of it… ‘tool’, ‘common sense approach’, ‘easy to rationalize, not easy to change perception’… and she did ask: ‘does letting go involve the mind?’

      From my experience, letting go is going to “no-mind”, as Tolle puts it. I often joke about this as, no-mind = do not mind = it doesn’t matter…

    3. Susan, your example about being disrespected is an interesting one. When anger comes up in reaction to someone’s behaviour or attitude it is a sign that a boundary has been crossed. Sometimes there is confusion around these boundaries – we get into a position where our needs are compromised at the expense of another and in this case speaking out may be a very necessary step in order to re-establish a healthy relationship. Going inside can help to clarify why we are being triggered so that we can then speak in a non-blaming way.

  5. I always enjoy reading Peter’s calm,practical approach to life’s ups and downs.Resonates with me,and is food for thought-many thanks. :-))

  6. How true! Interesting that today’s lesson in A Course in Miracles is about healing the mind. I forget at times when I’m in the middle of a situation. But the times I remember and ask simply “heal my mind” I get great comfort. I love how you expressed this idea. Thanks, Susan

  7. Wow, thank you for sharing this beautiful practice. While I was reading I was trying it on like a new spring jacket, regarding particularly hard feelings I had about a conflict with my brother just yesteday. Tears just started falling down my cheeks, and I felt a thawing or relaxation around my heart. For me it was a great experiential affirmation of what I’d already sensed with my mind was reliable wisdom. Thanks again, and blessings to us one-and-all!

  8. It gives me hope. I’ll try it especially with a particular repetitive situation which always has
    the same negative results. I’ll see if with this wondering about another perspective results may vary. I mean, I want to see if I can apply this. Thank you very much.

  9. I truely believe we came from God and so have his qualities within us and a direct connection with her. I really relate to you saying that shifting your perspective is totally game-changing in regards to how you experience a situation.

    Massive thanks

  10. I wonder whether I can apply this way of prayer. In my case I have a sister living by herself and with a health problem. I worry about her. A shift of perception could get me out of worry, but when I pray it is for her, hoping the prayer could heal my sister. I heard about Reiki, how do you Peter classify this type of prayer? And,does the Jesus prayer fits in yours? Sorry for my English.Thanks.

    1. I was focusing on one form of prayer that I have found very helpful in healing my mind. There are, of course, many other forms. Yet I’d suggest that each may be more powerful coming from a healed state of mind

  11. When the mind is under the influence of absolute truth our whole being becomes inspired. This experience is the true essence of prayer.

  12. Thanks for this post. I do something similar to this in looking for the opportunity in every situation. The stress and frustration of things not going the way I expect them to is optional and when I can

    choose to be open to the possibilities the unexpected may bring I tend to have a much better and more peaceful experience.

  13. Thank you, Peter! I love what you write. I’ve found they help me a lot since your last two writings “How to meditate without even trying” and “Not resisting resistance”. And I also realize that your teachings are totally compatible with the path I’m following.
    I’m grateful for what you do. I hope that you will keep doing this and I wish to meet you someday!
    Tom

  14. Thank you for sharing this insight! I am struggle with my ego many times. Often it is not after until after the fact that I see that I was dealing with my ego, or pain body as it is also called by Eckhart Tolle. There are trigger points when it comes to my ex husband and all I can do is react. How could I make this transition easier?

  15. Dear Peter

    When we are faced with choices in a perplexing situation and can’t decide one way or another, does the answer or choice reveal reveal itself in a prayer ?

    1. With the form of prayer I was suggesting, it often happens that when you see the situation in a different light, your approach to making a decision also changes – often becoming a lot easier.

  16. I like to add the phrase “if it serves the greatest and highest good” to the beginning of any prayer. It helps to safeguard against the ego taking over.
    Also, I have found that substituting the word Self for God is helpful. It turns the attention inward so as not to rely on something outside of myself.

    Thanks for the article. I love how it reminds us that the solution to our problems isn’t necessarily to do anything about them, but rather to take a broader view of the totality of our lives.

