Project Conversion

Sleep wasn’t an option last night, but a gesture. You see, my daughter undergoes surgery in two hours to have her tonsils removed. I fear needles, blood, and anything hospital-related. My wife is a nurse and so even the low probability of some horrible error runs ramped through her dreams. My daughter, well, I cursed her with my imagination. Luckily, her blanket, “Pooh,” is by her side.

We are all on edge. What options are there for situations where we have no control of the outcome? Many suggest prayer. Since I do not have a particular faith this month by which to guide my spiritual perspective, I thought I’d use all of them.

That covers me, but what about my daughter? Aside from Pooh blanket, what can she do to bring a restless and worried mind to peace?

I invited her to wake early with me this morning to meditate.

Me: “Focus on your breath. Try not to think of anything other than your breath.”

Daughter: “Can I still breathe?”

Me: “Well, yeah. You’re just thinking about your breath instead of the surgery.”

Daughter: “I wasn’t really thinking about it until now.”

Me: “Oh…Okay, so, are you ready to meditate?”

Daughter: “Sure.”

She set Pooh blanket aside, crossed her legs, and joined me in silent meditation.

I listened to her breath as we sat there in the haunting silence of the living room. The birds weren’t even awake. Her breath was a little forced, but with eyes closed, and her hands in her lap, she seemed focused. I just watched, listened. I remembered when we brought her home from the hospital, how “colicky” she was and the incessant crying…I could barely stand it. There was no inclination for prayer in those days, no Project Conversion experiences to choose from. I was helpless.

Here I am again, helpless in the path of this surgery. As we sat there in meditation, I realized that I was more worried than her, that I wasn’t meditating at all–only watching–either oblivious to or simply at peace with her lot. Am I being worried for her, and if so, would she want me that way?

Two minutes into the meditation she opened her eyes and asked if she could return to bed. “Sure,” I said, “Thanks for meditating with me.”

She said okay, swept Pooh blanket into her arms, and left me on the floor to worry.

Of course this got me thinking about prayer. What is it and what good does it do for us? Over the last few months I’ve come to think of prayer in many ways. We could say it’s mediation between the world and the divine. Others insist it’s a conversation with God, while some declare prayer as nothing more than wishful thinking.

Studies have shown that, in general, folks with a religious disposition usually fare better during times of stress than those without such a connection. Is there something there, an umbilicus between ourselves and the divine when we pray or meditate? Or are we experiencing a placebo effect wherein we think God is listening and caring for our worries, and therefore experience relief?

I don’t know. I don’t know if prayer works or if meditation is best. What I do know is that I have had several unique experiences over the last few months that, to some, prove that a subtle dialogue with the divine exists. Another thing is that, whether it’s true or not, prayer and meditation makes me feel better. There is a release, a catharsis associated with the practice.

So I ask, if the feeling is there and the desired effect reached, does it matter whether or not it’s true?

I posted a short story earlier this week called “The Siege” in which a family refuses medical treatment for their child because they believed so much in the power of prayer. In the story, the child dies. What the story suggests is that we can go too far with anything, even when praying.

What is prayer for you? Do you believe in the power of prayer? In light of so many religious traditions and as many prescriptions on how to pray, are any of them right or wrong? Do we pray simply because we feel helpless?

Meanwhile, whether you pray or weave good vibrations, I ask that you take a moment and send them our way for my oldest daughter. But don’t let me fool you. The prayers aren’t for the fears of a little girl, she’s asleep without a care, but the worries of her mother and father.


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