by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
You have an entity within your being that I and a great many others refer to as the “higher self.” That entity wants you to end addictive patterns. There is another entity referred to as the “lower self.” It forgets what we want to achieve and brings us back to our addictive patterns because our feelings overwhelm us.
The feelings that usually overwhelm us come from fear, anxiety, and from the injuries of our past. Without a healthy self-love we are lost in this world, wanderers without destinations or missions.
We need a compass. Some people use their intellect as their compass. They figure out everything with their mind, and that is enough to give them confidence, a belief system, and meaning in their lives. In a sense, science pertaining to both their mental and psychological functionality and the world that they live in is their religion.
But for many people this way of thinking is not enough. There must be something greater than the science that we create with our minds. There must be something more powerful than the human intellect. There must be feelings and states of consciousness that go beyond our intellectual reach.
People have been seeking such experiences since the beginning of human history. The Neanderthals who came before us had belief systems. They had faith. They had higher powers that they prayed to and worshiped. In the beginning they regarded those higher powers as being earth-based. Then they looked to the skies, and some among them believed that entities in the skies were gods.
I don’t believe that they were wrong for doing so. They were trying to create some type of relaxed order to things in order to ease the terror of existence in the vast cosmos. And that begs a question for the rest of us: In this day and age, with all our knowledge, technology, and discoveries we’ve made throughout the universe, what are we supposed to believe in?
Does it give you strength to think about God in terms of the belief espoused by a religious faith? Then pursue your love of creation through the divine creator according to your holy Scriptures. This is definitely a path, but some will choose not to follow it.
We all need something in these terrible times of trouble that will help us deal with our struggles. We need faith in something, and we can’t simply have faith in systems created by man. We can’t have faith in the material world to protect and support us. But we can have faith in our feelings of love and compassion for others (and by others I mean all living creatures, not just humans).
It is commendable to spend your time contemplating your creator and your maker. It is wise to question the nature of reality. And it is a very noble path to try to offer compassionate answers and help others to feel safety.
It is a good progression to move from atheist, to doubtful thinker, to faithful, to knowledgeable. The knowledge I’m speaking of is that there is indeed an intelligent divine creator that made all of this and is doing something with it that we might never understand. I don’t have the answers regarding many things about the creator, but I am excited to search. Every day of my life I think about where I came from before I came from the egg and sperm, where I came from before I came from all of the atomic elements.
I absolutely love the adventure and happiness I feel when I look at nature. It’s the most beautiful thing that I can read with my eyes, hear with my ears, and experience through all my senses. I am so grateful that I have all my senses. And then I wonder if I am missing any senses. I ask myself if I’m missing some senses, because if I’m confused about the divine then I must be missing a connection to my sixth sense.
The prayer that I engage in is in effect repair work to that sixth sense. My prayer is my practice to build up my strength in connection with my sense of the divine. I have to have a lot of faith in this because I don’t know if what I’m doing or thinking is right. But I believe in something and it helps me to sit upright. It helps me to sleep at night. It helps me to not get distracted and lose my way. It helps me to stay disciplined, and it helps to remind me that I’m on a very long distance journey.
At times I think that maybe my journey has no beginning and no end. Maybe I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for all of eternity. I’m excited about that. Sometimes I’m puzzled by my uncertainty. But I still pray. I pray to lift myself up from my stupidity, and the prayer seems to work.
Perhaps one of the more difficult activities that we have to learn how to do is pray with sincerity. If you’re a very intellectual person and you’ve developed an agnostic or atheist perspective, that would be very difficult for you.
The word “prayer'' immediately brings to mind a connection with God. And some may not believe in God for any number of reasons. I’m personally uncomfortable with religion as it’s practiced by many because I see it as something that was handcrafted by men.
Most young people don’t think much about religion unless they grow up in a religious family or religious community. When I was young my father gave me permission to not believe in God if that’s what I chose. He also gave me a choice to go to a Hebrew school if I wanted to, and I chose to because I had friends there. Unfortunately, I was mentally and verbally abused by some of the teachers in that school.
I wouldn’t say that my early understanding of religious life was filled with positive memories. School was not a reprieve from a difficult family life. Largely because my experience with religious life didn’t leave me with many positive memories, by the time I was 13 I had abandoned God completely.
When I got sober at age 15 I was terribly afraid of relapsing. I felt very alone and scared. So I dived wholeheartedly into the 12 steps of AA. One of the steps was about seeking meditation and prayer to improve conscious contact with God or a higher power. I was desperate to stay sober and so I complied. I just prayed. In the early years I would get on my knees, get by the bedside, put my hands together, and just pray to stay sober. When I was in drug rehab for 90 days during that time period, I would go into my room five times a day and just pray that I wouldn’t have a craving to smoke cigarettes. And I would pray to not feel desperate and alone.
