DailyOM Interviews Angela about Prayer

DailyOM founder Madisyn Taylor interviews Angela Montano about Prayer, following Angela’s new DailyOM course “21 Days of Prayer to Change Your Life“:

Prayer belongs to everyone, bridging the gap between our vulnerability and our greater power.

Dear Friends, 

Today I’m interviewing course author Angela Montano about her DailyOM course, 21 Days of Prayer to Change Your Life. Don’t let the title scare you — I think you will find that a lovely, informative, and interesting conversation follows.

In these days of uncertain times, her voice is refreshing and very much needed. I hope you enjoy our talk. 


Madisyn Taylor: One of the first homework questions you ask people to do is to spend time thinking about how their past conditioning has led them to think about prayer. This was powerful for me because of the way I was raised. Prayer was linked heavily to religion and the Bible. When I was younger I always felt prayer was for “God people” and not for me. Once I realized that prayer is for everybody, it changed the game for me. Talk to me about this. 

Angela Montano: Yes, Madisyn, this is generally what most people think. The misunderstanding goes something like this: Prayer belongs to religious people and is a product of religion. If you do not believe in God within the constructs of a particular organized religion, prayer is not for you. 

This could not be further from the truth, and this limited false view of prayer is quite problematic for humanity. As human beings, we are powerful beyond our comprehension yet also very vulnerable. Prayer bridges the gap between our vulnerability and our greater power, whether you call this power the subconscious mind, spirit, mystery, god, life, presence, being, or something else. It need not involve religion, and of course it is fine if it does. Prayer belongs to everyone. It is our capacity to reach beyond our limited sense of self and possibility. 

When we are feeling vulnerable in any way, we can pray to connect to the power of being that has eluded us in whatever situation, circumstance, or relationship that we may be associating with our suffering. I am committed to bringing a clear understanding of the availability of prayer to the world. Prayer is a healing energy that we can use all day long, every day, and the difference it makes is beyond words. Unfortunately, even the word “prayer” is off-putting to many people because it is associated with judgment, loss, abandonment, and disappointment. It is time to emancipate prayer from past conditioning. I see a world where a clear understanding of prayer is restored and humans live “prayed up” and “prayer supported.” When one lives in this way, it is much easier to access joy, peace, and love. 

MT: I wrote a DailyOM story long ago about the difference between prayer and meditation. To paraphrase, I wrote about how prayer is an action: You ask for something. Meditation is more passive where we are still and listen. Of course there was much more to the article. An entire book could be written about this. What are your thoughts? 

AM: I appreciate your thoughts about the difference between prayer and meditation, and I am often asked this question. You are right, a book could be written on the subject! What prayer and meditation have in common is that both involve a “turning within.” When we turn within to meditate, we are interested in space, in growing more conscious by seeing the activity of our thoughts and emotions. We are the witnesses. Our egoic minds operate from a dualistic perspective, so there is fear and suffering. When we meditate, we are seeing the duality of our thinking, but we are not trying to “fix” this. Instead, we are simply watching and gaining awareness. This is a powerful spiritual practice that more and more people are doing all over the world. Through meditation, we can awaken from the dream of duality and the pain of the egoic mind. With practice and with more conscious awareness, we are able to experience our fear as a sensation, become less reactive, and experience more curiosity and opportunities to make different choices. We can access calm and patience where we may not have before. 

When we pray, while we are still “turning within,” it is quite different. Through prayer, we are laying down our fears, doubts, and worries, and delivering our painful perceptions to this greater power within us. In prayer, we are choosing change. We are choosing release from suffering. We are surrendering the dualistic mind to the “one” mind. We are creating and allowing. We are communing. Yes, as you say, it is very active. Through prayer we are offering the suffering to a higher power to resolve the painful conflicts within us and in the world. When we pray for a moment, even for a second, it is an act of faith. In that instance, something within us opens to the possibility of freedom from suffering. We open ourselves to the higher power of our own understanding to change us and the situation we associate with our pain or the pain of others. 

When I think of meditation, I think of the word “awareness.” When I think of prayer, I think of the word “love.” Awareness allows us to make new choices while love fuels those choices and animates them in such a way that we call them miracles. Prayer is a distribution system for sending love to the places within us and to others where this love is needing to be realized. 

MT: Tell me about how you started this work and how it has changed your own life. 

