Creating the change you want to see in the world requires first welcoming all of your emotions, even the difficult ones, and then moving forward with clarity.
“WTF, God?” I rail. Again.
Turning off the nightly news with disgust, I grab my to-read pile. It proves just as appalling. An astonishing article suggests that about 3 percent of people intentionally swerve their cars to hit animals on the road. “Who are these people?” I cry out to the Universe. Some days I can’t make sense of the world.
In times like these, I turn to prayer. Not the kind of prayer I learned growing up at church. Instead, I try something a bit spicier. I cheekily refer to it as “What the Force!?!” prayer to my seminary students, but feel free to use any F-word that fits.
In practice, my WTF praying is an acronym for welcoming the feelings. I owe a debt of gratitude to contemplative Mary Mrozowski for her welcoming prayer practice. She suggested that rather than pushing away our undesired emotions or repressing them, we should welcome our feelings, letting go of any desire to change them. Instead, Mrozowski directed “accept the divine indwelling in what you are experiencing by simply saying, ‘Welcome.’”
Likewise, in his poem “The Guest House,” 13th-century Sufi poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi implored we welcome not only our joys but also our depressions and sorrows. Rumi even proposed being grateful for each visiting emotion, considering it “a guide from beyond.” Contrary to what we might read on Instagram, “feeling all the feels” is not a new idea.
And yet, when we’re mad as hell at some injustice we’ve encountered, instead of reflecting on our feelings, we tend to react outwardly, finding somewhere to put the feels. Blood coursing through our veins, temples thumping, and fists clenched, we project outward. We tap that angry face emoji and spout off in outrage and indignation. Unfortunately, we fuel a cycle of anger and more anger, which does not end the injustice. Next time you feel that distinct WTF?! feeling, try this ritual to turn your anger into effective sacred activism.
Creating a WTF Prayer Ritual
1. Light something aromatic.
Say: “As I light this incense, I offer it into the Universe, to invoke a state of support.”
2. Light a candle.
Say: “As I light this candle, I ask my mind to release its tendency to grasp. I ask my body to feel.”
3. Gaze softly into the flame. Sink into your emotions and any associated feelings and thoughts. Notice them and welcome them.
Say: “I welcome everything that is coming to me at this moment. Welcome, anger. Welcome, clenched fists. Welcome, fast-beating heart.”
4. Next, welcome divinity into the feelings. Use whatever language feels comfortable to you.
Say: “Welcome God/Goddess/Mystery/Source/Spirit. Welcome into my emotion. Welcome into my anger.”
5. Let go.
Say: “I let go of my need for agreement. I let go of my craving for approval. I let go of my desire for control. I open to the presence of divinity in this situation.”
6. Set an intention for action and put out the candle.
Say: "As I extinguish this flame of anger, I release myself of any behavior or thoughts that do not serve me or others. I commit to acting for the highest good of myself and with compassion to all beings I encounter, especially those who I disagree with. I open to the ongoing guidance of divine nudges. Help me feel into what is mine to do."
8. Take action.
Feeling into WTFs creates a sacred pause for connecting spiritually to that which supports us. Rather than feeling angry, activated, and alone, we establish a strong foundation for creating the change we want to see in the world. As we tackle our anger through contemplative practice, we can listen for the words that point us toward the next needed action in our advocacy.
Amusingly, when I offered my WTF prayer after I read the article about animal-killing drivers, I heard, “Remember, the Force is with you, always. Keep calm and go save the Universe.” So I put aside the angering article, grabbed my car keys, and headed out. Scanning as I drove, I soon sighted a still, furry body on the road. Clicking on the hazard lights, I stopped the car. Gently, I moved the small body into the grass, whispering, “May the Force be with you, Squirrel.”