  17. Call it ‘prayer’ if you wish but how I interpret it is: Making your thoughts deliberate in a ‘prayer’ state (the privacy of your conscience) & conversing thoughts & energy in order to seek a result. I think the concept can be very helpful in making oneself more aware of their personal challenges & goals, however should you label it prayer given that It’s only mind related? I think not. Prayer not only entails the mind, but of one’s spirit as well. Prayer (if you are a Christian etc) is your personal relationship with God, the most effective prayer should look like:
    A. Adoration
    C. Confession
    T. Thanksgiving
    S. Supplication
    I think Peter Russel should ‘re-word’ if you like ie to set aside time for yourself (like somebody who is ‘going’ to pray) where you can converse your thoughts that will eventuate into accountability to your own self. I think the IDEA is very effective but is it really prayer?

    In conclusion, I think Russel’s concept would be effective in resolving work, personal or relationship problems, but It it cannot replace ones’s already existing prayer life they have between themselves & God, as you not only you pray with your mind, you pray with your spirit too. In fact, having an internal conversation with yourself & calling it ‘Prayer’ sounds pretty darn cocky when you think about it – Don’t you think? GB

  18. Your example on understanding your loved one is a very big challenge for me…
    Sometimes it can drain you on how to understand the most important person in your life because he views the world in the opposite..When I am giving up, surely something or someone is being sent to open my eyes and never give up…I pray hard but it seems I am not getting the right answer, but thanks to you, I’ll change my perspective and try to be more compassionate and understanding instead of being annoyed on why he cannot see my way…It also goes for other people I ineteract act with everyday….More power.

  19. Dear Peter,

    Before your writings, I didn’t know what I had practiced to be present created the resisting state within. And that’s why it accumulated a lot of sensations, and tension as well.
    After I read your writings “How to meditate without even trying” and “Not resisting resistance”, I stated to practice as you said “go with the flow” and “do not resist resistance”, I then felt the sensations flowed and released. Later on, I found that every time I directed my intention stumblingly into the third eye and find the balance between attention and affection, all sensations in my body flowed, and I feel comfortable.
    So, my question is “is the third eye where we root in the present state?” Now, the sensations are less, but they’re still there, that’s a sign that the resisting is still there. With your experience, what should I continue to do?
    Thank you!

    1. The third eye is just one of numerous possible sensations you can become present to. The important thing is to let the attention rest in a relaxed way, without effort or trying to focus.

  20. I too have shifted my “prayer” away from begging and pleading and into the direction of gratitude.
    My prayer/mantra (call it what you will) for starting the day and for dealing with any challenging situation is this:

    WHAT I DESIRE IS ALREADY HERE AND I’M JUST BEGINNING TO COMPREHEND IT.

    THIS IS THE TRUTH I’VE COME TO KNOW FROM A STATE OF LOVE AND GRATITUDE NO MATTER WHAT.

    NO MATTER WHAT. NO MATTER WHAT!

    Explanation: By acknowledging I have what I desire takes me out of a place of lacking and puts me in the present/whole. No matter what situation I find myself in — it hold the potential to teach me something I need to know.

    The second sentence shifts my interpretations/perception away from anger, anxiousness or annoyance and frees my mind to look for the good in a situation. Reminds me that experience not faith has taught me this truth.
    The repetition drives home that there is no situation that can’t be met with love and gratitude – albeit some require that 3rd reminder and are not easy to see/comprehend but this shift has made a world of difference in my daily life.

    Thank you for this post.

  21. But how do I stop my sadness.i just choose to break up with my partner or 8 years. I’ve been building s house for us and have realized through this I don’t want him any more. He had not much money and now he won’t have a new house. His health is so so as well. I had to go and I know I’ve done the right thing for me but he has had his life turned up side down because of me. His do I feel happy for me when he is sad and angry. I can’t even live in the old or new house yet so I’m in limbo tool I can move. How do you just pray for that?

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