AM: Wow! Where do I even begin! I was a television journalist. I was traveling and reporting on the human condition from so many different perspectives: first for ABC News and then for PBS. As I interviewed hundreds of people, I began to feel an inner calling. I don’t know exactly how to describe it other than to say I felt an undeniable pull from within. I heard a voice, not audible, but deep inside telling me I had my own story to live and that I was not to continue simply reporting on others’ stories. 

It was a deeply confusing and anguishing time. I had this great job, and everyone in my family was so proud of me. I was also very successful at the job, so it was not like something was not working, but I was guided to give it up, and for what? I thought I was crazy, but I could not deny this inner pull. I had always been deeply spiritual, always reading something spiritual, and at the time I was reading The Bhagavad Gita. I felt a battle going on within me. Do I listen and obey this inner calling, or do I continue with what was winning me approval? 

I would be covering the news and while doing so experience a deeper reality in the midst of horrific car accidents, fires, and other tragedies where people were suffering. Through a series of events and choices, this led me to the work I do today as a spiritual practitioner. In short, I surrendered my life to the love within that I sensed was intelligent and knew more than I did from my limited thinking. I had to trust it. 

When my mother passed away, a new level of my calling was revealed. I was told from within that I must offer my body of work to the world. I was told that all I have learned about prayer through praying for thousands of people from all walks of life for what now has been 24 years did not belong to me alone. It belongs to the world, and I must share it. So that is what I am doing. 

As for me personally, my own prayer practice has transformed my life. Through prayer, my consciousness has deepened in relationship to all that is important–love, compassion, health, gratitude, peace, prosperity, etc. Also, my beautiful husband and marriage, our amazing daughter, our lovely home, and my relationships with my beloved family and dear, dear friends have all come to me from my prayers. 

MT: I view your course very much like a journey. The starting point is meeting people where they are and then offering a breakthrough, followed by teaching different types of prayer, and culminating in somebody creating a prayer practice for themselves. Would this be an accurate description of the journey? 

AM: Yes, that is very much the intention of the course. I want to get the whole world praying in a fresh authentic way that is universal, personal, and powerful. While there are so many wonderful things to practice in life, prayer is probably the most extraordinary vital thing a person can practice. I want to inspire the realization that prayer is a practice as well as an effective first response to any disturbance! 

MT: How would your course benefit my readers if they chose to experience it? 

AM: Your readers will benefit from this course in untold ways. I have received close to a thousand notes of thanks from people who have taken the course, and so many of them tell me that the course has changed their life, that they are doing it over and over as part of their morning ritual. Many tell me they are sad when the last lesson is upon them. They want more prayer lessons and practices. I have intuited for some time that the world is starving for prayer. It is like being thirsty and not understanding you just need to drink some water. Through cultivating a prayer practice, your readers will access much lightness of being, comfort, gratitude, and transformation of their lives. Not only that, their prayers for others will be beneficial to those they love. I love that prayer is something we do for others, as well as ourselves. 

MT: I was in New York recently and during a book signing a reader came up to me and said how much she loved DailyOM and then she mentioned your course and went on about how much she loved it and how beautiful it was. Is this the type of reaction you are seeing from readers that have taken the course? 

AM: Yes, as I said before, I have been overwhelmed by the feedback. It makes me cry sometimes reading the beautiful personal notes from DailyOM students. I am so grateful to DailyOM for being a platform that is connecting prayer to people who are ready to practice. It has been extraordinary. I deeply believe what Gandhi said, “Prayer from the heart can achieve what nothing else in the world can.”

I really enjoyed learning about Angela’s perspective on prayer and how she came to a place in her life where she just had to share it with the world. I very much felt the same in my own life, and it shows in my DailyOM work. Angela writes from the heart, and her words contain such grace and beauty. 

Be well, 

Madisyn Taylor 
Cofounder, Editor-in-Chief 
DailyOM

Find out more about this course and other prayer offerings available on ReThink Prayer here.

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Prayer as Self-Care

You’ve likely recently heard about the importance of self-care to keep yourself balanced, thriving and fulfilled. It’s all about being aware of what you need and nurturing yourself. From retreats, to mindful eating, to journal writing, to meditation, we all are trying to find the most effective self-care solutions that give us a sense of peace and respite.  Yet, the one often-overlooked and profound act of self care is…prayer.

But, you may wonder, isn’t prayer for those times of dire need and crisis, after all actions have been exhausted, when the only thing left is prayer?

Or, isn’t prayer exclusively for those who identify with a religion, and maybe that’s not you, or is definitely not you?

