What is reality? How is it related to the space around us and our perception of time? How is it related to spirit and meditation or prayer?

When you get in your car to go to work in the morning, what do you see when you look out? Do you see passersby? The road ahead? Traffic lights? … the windshield? No, most of us are accustomed to peering through the windshield without even thinking about it; we just do it. What changes when you do focus on it? You notice yourself driving again, you sense the car a little more, and your experience of that moment in time changes a little. This is one of the goals of meditation; to get us to get back in touch with the driver within us, the silent witness of everything we do.

“Seeing the windshield” is my metaphor for noticing the being within, rather than only focusing on the world “out there.” It’s a little reminder to quietly touch your spirit for a moment, a wordless sensation of  I am here – or, more accurately, I am.

Deepak Chopra, in his book Synchrodestiny, talks about how, if you spoke on the phone 24 hours a day, you might begin to think you were the phone, or rather, you might have difficulty discerning where the phone ends and what a phone is exactly, in relation to yourself. One could apply the same metaphor to the car. Our selves enter our bodies and spend a few months calibrating as infants before navigating our karmic paths through the lens of bodily senses. But as the old saying goes, you don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

We navigate our life’s path from inside the vehicle of our bodies, and whatever we encounter along the way shapes our perception of the way the world is, which is what each of us consider the truth, even though each of us may have encountered wildly different landscapes, and therefore, different versions of the truth. For example, a fish in the depths of the ocean doesn’t know what the ocean is. It doesn’t know about the shoreline. Water is all around the fish, and even cycling through the fish. The ocean is the only reality it knows. In spite of this, it is unlikely that the fish could tell you what water is, or perhaps even confirm that it’s aware that water exists, precisely because it can’t tell you where water isn’t, or what else there is besides it. And perception is reality. So if, all around us, there is a field of energy that contains everything there is, and indeed even permeates our selves, we might not know how to realize such a thing, and we may not realize that, in order to access it, we must go back to the still core of our beings.

There is a zen story of two monks watching a flag move in the wind. The first monk says, “the flag is moving.” the second monk says, “no, the wind is moving.” Their teacher says, “you’re both wrong. Only consciousness is moving.” (Deepak Chopra, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, paraphrased.)

Though the world we know grows smaller and more unified every day, our individual realities are yet very different. There are tribes in the Amazon rainforest who can discern multiple shades of green – and indeed even have words for each shade – which to you and I in the modern western world would seem to be the exact same green, indiscernible from each other. This is not due to any difference in the rods and cones of their eyes, but rather to the conditioning of their reality as a culture. They are conditioned to see that particular aspect of the world around them in a more focused and specific way than you or I might be. Perception is reality.

Next time we are in our cars and it’s raining out, we might think of how unaffected we are by that wetness from within the car, no matter how many buckets of water fall on the car, the same way our silent witness within is unharmed by the tragedies which befall the world we inhabit, no matter what tragedies may strike us in this life. In this experiment, we reach out and touch spirit. We might try the experiment of watching the road and the scenery coming toward us, rather than the perception of us traveling toward it. In this way, we experience how any reality can be perceived in different ways and still seem real, when the perspective shifts. Practice imagining watching your car go by from a bird’s eye view. Imagine that you can see yourself inside it, driving. How do you perceive your self differently?

All of these little experiments are easy ways to ground us in the present moment with open eyes, or maybe I should say with a third open eye, in order to prepare us for the point of this article, which is a means of meditation or prayer that you may like to try.

We are accustomed to the concept of praying as asking for the thing we desire whether that thing be an object, or forgiveness, or whatever, using words. From a young age we are taught prayers to recite, word for word, to ask for things in a specific way. We hear own own voices recite the words in our heads. Sometimes god doesn’t answer important prayers in the way we expect though, and we are prone to draw the conclusion that either we, or religion, or perhaps god himself, has failed us in some way. But what if we gave a more basic kind of prayer a try – one that doesn’t involve any individuals, or words, or places to lay demands or blame? What if, once we reach that quiet, prayer-like gap between thoughts, in that space of peace, we experienced the object of our desire, with gratitude, as though we already had been granted the thing we want? What if we smelled the rain that our crops need, sensed the tickle of joy of holding the baby you long for, radiate with the warmth of settling into a new lover’s arms, enjoy the nice feeling that comes from donating the excess of money that you needed for yourself? This is the most effective means of prayer that I have experienced. Please note that god is not removed from the equation; we just don’t speak in words, and we don’t even ask any question. We think more in sensations, in feelings, in pictures. The moment that I ask god for something instead, and engage my intellect, it’s like admitting that the thing is not here, or doesn’t exist: “we need rain because the ground is dry and the crops are dying,” or “please send me a baby because my life is empty and lonely.” I believe I may understand the advice to ‘have faith and rejoice’, by mediating on the thing I seek with joy, and without desire; rather, with gratitude and bliss. Time is not experienced the same way to us as it is to god (in fact scientists now use the term “timespace” because we now know that time is experienced differently depending on where the point of reference is). Admitting you don’t have the thing you need is like admitting that god didn’t do it. Instead, come to spirit in the space between thoughts, wearing the object on your heart, experiencing how wonderful the thing is, with such gratitude, as though watching a movie of a lovely day you spent recently. It’s that simple. And so effective.

The seed is thus planted. When the season arrives, it will blossom into manifestation.