At that age in my life I did not have the intellectual capacity to recognize exactly what I was doing. That may have been fortunate for me, because I think that sometimes when we intellectualize certain things too much we end up not doing them. And if there’s a benefit to be had by prayer—especially when we really, really need it—we may not get the benefit if we over intellectualize the process of praying. In such a situation, we might feel proud of our intellect but suffer intensely with our emotions.
I would rather pretend that I understand what I’m doing when praying and benefit from it than be really confident in my intellectual understanding and have nothing.
Fast forward to today, about 35 years later. I still have the same dilemma I had as a child. I can’t tell you that I have come to understand completely what I’m praying to when I pray. I think it’s an honest and enlightened approach to acknowledge that no person can claim complete understanding of God.
A person can look at ideas and concepts within a religion and find them to be very logical. The universe may have been created in accordance with accounts of major religions, or some people may be misinterpreting the intent of authors of creation accounts in scriptures. But I don’t find it to be a good use of my time to debate with others about what my belief system is. But I believe that finding and having a belief system is very useful. One reason that is so is that a belief system has a positive effect on a person’s body chemistry. Another reason is that a belief system empowers us to get out of bed in the morning and empowers us to try harder and to do better.
No matter what, we’re going to believe in something. So we should be very thoughtful about what we believe in. We should make sure that the things that we believe in are compassionate and not destructive to anything.
My belief system entails that I close my eyes and concentrate on the source from which all life and all creation came from. I have no understanding of that source. I do hear knowledgeable scientists and others say things that make me believe more deeply that the universe is attached to some type of extremely profound and infinite conscious thinker.
I seek more creativity and more inspiration from that source. And the way I communicate with this source is through simple prayer. I pray for deeper and deeper knowledge of what the source may be. I pray that I don’t have to suffer to find out. I want to discover the source through the beauty of creation and not through tragic things that happen in the world. I don’t want to bring any suffering or misfortune on myself. I don’t want to have to experience injury, illness, or death to discover great lessons. I would rather experience the beauty of life through my senses and through meditation.
I am not always at my best, and prayer for me is a course correction when I find myself wandering off of a good path. My prayers are simple and I don’t seek to make magic happen through them. I am careful about what I ask for. I pray for clarity and strength and for the improvement of my character. I truly believe that a divine symphony is taking place and I only need to discover all the instruments that make it play. I recognize that it will take time and expansion of my consciousness to make such discoveries, and that prayer and meditation will be crucial tools that I’ll need to help me with the process.
Throughout my life I’ve had pivotal moments during which I was in desperation. I would get right on my knees and pray for knowledge about the actions I should take and the ways I should go. When I prayed and I put the right actions behind my prayers, my life always got better in some way.
At times my life did not get better in the ways that I expected. But my perspective would shift, and my life would get better because of the perspective shift.
I wrote many prayers for myself that I use on myself all the time. I suggest that any individual in the early stage of recovery write out the prayers that they need to get themselves through the day without acting out in an addictive way. Some popular and powerful prayers are available in literature that is disseminated in recovery groups. Some people find those particular prayers to be helpful and others don’t. But, again, I encourage all people in recovery to write out the prayers that work for them.
Following is a prayer that I wrote when I was struggling in a romantic relationship: “I pray to my higher self and I pray to the divine that I will have the ability to concentrate and focus through this troubling time. I want to be better and I want to do better. Sometimes I don’t know how to do so in a way that will help me find the path to the lighter side. I pray that I will not manifest injury, illness, or death. I pray that I will not manifest suffering.”
I understand that a person who has no history of prayer might find this portion of recovery work to be extremely uncomfortable. They may think it serves no purpose. But consider the following analogy. When a person is struggling early in recovery, it’s like having a fire in the kitchen. A person in a fire should put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. You wouldn’t advise a person to get a book, read about fires and their causes, and hope that the fire that they are in will extinguish itself.
People have reflex actions in their minds, usually at a subconscious level, regarding what they will do when they are confronted with trouble. Consider that if we knew exactly what to do to help ourselves when we found ourselves in dangerous recovery-related situations, we would never get into such situations in the first place. We would never stray from the path of higher living. We made a series of choices in our life that led us to points of danger on our paths. Of course we had childhood trauma that we did not choose, but at a certain point in adulthood we had strength and control over the choices that we made in our lives.
So if we led ourselves onto a difficult path, that means that we were missing knowledge on how to do many of the things we needed to do to be happy and healthy. We don’t have the answers that we need in given moments. So if you’re turning to me, I’m giving you the answers that I know.