As a spiritual practitioner, I pray with people of all walks of life and religious beliefs. And I know that absolutely anyone can enjoy great benefit from praying.

A prayer can be as simple as saying, “Help me…guide me…direct me…hold me…enable me to be my best version of myself today. Amen,” or if you don’t want to use words, just allow one moment to close your eyes, place your hands on your heart and take a breath in the awareness that you are connected to Love.

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You don’t need to have a certainty about what you are praying to or even for, just become willing to receive support and say a few words in honor of the mystery of life and love and see if you feel better. Whether you pray in the morning or at night before you close your eyes, allow yourself to be open.

I invite you to take a glimpse into how prayer can have a profound effect on your life.  When we care for ourselves through prayer,

  • We enter a state of self-acceptance. We become more of a friend and compassionate observer of ourselves, rather than enemy and judge. Prayer has a mysterious benefit of making us more forgiving. We are able to give up ‘being so hard on ourselves’ and we are willing to see that we, too, are human and just doing our best.

 

  • We accept we are not perfect, that we are in need of guidance and support.This invites us to make peace with our vulnerability out of which we become more willing to receive support. We are acknowledging our needs which is a courageous act of self-esteem.

 

  • We open our hearts to the support of the unseen Universe. We open to the mysterious power that breathes our breath and beats in our hearts. We soften toward forgiveness, compassion and mercy. We become willing to allow our painful perspectives to be healed.

 

  • We affirm our connection to a greater something. We gain a deeper awareness of our interdependence with the world around us.  And when we pray for others, we feel a closeness to those we pray for.

In our fast-paced lifestyles during this digital age, we’re all looking for ways to soothe and nurture ourselves and disconnect from the stress of our lives. By including prayer as a vital part of self care, we are making ourselves available for lasting, soul-nourishing and heart-opening benefits.

So pour yourself a cup of tea, close your eyes, say a prayer, and show yourself some love.

xoxo, Angela

 

 

Maria Shriver Has the Right Idea

As our nation, and the world, continues through a tumultuous time, so many of us are asking how best to have a voice and influence change.  I stand firm in my conviction that prayer is an emboldened leap of activism.  

I was inspired to learn Maria Shriver is of a similar mind.

A prominent member of the “first family” of American politics, Maria is a devoted mother, award-winning journalist, author of six best-selling books, as well as former First Lady of California. I remember watching her successfully navigate that role – a lifelong Democrat cast as First Lady of a Republican governorship.

No stranger to heartbreak, conflict and the complex emotions that lie at the crux of political and ideological divides, she is uniquely qualified to guide us through these unprecedented times.

That is why I am grateful to be reading her smart, thought-provoking and soul-inspiring weekly column, What I’ve Been Thinking…, part of her online publication MARIA SHRIVER’S SUNDAY PAPER.  

In a recent edition, Maria shared her passion for prayer as an inclusive spiritual practice that, as her publication’s tagline suggests, is a vehicle for moving humanity forward.

I pray every morning and every evening to settle myself, to guide myself, to focus myself, to express gratitude and to be in conversation with God. I pray for myself, my children, my friends and yes, those I seek to better understand.

So the other morning, I prayed for Donald Trump and his family. I prayed that he would find some measure of peace. I prayed that he would realize he already has the most powerful job in the world and that what he does with it moving forward impacts millions and millions the world over. It impacts our shared humanity. It can move us forward, or it can move us backward. So while I know we must and should act, prayer has always given me a solid and centered foundation from which to move forward.” – Maria Shriver

I am heartened to read about Maria’s experience of prayer and I hope more people will follow her lead in utilizing prayer at the beginning and ending of each day…and including in our prayers those we do not understand. Our praying for one another across ideological and political divides will do more good than we can imagine.

HNCK3432Whomever you find yourself judging, try praying for that person instead and notice what happens. In my recent blog post, I’M MY OWN PRESIDENT, I outline ways we can think and pray that can be instrumental in creating the change we want to see.

I encourage you to join me in whatever simple practice of prayer you choose so that together we can be a solid and centered foundation from which to “move humanity forward.”

Here are a few prayer examples for you to consider:

  • Thank you for our country of diversity.  May we gather together to form a union of inclusivity and appreciation for all.
  • Bless our leaders.  Guide them in integrity, compassion, and care for our nation.  Open their hearts to those within our land and to the citizens of the world.
  • May divisiveness and polarization be transformed, revealing unity and a clear way forward together.

