The following is a description of the organizers' deeper spiritual intent and context for the annual Prayer Vigil for the Earth. During previous years, these deeper purposes have been held privately. We thank David Miller of the Nathan Cummings Foundation for encouraging us to speak openly of our spiritual goals and to the Lifebridge Foundation, who simultaneously requested a description of the heart or essence of our work. These two invitations provided the impetus for us to share the deeper spiritual context of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we evaluate our success.
In 1993 a spiritual calling to create an event in Washington, DC emerged in the minds and hearts of several individuals. By 1997, the original group of three collaborators had expanded to over thirty people on the Organizing Committee,hundreds of volunteers had offered their services, and many organizations were providing in-kind donations. At the urging of Lakota elder Harry F. Bryd, the Prayer Vigil went from a primarily Indigenous Wisdom Keepers event in 1993-1996 to a multi-cultural and multi-faith event offered to the public in 1997 to the present. In addition, simultaneous events have been held in different sites within the USA and in many different countries. In keeping with the organizers' spiritual belief in the power of people gathered in sacred ceremony across the centuries and the capacity for such ceremonies to make enduring impacts on consciousness, the Prayer Vigil for the Earth is held annually to plant seeds for present and future generations free to all. Important background for understanding the spiritual nature of the event is provided by these three considerations: (A) the setting for the original annual event; (B) the sacred structure for housing people and activities; and (C) the social-spiritual architecture provided to nurture the seeds.
The Mall in Washington, DC, in particular the center of the Mall near the Washington Monument, is an appropriate setting because:
- the location symbolizes a successful people's democracy;
- Washington, DC is a powerful city on the Earth at this time;
- the Mall provides a model for all the world's people to participate in their own freedom and democracy,
- the deeper values of the site reflect the core values of the Constitution as well as other democratic systems indigenous to this land, e.g. the Iroquois Great Law of Peace;
- the site calls out for healing a city and a nation whose political functions are in need of renewal and transformation; and
- mystical and Masonic literature indicate that an obelisk, which symbolizes masculine power, such as the Washington Monument broadcasts information and energy.
For these reasons, the setting for the early Prayer Vigils for the Earth was in the center of the Washington, DC Mall next to the Washington Monument. From 2003 - 2005, the Vigil site moved to West Potomac Park, a beautiful setting near the Potomac River. The increased security in Washington DC made the Washington Monument site unavailable at that time. The West Potomac Park site offered a setting very conducive to meditation and intense prayer. It enhanced the ability to take the core values of the Vigil and incorporate them into our hearts. In 2006 we returned to the Washington Monument to bring prayerful focus back to the heart of Washington DC.
The Sacred Structure
Recognizing that the Prayer Vigil would be a living, virtual form whose enduring physical presence would rest in its ability to make the soil upon which it is held sacred, the organizers selected the structure valued by Indigenous people throughout the Earth and many other cultures-the sacred circle or hoop. The circle, symbolic of the Earth's shape, is ideal because it provides a container for all life and because everyone enters as equals. The circle is created by the erection of an Earth Peace Village, which is demarcated by portable structures. During the beginning years, the circle was composed of tipis. As a reflection of the multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nature of the Prayer Vigil since 1997, in addition to tipis, the Prayer Vigil circle now includes a Jewish Sukkah,a Christian altar, an African ancestral altar, an international labyrinth, and a Tibetan Stupa.Buddhist and Japanese Prayer Flags and the John Denver Memorial Peace Cloth encircle the site.
Every year a fire, which is symbolic of power, cleansing, transformation of matter into energy, and the molten fire in the center of the Earth, burns continuously within the circle for the duration of the forty-eight hour event. This sacred circle, this Earth Peace Village, provides the structure where people can celebrate the richness of their diverse heritages and traditions together.
In addition to these reasons, the sacred circle, a feminine power symbol, providesbalance for the masculine obelisk and energetically invites feminine values such as home, family, relationships, and community to be active and present. It is the organizing committee's deepest prayer that this annual joining of masculine and feminine energy within the context of many spiritual metaphors and teachings will (1) produce a healthy seed for generations to come and (2) consecrate the land, the Earth, upon which this event is held as sacred once more.
The Social-Spiritual Architecture
With the setting and sacred structure established, attention was focused on the social-spiritual architecture required to grow today's participants and to provide maximum nourishment for tomorrow's seed. In addition, the Prayer Vigil for the Earth, which strives to make peace among religious traditions, was held the same weekend as the 1995 and 1996 Middle East Peace Accord, a fact which was made abundantly clear by the siren sounds of official cars whizzing back and forth from the White House by our Mall site. Following that synchronicity, in 1997 a Shayk from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem made a surprise visit to the Vigil and, while there, prayed with members of the Jewish faith and exchanged teachings with Indigenous Wisdom Keepers.
In 1999, another synchronicity: The organizers learned that the ground breaking ceremony of the National Museum of the American Indian was one day after the Indigenous Wisdom Keepers usually return home from the Vigil. This made it possible for them to attend the event. And in 2001 the Vigil was held just a week and a half after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. None of these latter events could be planned for, but their proximity in time to the Prayer Vigil for the Earth invites the influence of the sacred circle, the Earth Peace Village, to be present in other communities. In 2004, the Vigil was held the weekend before the grand opening of the National Museum of the American Indian and many of our Native Elders were able to stay and participate in that extraordinary event.
The organizers continue to strive to honor the setting, the sacred structure, and the social-spiritual architecture necessary to create a powerful Prayer Vigil for the Earth experience for all participants. Goals for the event include: inviting more people to join us in DC; inviting more people to join us in prayer wherever they are; inviting more cultures and faiths to come together and create their own Prayer Vigil for the Earth wherever they are; and getting internet coverage so that the Prayer Vigil can be broadcast throughout the Earth. See wonderful images in a photographic tour of the history of the Prayer Vigil since its inception in 1993.
We believe that now is the time. Now is the time for the collective power of prayer and diverse, ancient spiritual ceremonies to join forces in bringing about positive changes for all life. Many, many people who have participated in the Prayer Vigil report that the opportunity to practice spiritual oneness, to pray with others of all faiths, and to join in each other's ceremonies leads them to new or deeper spiritual insights which make positive contributions to all aspects of their lives.
For those of you who cannot join us in person, please see our Join Us page on our website, www.oneprayer.org. If you have had an experience at the Prayer Vigil that you would like to share with others, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Om shanti shanti shanti, peace peace peace (Hindu)