I’m telling you to pray your ass off. If you’re already a person of faith then get on your hands and knees and pray. Pray for your survival and pray for your recovery. Pray to believe that you will be happy one day. Pray to figure out the secret of prayer. Pray to understand what God is or how to connect deeper into your own internal higher power.
There is both a higher power and a lower power within all of us. The lower power is the part of us that is self-destructive—the part of us that suffers. The lower self is the part of us that has many negative characteristics.
The higher self is the part of us that reads material like this. The higher self is the part of us that wants to live. The higher self is the part of us that knows that we need to do better and is willing to struggle to get there. The higher self is literally higher and more attuned to the universe.
The lower self is lower and is touching the earth. The earth pulls us in many directions because it’s a very material experience to be on this planet. We have many cravings, many expectations, and many animal instincts. We are highly defensive creatures, and if simply planted on the earth without a higher self we will struggle and we will live in fear. We live in fear because we are not instinctual creatures: We are cerebral creatures, and fear is a tool of survival. For a person who comes from a traumatic home life of any kind, survival is something that we felt we needed to do throughout our childhood.
The lower self easily vibrates with anxiety caused by the struggles of life. The higher self is attuned to the higher struggle. The higher self is more capable of consciousness and changing our animal nature into a more elevated creature. The higher self is a part of ourselves that wants to love and that can love. The higher self has compassion and empathy. The higher self does not want to hurt or harm anything.
How easily you can access your higher self depends on where you are mentally and emotionally. If you have a hard time feeling positive emotions, or if you have a hard time feeling emotions at all, then it’s likely that you’re blocked off from your higher self. Addictive behavior is the result of being blocked off from the higher self. The higher self is a part of us that is able to adhere to disciplines of our well-being. The lower self reaches out for the addictive behavior believing that it will ease our pain.
The consciousness of a person needs to reach out to the higher self for guidance and for expansion of wisdom. Much of the wisdom we need is contained within all of us, but it’s not accessible by all of us. We all access it in slightly different ways. Because that’s the case, we manifest the accessible parts of the knowledge into the material world in different ways. Some of us become great painters. Some of us become great musicians. Some of us become brilliant lawyers, educators, mothers, fathers, adventurers, inventors, race car drivers, and dog walkers.
Anything that we achieve that is born from a sense of compassion and does not harm anything is enlightened and is an incredible creation. The fact that things can exist, the fact that you can see, hear, and do things and impact other things through positive actions are beautiful, beautiful manifestations.
We’ve been in the dark for so long thinking about the negative manifestations of life. We’ve dwelt on the pain and suffering we have and the failure of our positive attachments. We’ve been deceived by the temporary relief that negative attachments have brought us and have subsequently gotten involved in self-destructive behavior.
It’s time for us to embrace the positive side of life. I believe that we can do this by working hard and finding our way into the arms of the divine and into union with all things. We don’t have to surrender our bodies to make our minds one with God. When we surrender our bodies we will become one with everything in the universe all at once without exception. But it’s within the body that we can be conscious of the miracle of connection because we have a disconnection to compare it to.
We can feel euphoric and experience complete bliss moment by moment when we embrace the divine and celebrate life. Perhaps you can’t understand or identify with these words at this point in time. I suggest you read them over and over until you can.
What I’m describing and advocating is not my own knowledge. It is ancient wisdom that’s been passed down from generation to generation since the beginning of human history. Finding union with the divine creator and coming to peace with one’s own character is one of the higher purposes in human life.
There are many other purposes to human life as well. It makes perfect sense that we should be here to help other creatures in need. And we are here to aid in the evolutionary progress of all consciousness. When they behave properly, human beings are majestic creatures. But we all know of the horrible things that humans do when we act in accordance with the wrong state of mind.
It’s crucial that we make every effort to bring ourselves away from our lower natures and instead nurture our higher natures. Prayer and meditation will help you tremendously. It will help you come to a proper state of mind and lessen your suffering. I prayed the following prayer to bring myself out of suffering many times: “Please, whatever exists in this universe that has infinite knowledge and infinite power to create, please help me to end the suffering in my mind. Please help me to end the suffering that I created, the suffering that I came into. Please help me to end the suffering and step into the light.”
For years and years I prayed without any faith. I prayed as a discipline and as an action. I prayed because I felt that the prayer itself was enough for me to demonstrate my conviction about my recovery and my enlightenment. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I started to go deeper into my meditation, and I would combine prayer and meditation in the same sessions at times. At a certain point in my life, I saw prayer and meditation as two separate entities. I now consider them to be two interchangeable things.
I don’t need any special circumstances or trappings to engage in either discipline. I don’t need to be sitting, I don’t need to be at a temple, I don’t need to be with a community, it doesn’t have to be a particular day of the week, and I don’t even need to have a particular reason to either pray or meditate. I can either close my eyes or leave them open, I can look at the tip of my nose or look out into the expense of space. I can start to pray without words.