Interestingly enough, I briefly met Maria Shriver eight years ago when she was First Lady of California. She was visiting my daughter’s school to acknowledge the donation of a playground that was being constructed by an army of volunteers.

Like those volunteers working together that day, I believe our prayers are forming a kind of prayerful landscape that builds bridges and possibilities. We are forming a ‘prayer-ground’, out of which infinite possibilities for harmony can emerge.

I invite you to join Maria Shriver, myself and anyone who longs for a world of compassion, inclusivity and integrity. Together, let us pray.

I’m My Own President

We are all so vulnerable. Needing help from the very start, we instinctively reach for our mothers, and later we look to our school teachers and other adults meant to guide us through our various stages of development.  Once grown, we find ourselves still consulting advisers of all kinds – doctors, accountants, real estate agents, spiritual teachers and mentors.  We’re looking to those smart, influential sources to guide us, inspire us and lead us. We hope they are trustworthy and will keep our best interests in their hearts.

As the United States prepares to embrace a new President, many Americans, as well as people from other countries, fear our newly elected official does not have the wisdom, empathy, and compassion to lead with inclusivity and justice for all our diverse citizens. The news is filled with outcries and outrage. We all want what’s best for America, but we can’t agree on what that is or how best to achieve it. Still, despite our collective confusion, we somehow need to come together. But how?

I am an American citizen, wife and mother who is concerned about our future, our leadership, and the examples of kindness and integrity that will be established in the coming years.  

I am also a spiritual practitioner, which is similar to a traditional therapist, but instead of offering psychological insights, I listen and offer spiritual insights and perspectives, along with powerful prayer. I am not religious, nor is the majority of my clientele. Mostly we fit into the ‘spiritual but not religious’ demographic, as we respect the merits of practicing meditation and prayer.

Considering the fear and confusion I was experiencing right after the election, I wondered how I would be able to serve my clients in the days and months ahead.  They would be looking to me for clarity and a broader perspective about the very thing with which I was struggling. How could I be a supportive resource?

As I pondered this conundrum, I did as I have done for the past 30 years – I turned within.

With time sitting quietly, the stillness allowed space for my fears to calm and an inner softening began to occur. Then I heard a directive from within, “You are your own president now.”  

I sat up with that. “What? I am my own president?” As preposterous as it sounds, I actually felt better, like some clean, crisp air entered my lungs and the ground was again beneath me, but in a new way. I began to sense there was a way through the conflict.  

A president is a head of state and I am now conscious that I am head of my own state of being, able to take conscious ownership and deliberate action to help create a world of kindness, compassion, equality and inclusivity.

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When I say “I am my own president”, I want to be clear that I am certainly not encouraging anarchy by any means.  Of course, I will still be a good citizen. However, as my own president, I am now accepting responsibility for my country in a way I never did or, quite frankly, never felt I had to do before this election. I’m taking a seat at the desk in my own oval office. I am honoring the truest authority of my being – my conscience, my heart, my truth.  Now, I have to assume power. It’s imperative. Taking on the mantle of my own presidency, I am called to listen more often and more deeply to the still small voice within, with even more conviction, devotion and clarity.

Gandhi said that prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement, but properly understood and applied, it is our most potent instrument of action. This is the kind of inspired consciousness around my ‘presidency’ that I want to know, practice and share. It is this prayerfulness I lean into as I assume the highest office in my heart.

I encourage us all to be our ‘own presidents’ and contemplate how we are called to serve.

Instead of looking to the Left or Right for the answer, let’s look within. As we consult our inner compass and take more responsibility for participating in our democracy from the Light within us, we will transform our nation into one where the governing POWER truly belongs to each of us – the people.

Here is my checklist for the first 100 days in my oval office:

  • Pray for America (even as a spiritual practitioner, before now, I’ve not done this as a devoted and consistent practice).
  • Imagine an America that is soulful, unified and thriving. (I will hold the highwatch for this).
  • Practice gratitude for all the goodness and possibilities that surrounds us every day in our beautiful land.
  • Ask often and listen within for how best to contribute, and show up in the ways I am guided.
  • Take action by choosing to research and support a civic issue that calls to my heart.

