I Prayed In My Car

Yesterday, it rained.

This wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most, but I live in Los Angeles were “rain” is at a premium. 

Anyone who knows me, gets that I hate to drive to begin with, but hate it even more in mist, rain, darkness, anything but perfect sunny weather at this point. If I won the lottery today, one of the first things on my list would be to hire a permanent driver. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. I’ve been saying this since I got my license as a teenager.  I’ve just never been a fan of driving and I don’t care about cars at all.  But, I do drive and yes, I drive well – just like everyone else thinks they do – it’s just not my thing. But, I had an appointment to meet with a client and since I’m a stickler for keeping my commitments, I went anyways even though when I started to leave, the rain was really coming down hard.  I can’t lie, I thought about cancelling for a second, maybe a more than a few seconds. Yaaasss, because it was raining!  I would have come up with another reason of course, like I was “sick” or something, but I truly considered canceling because of the rain.  Hee! 

Well, of course I went to my appointment.  And in case you missed, I hate driving. I hate rain while driving even more. 

I prayed in my car. I did. Honestly, I realized yesterday that I do that pretty regularly. I’m not religious at all, but prayer (wishes, hopes, whatever you want to call it) is a part of who I am. People don’t know this about me – well, maybe one person does, the one who taught me this when I was a little girl, but every time I go by an accident, or need to say a little prayer, or see someone in distress, or just have a fear or need, I do a small cross at the top of my forehead with my thumb. Yes, I know, how very Catholic of me, but I’m not. I was raised Catholic, but I consider myself a recovering Catholic and actually, truth be told, I can honestly say, I hate the Church and most religion any day of the week.  But my faith in something “bigger” and “after this life” is on point and strong.  I also believe that whatever keeps me hopeful, empathetic, considerate and in joy, is a good thing.  Yeah, I pray most every day, maybe sometimes twice a day.   

I prayed in my car that my journey on the 405 & 10 freeways would be easy, that people would be kind, that other drivers would use their directionals (we call them blinkers – or blinkahs – in Boston). I prayed that my journey would be safe and that my car would not slip or slide and that my tires would hold out (the guy who changed my oil this year told me I needed new tires because they were worn out and then showed me the worn tread to make his point. This is in my head every time I get in my car. Thank you, mechanic guy.) – I did my little cross on my forehead with my thumb and went on my merry way. 

It was a lovely drive. I swear to God, or whatever you believe in, it was incredible! I mean EVERYONE used their “blinkahs” and even though there was one little mishap –  where a car tried to get into the next lane during a slow in the downpour while the opposing car was trying to do the same, they both noticed each other and one let the other by kindly. No horn honking, no middle fingers or exasperated looks – actually, there was a “It’s all good” wave by the person in the first car to the other car.  Seriously. In Los Angeles!  Amazing!

Now, do I think my prayer made that happen? Of course not.  I do not believe that’s how it works.  The God I believe in, isn’t messing with my head that way.  If that were the case, my “prayer” for a few million dollars would have already come true a long ass time ago!  Hahahahaha!  No, that’s not what prayer is for or about for me… 

When I pray, when I do my little cross on my forehead when going past an accident or seeing someone struggle, that pray is a reminder of my compassion. Prayer for me is about hope.  A wish that I be better than I used to be, no matter what happens. Prayer is what made me notice the best in people when a slight mishap occurred between two cars in front of me, in the rain on the freeway, instead of being angry and frustrated that it ever happened at all.

Yeah, yesterday was a great day.

STOP BEING GRATEFUL!

Enjoy the podcast, or read below. Either way, I hope you enjoy it a bit…

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Patio flowersI honestly don’t know where along the way people started equating being grateful and writing in “gratitude journals” as being something you practiced or did in hopes of getting “abundance”.

Gratefulness or being grateful has nothing to do with getting any sort of “reward”.  If you write in a gratitude journal every day about being grateful you get absolutely nothing but clarity about what you’re grateful for.  It would be analogous to writing an “honesty journal” every day.  Being honest is part of what we can do — it’s an “IS-NESS” and it doesn’t come with a reward of abundance – being honest, like being grateful IS its own reward.  It is part of who we naturally can choose to be as human beings.

It drives me insane when I hear gratitude being linked to abundance or any other reward-esque thing.  And let’s be honest: what does abundance mean anyways?  Surely we all want to believe that abundance is some intangible greatness that we’ll get if we keep writing them journals and praying on it and such, but at the end of the day, don’t we all just want to be able to pay our bills, make a living, keep from illness and despair and have joy more times than not?  Well, spiritual-esque preachers and the like will have you believing that it’s because you’re not grateful enough.  And how would you know?