I often start my prayer with deep breathing exercises and I try to surrender too many attachments, attempting to limit my attachments to very small and innocuous things. I then remind myself of what I feel in my body in the present moment. If I don’t like what I feel in my body, then I look around in my body and I scan my body with my mind as I breathe. The first thing that comes to my mind is usually what the source of my discomfort is. Sometimes an emotional feeling is causing physical discomfort, and when that’s the case the feeling is almost always fear.
At this point if I am outside and I am surrounded by nature it’s much easier for me to connect to the earth and into the universe directly. We have a direct connection with the universe, even though we are inside a giant bubble. The bubble is deceiving and it gives us a feeling of isolation from the natural expanse of the cosmos.
But we need to remember that at a physical level we are just a rock falling through the vacuum of space. We are engaged with and connected to other objects in space in this incredible experiment of life. I consider how the time span of the universe is immeasurable compared to my life. The space that I occupy in this universe is tiny.
At first thoughts of both of these things make me feel alone and frightened. That is because in my mind I see a separation between myself and the universe. I see that separation because I can measure the distance between things in my mind. I can measure my size versus the cosmos and I am deceived by my senses to believe that there is a vast space between us. I am very close to space, surrounded by it on all sides.
I think about these things and I go deeper and deeper into my meditation until I hit some type of an intellectual wall. At that point there’s nothing else to think about because I can’t perceive what’s going on beyond my imagination. My imagination is extremely limited compared to the possibility of things that might be going on out there.
Once I reach the absolute boundary of my knowledge and imagination of creation, I contemplate the darkness of space in my mind. I try to fathom what has been going on for billions of years. I think of that and how it will continue for billions of years, and I find myself feeling connected in some small way to all of the activity. I feel connected to all causation since the beginning of time and believe that I will be connected to all causation to the ending of time.
My actions will cause reactions within this earth. And so I’m not sure that I’m affecting the cosmos on a physical level, but I am collecting knowledge with my consciousness and my consciousness will never be destroyed. It moves on to different levels. So I consider myself, you, and all living conscious beings to be important little collectors of experience and knowledge.
I consider us to be collecting information of all kinds along the way to return it back to a collective consciousness. I have no idea why that would be taking place. I could guess, but my guess would be pointless. I could read scripture and philosophy and they might give me direction. I would be suspicious of much of it, though, because I believe much of such material entails guessing at some level.
I don’t believe that the nature of creation is something that we can comprehend at this time in our evolution with our extremely finite minds, our extremely finite measurements, and our extremely finite and limited experience with time.
But I enjoy intelligent conversation with myself. It leads me somewhere in my mind back to the belief that something created this and something wants me to succeed in this life. Something wants me to collect more information. It’s my choice to believe that whatever is out there that wants me to collect information wants me to collect information about love, prosperity, and happiness.
So I will pray for these things. And I will not stop praying. Even when I have all of these things, I will keep praying that I may see these things in all the forms they may have. I won’t just look at prosperity in terms of monetary success or material gain. I want to see prosperity in terms of both my freedom from suffering and my contribution to helping end the suffering of others.
I don’t consider myself to be a prophet. I do not see myself as a guru. I am not the Messiah. I do actually consider myself to be a holy person who adheres to very foundational principles. I don’t talk about it, I don’t dress like it, but I definitely consider myself to be a man of God.
I am a man of all faiths. I follow the dictates of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Agnosticism. I see myself in this way because I feel that the essence of all of these belief systems is centered on non-harm to other creatures. But one cannot live on this earth and adhere to this perfectly without surrendering their life. I need to eat carrots. And I’m certain that when I eat them I am harming something alive. That is why I have karma and that is why I have debt. Because I caused suffering of something alive in order for me to be alive, I believe that one day I must repay life with the flesh and blood of my own body. I am OK with this.
I am no longer scared. I am one with the divine at this moment. I am one with my breath, my breath is in this moment, and this moment is all that is in my life right now. I am in this place at this time. Evidence of creation by the divine is in everything around me. It is up to me to open my eyes and become enlightened and see it. It is up to me to look at the traveling light in the universe and realize the miracle of particles of light and the miracle of all the dimensions that exist (including time).
It is up to me to see the miracle in life and embrace every moment of it. It is up to my intellect to free myself from the confusion and the ignorance that I create in my mind. I intend to get closer and closer to the divine creator, and I hope that you intend to do the same things.
Pursue faith. Resolve any doubts that you have. Spend time trying to learn more about the creator and the marvelous creation that we inhabit. And pray. Pray, pray, pray.