First, understand that I’ve never really been the praying type. I don’t believe in divine intervention when it comes to the outcome of a football game or a child in the ICU. I don’t believe there is a direct correlation between what we want and how hard we ask for it, otherwise that would make those teams that didn’t win, or that child that didn’t wake up, somehow ‘less’ in the eyes of an all-powerful being who is only rewarding those who beg hard enough. If there is a God, I doubt she is that vain…I would hope not anyway.
That being said, I applaud those who pray. I think amazing things can be done with the power of prayer. And by prayer, I mean thought, good vibes, positive energy, healing white light or the mere act of love being sent with good intention. Call that naive, that’s fine, but at the end of the day I like to think that we are all a little more connected than we can even imagine. And really, prayer isn’t hurting anyone – in fact – if it helps those who otherwise feel helpless in certain situations, bring it on.
The First Time
So the first time I was asked to pray for GWB was in New York City. I was taking part in an anti-war march just after we invaded Iraq. It was a day of anti-Bush, anti-War and anti-What America Had Become-speeches. It was near the end of the day. We had marched from Central Park, down Fifth Avenue to the Flat Iron Building, then up again. We were hundreds of thousands strong, we stretched from one side of the street to the other and miles in either direction. It was not only a day full of disgust for what America had become, but in the city that was still healing from the wounds of the attack on the World Trade Center, it was a day of unity, solidarity and helped many of us who had felt so helpless for so long. We finally felt like we had a voice.
Many spiritual leaders were there that day. One particular man stood at that podium and told us to bow our heads for GWB. He was answered with the booing of thousands of us. After things quieted down he proceeded. It was a simple prayer. He asked that we pray that GWB realize that sending those troops into harm’s way was not the answer. He asked that we pray that GWB find that part of himself that knew war was not the answer. He asked that we pray that God, somehow, intervene at this turbulent time in America’s history. He asked that we pray for an America based on true morals.
After we prayed we cheered at what seemed like an unusual moment of clarity in a day filled with anger and fury. It did change the course of much of the day for me, making me realize that the only way we could truly fight against the anger and fear of war-mongers, was with the power and intelligence of peace. I still believe that today.
The Second Time
The second time I was asked to pray for GWB was in Portland, OR. I was at a Qigong conference and the speaker was having us do a breathing exercise where we were sending good intentions around the world. It was a practice we were participating in that showed us how everything was connected. It was a mixture of intentions and prayers, based on the science of people like Einstein. We spent hours sending this ‘tidal wave of love’ to different groups around the world; those who were helpless, those who were starving, those who were suffering, those at war, etc.
Then, in the middle of this exercise, he asked us to send our waves of healing to GWB. We were a group of over 700 people and you could hear a collective ‘WTF?’ within the room.
He stopped to explain. GWB has been receiving nothing but negativity from around the world. Every thinking person, every compassionate person, has been wishing he would smarten up, grow a brain or in some cases, die. Millions of people from around this planet have been hating this man, not only for the thousands of American soldiers he has sent to their deaths, but the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians that have died due to his war based on lies. We have been sending to this man, and those in his White House, wave after wave of hate.
But, he continued, that is the problem. This man and those with him are the products of hate. They are the product of fear and the product of power gone wrong. We are sending them what they already know and already have in abundance. We are merely feeding them what they live off of day after day. What we need to do, he said, is send them Love. Send them a vibration of caring, compassion and empathy. We are 700 strong tonight, but tomorrow we could be 7,000, in a week we could be 70,000. Can you imagine 70,000 people all sending this man not ‘we hate you and all that you are’, but instead, ‘we love you and want you to make better decisions for the betterment of all mankind?’
If we come at it from a place of love instead of hate, he said, imagine the change we could make in this world.
As an example, he pointed to the study done in Washington DC in 1993, where 4,000 masters of meditation were gathered to pray for peace. They recorded a drop in crime by an average of 21% during those days (see study here). This study was not the first of its kind, and showed (using scientific methods), there was an influence on society when a focus was put on creating a more peaceful world.
So we did our breathing exercise, and for the second time in my life, I actually prayed for GWB.
The Third Time
The third time was in Phoenix, AZ. I went to see Tulku Lama Lobsang, a Tibetan Monk who was the last known person to retain all knowledge of Tibetan medicine practices. He was young, in his mid-30’s, but his talks were mind-blowing when you realized the knowledge he possessed.
We didn’t actually pray for GWB, but he was the subject of our talk about how hate can be harmful to our existence. He talked about how we hated that man for what he did, because he showed no respect for the lives of others, be it our own soldiers or innocent people around the world. He emphasized how we hated what he was doing to this country, how we hated how embarrassing he was as our leader and how we hated that we felt so helpless to stop him.
He talked about how our hate for another human being, in many ways, made us more like that human being than we were even aware. We no longer saw him as a human being – the same thing we were accusing him doing toward others. We no longer saw him as worthy to remain in power – the same thing he was saying about others. We no longer saw him as even worthy of the benefit of the doubt – something we accused him of. We wanted to see him put in a cage – the same way he allowed others to be treated. We proudly proclaimed we had no respect for that man, and by letting those thoughts consume us, we became no different from that man.
Our anger, as we moved away from a world that we said we wanted, was creating more of the world we swore to despise. A world of anger and hate. Our hate, the Lama quoted from another wise man, is like drinking poison in order to hurt someone else. We only hurt ourselves. We cannot fight hate with hate, he emphasized, we can only fight hate with love.
We can only fight hate with love. This has been the same message we have heard from Martin Luther King II, Gandhi, The Dalai Lama, John Lennon and even that Jesus guy. It’s so obvious, and yet, it seems we need to be reminded of it again and again.
So what now?
So as we now live in a world of the Boehner, the Cantor and the Limbaugh. A world filled with Beck, O’Reilly and Hannity. We can get to that place where we either wish bad things upon these people we see as harmful to America, or we can remain true to what we want this world to actually be, a better one. Or, as I saw one person write on a sign during a Westboro Baptist Church counter-protest – Our Love is Bigger than Your Hate.
Of course, I would never try to tell anyone how to act or what to think, we’ve all got our own paths to walk. And I can’t pretend I haven’t fallen into the trap of hating and despising everything the other side represents and is doing to this country. And I won’t lie and say I have not been disgusted at the lives we’ve lost, and have forever altered, based on the lies of the Bush Administration. But when I quiet down, and think a little deeper about the world I wish existed, I am always surprised to find out I have become just as hateful and vengeful as they are.
It makes me wonder if very many people even remember why we started this fight to begin with? I have always been a Progressive and a Liberal because I believed in a world full of Peace, Respect, Tolerance and Equality.
My Love is Bigger than Their Hate…or at least, at one time in my life, I used to believe that was true.
Vince is the author of Einstein’s Shutter, among other works.