Now before I get slammed by a bunch of angry spiritual folk, let me say a few things, I believe in God. I believe in being grateful and I actually believe in this mystical abundance – the difference is, I don’t link the two. There is NO quid pro quo.  You do not need to be grateful every day to have this elusive abundance that has no real definition.  I mean, honestly, how many people do you know that are NOT grateful for anything and yet are swimming in material abundance?  And in this case, yes, I’m equating abundance with wealth – but I can also ask you the same question the other way:  how many people do you know who are not as grateful as you are about anything and seem to be living in spiritual abundance even if it feels like a façade?

Surely these “gurus” from all sectors of the spiritual and not so spiritual realm are trying to motivate and inspire.  My problem is they don’t really explain the link, they don’t define the term “abundance” and they leave just enough out to let the flock interpret meaning and keep you coming back for more.

Being grateful, just like being happy, is just part of being human.  Sometimes you see a rainbow and you’re grateful.  You see a baby born, grateful.  You get a bonus, grateful. You break your arm and realize how much you really use it, grateful.  Gratefulness is the outcome of what has already happened. Gratefulness is what already IS.  You don’t need to remind yourself and write about it daily and it is something you should do and BE because you’re human.  You get nothing in return for being a good human except… you know, being a good human!  But people have convinced us that if we walk around in gratitude all day long and appreciate the things you have that somehow magically you won’t still want more – that you’ll be happy with what you have and that appreciating what’s in-front of you will make you not crave anything else.  You’ll be content. Really?

We are human beings.  And the magnificent thing about the human spirit is that we always want more. It’s what got us to the moon, it’s what makes us solve mysteries, cure disease or climb mountains. It’s what makes us create iPhones or damns.  We’re not a complacent species to begin with.  There is nothing wrong with wanting or craving more – and you don’t have to beg for it or prove how grateful you are – one has nothing to do with the other.

But hey, if you do want to get something in return for your efforts, I do have a solution.  And the best part is, you don’t need to write in a journal or spend any money at all, unless you choose to.  And I promise you – if you work on this, you will get a reward that is so profound, you’ll be angry you didn’t start it sooner! It’s not this elusive “abundance” that all the gurus and life coaches seem to spew, but it’s better – and it’s usually provides immediate gratification!  Ready?

Every day, wake up and work on being compassionate.  Do a better job of having empathy for your fellow human beings.  And you can do this everywhere.  Have an abundance of understanding and love for your fellow neighbor even if you don’t agree with them. For example, you can be driving in your car and when someone needs to get into your lane – throw them a smile and wave them on. Most times you’ll get an immediate feeling of joy for doing such a simple act of kindness.  Help someone at work who you know is struggling.  Give a homeless person a smile instead of avoiding them or cursing them under your breath.  Work on those types of things and I promise you, you’ll get so much more in return.

Being a compassionate person, working on being sympathetic and loving is a far greater use of your valuable time than continuously writing in your gratitude journals about all the stuff you’re so grateful for.  It kinda seems a bit self-absorbed and a bit silly when you think of it.

But imagine if you could write down today all the times you were a compassionate soul to another human being?  How many would you be able to write today?  One? Two? Five?   Let me emphasize again, you need not write down a thing. And compassion could be as simple as a smile to a fellow runner or walker along a path — But when we show compassion, something that actually takes effort on our part, not only is it a beautiful thing for the person who needs the moment, who needs the love, but it is most times an immediate gratification for the person showing the compassion.  It’s definitely quid pro quo.  Now, I’m not saying it’s the only reason you should be compassionate, but you know, whatever gets you started there, works for me!

Here’s my thing:  I’m tired of listening to people I admire talk about gratitude in terms of abundance – it’s become so cliché and for whatever the initial intentions where, it’s become skewed and now so very self-indulgent.  Stop it.  Be grateful because it’s something you should be.  Don’t be grateful because there’s some magical gift coming from doing so.

Compassion – that’s the ticket.  You want to write in a journal every day?  Start writing a compassion & empathy journal.  Figure out how to be a more loving, kind and compassionate soul on the planet and I promise you, finding “abundance” won’t even be an issue.

My POV Ray Miller

Have a sweet day . . .

Carmen

*Music by Chris Zabriskie, Prelude No. 23, http://chriszabriskie.com/