The secret is so simple that you may instantly reject it. I want to, all the time. And yet, when I actually apply this secret, it actually does work.
Bitching is a form of prayer, but we don't see it as such, and that is the first part of the secret. When you find yourself doing the old whining, the same old Bitch 'N Moan, stop for a moment and realize that you are making a kind of prayer.
Bitching is a prayer about how powerless I feel. Psychology has a perspective on this, and so does theology. In classic theology, the other word for bitching is Lament, and there is a prayer structure to support it which you can find throughout sacred scriptures of every tradition. Bitching is actually the lower form of lament. Lament seeks to change reality, whereas bitching seeks to remain safely mired in martyrdom and victimization, to get some attention, but not actually change the situation. Find the biblical lament structure here. I'm indebted to the teachings of Jose Luis Stevens for helping me meld the biblical lament structure with shamanic prayer.
The "lament" prayer structure as Shamanic prayer
Bitching is marked by its repetitive and mostly unconscious nature. We mumble about how this or that sucks, and it's something we mumble about frequently. If you want your mind blown - in an uncomfortable way - ask three friends what you bitch about frequently. "What is it you hear me complain about all the time?" Be ready to be surprised and maybe chagrined. One of the best things you can do to advance your daily consciousness is to become aware of your repetitive behaviours, especially ones that you are only barely aware of. Inside those behaviors are held the keys to opening your smallness and flooding it with large light.
Once you open your awareness about your repetitive bitching, you can ask what your true feelings are - what powerlessness are you actually putting voice to in this complaint? That's when you are ready to make it effective prayer.
The classic lament prayer structure goes like this:
- The complaint or lament: This and this and this was bad. (For shamanic prayer, the lament is placed in the past tense - even if your are feeling the lament powerfully right now. Read on for why.)
- The transition out of smallness and into immensity. In the biblical tradition this is called the "and yet." Bitching is our way of dancing around in our smallness and powerlessness. And yet, the world is not just inside our little heads - there are greater forces operating than me.
- Remembering mystery, immensity and wonder. Affirming Spirit is in control.
- The petition to that greater power: please help me/us
- Praise for the greater power.
Here is prayer you can use and adapt in anyway that is right for you.
(If you are reading this on a mobile device it may not display well - it's in two side by side columns. Try clicking on "go to web version" on your mobile and it may display right.)
Great Spirit (Creator, Great Mystery, Great Power),
I have sometimes worried myself sick
And I have felt alone and confused
I have felt small and powerless and stupid
Sometimes I have felt ashamed
Sometimes I have felt controlled by (this, this, this...)
Sometimes I have listened to those voices that shrink me
And I let those voices make me forget
That you are right here to help me, all the time.
I forgot you are here, in the center of my heart. I forgot that you know my true heart, my true self. I forgot that you are:
Sending the fire of new life to me every second
Sending the fiery power of creation into me every second
Now I feel warmth here in the center of my heart
I feel my breath calmly going in and out
I know you are here inside me
And all I have to do is ask for help
With your help, I am quieting all my fears
With your help, my breath deepens and I relax my muscles
You are with me right now
And you have always supported me
You have a deeper plan for me
I am created to realize myself
I am remembering who I am
I am truth, love and power
And I have never been alone
My only job is to the best I can
And to not worry about the past or the future
I am filled with your power of love
I am filled with your power of forgiveness
I am filled with your power of healing
I am filled with your power gratitude
I am filled with your power of life
Power of life
Thank you Spirit of Love.
The lament begins with a direct address to Spirit listing the honest, raw complaints, problems, failures, and sufferings. The lament is always voiced in the past tense: "I have been… "I was… "Things were like this…." Even though you are feeling these things right now as you make the prayer. They are in placed as happening in the past as a way of rewiring the brain, otherwise known as transforming energy patterns.
Identifying the raw emotion (hate, fear, anger, shame, grief, loneliness, betrayal, etc.) is actually the key to the lament because speaking the raw emotions opens the heart space to let the prayer move from the head to the heart. This is crucial. However, name these and move on, don't wallow or "indulge." (Yes, that's a fine line, and it takes practice to see it.) And make the lament about how YOU FEEL, not about what others have done to you. No blaming! For example, that person humiliated you. The prayer is not "They humiliated me by saying this and this and doing that and that." The prayer is "So often I have felt humiliated." If you want to indulge in language, expand the images around what the feelings feel like: "I have felt as though my heart were being stabbed, I felt as though I was thrown out like trash. Like all of my love never mattered."
This is the "and yet" - the transition from the lament/complaint to the awareness of larger forces, leading to petition and healing. You could actually say, "And yet, I am just a small part of the world, and you are always in control of everything.
This is the "petition" part of the structure. To make that petition even more pointed than it is here, you could phrase it as, "Please help me - send your fiery power of new life into me..." However, you are not petitioning from the lower prayer centers – you are not petitioning God to come to smite those who hurt you. You are petitioning for strength to remember your largeness, to be taken out of the smallness that has overcome you, to remember who Spirit is, to enlarge your view of the events and feeling in the lament.
Here enters the reality - or the transformed perspective of reality.
It ends with praise.