From my presidency to yours, I invite us to connect in prayer for our country in a way we may have never done before.  No matter what our religions of origin or current beliefs and affiliations, we can pray together, calling forth possibilities born of love and inclusiveness, instead of fear and segregation.
We can begin a revolution through prayer – a movement that unites rather than divides. I hope you will join me, for even as we are vulnerable, we are also more powerful than we realize. It has been said that what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.   As we turn WITHIN, on behalf of our beloved country that was founded by  religiously diverse individuals who fervently and sincerely practiced prayer, we will allow the true greatness of our nation to be revealed. Together, listening to our hearts, we are strong and we are miraculous as the UNITED States of America.

Your Spirit-Filled Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us and we at ReThink Prayer are here to help you with a spirit-filled holiday gift guide (or perhaps even treat yourself). Everything on this list is personally chosen by the lovely ladies who work with me on behalf of ReThink Prayer. Camille Mola who does all the social media posts and Nancy Ward who steers the ship and I do our best to bring you healing prayers that are inclusive as well as insights about prayer. We, of course, do a bit of shopping too! Here is our prayerful gift ideas!

Light + Grace Jewelry – Created by Los-Angeles based jewelry designer Johanna Lieberman, light+grace jewelry designs are imbued with the healing energy of Johanna’s gifted hands. Once a hand model, now a reiki master and jewelry designer, I consider her pieces each a prayer in and of themselves. I am grateful to know and love her and wear her jewelry!

Daily Greatness Journal – This is my colleague and friend Donna Gershman’s favorite journal bar none. She shares about them every year encouraging everyone to use them. I love these journals and now I am just like Donna, spreading the good word. These are truly great! 

Let Yourself Be Loved, MP3 download – There is no greater gift that allowing yourself to be loved.  Let ReThink Prayer guide you in opening your heart to receiving boundless love.  This downloadable MP3 recording is the perfect gift for yourself, your friends and loved ones, and it’s available instantly upon purchase for last-minute gift-giving.

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Soothe the Soul Candles – A quiet room, illuminated by the flicker of a soothing candle scented with essential oils, creates a perfect respite from the holiday madness.  These soy candles set the mood for a deeper connection to your spiritual center. 

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The Gentle Art of Blessing Book – If there was ever a time when the world needs blessing, I think it is now. This teacher is magnificent. He guides us to bless ourselves and those we love for profound results. 

A Grateful Heart Book.  This book of beautiful blessings, contemplations, and prayers–from Buddha to The Beatles–offers grace and gratitude for everyday mealtime, holidays, and parties. This sits on my dining room table. It is fun to open to a random page and allow that to be the blessing for the meal. It seems to always be the perfect prayer.

The Motherhood Evolution by Suzi Lula – This book by my dear friend and prayer partner Suzi is challenging the way we think about Motherhood! Suzi’s on a mission to transform the very face of Motherhood from one of exhaustion, overwhelm and Self Sacrifice to one of Self Care and true Spiritual Connection for every mother on precious planet earth. We prayed over this book while in process quite a bit. It is a healing book for sure!

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May you be deeply blessed as you offer gifts to those you love this holiday season. No matter what, remember your love and prayers are the greatest gifts, truly priceless and timeless.

Have a beautiful holiday season and enjoy!

Love and prayers,

Angela

Angela’s Book List

Here are some of my favorite books that will expand and inspire your spiritual practice:

Affirmative Prayer by Reverend Bonnie Barnard

This recently published book offers a lively and comprehensive lesson on how to pray affirmatively. Affirmative Prayer is a revelation for those who think prayer is merely asking for help from a power outside oneself. Be ready to be inspired by this book.

A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles edited by M. J. Ryan

In this sweet book, you’ll find payers from the Buddha to the Beatles. It’s fun to simply open randomly and see what prayer your eyes land on. This book is sure to delight and uplift.

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton was a Christian mystic who embraced eastern religious philosophy. His consciousness and teachings regarding contemplative prayer are valuable no matter what your spiritual orientation.

Handle with Prayer by Alan Cohen

This wonderful little book explores the subject of prayer from a heartfelt metaphysical perspective. Cohen offers gems of wisdom for enhancing your prayer practice and provides transformational prayers to contemplate and enjoy.

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Healing Words by Larry Dossey, M.D

This ground-breaking book reveals the medical perspective on the relationship between prayer and healing. When this book was written, only two medical schools included a course on Spirituality and Healing. Today, there are over 50 and many credit Dr. Dossey’s work as contributing to this development.

Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

Beloved author Anne Lamott gives us all permission to be human. She is a master at delivering gut wrenching truths while making us laugh at the same time. In this book, she reveals her take on three essential prayers: help, thanks and wow. Who can’t do those prayers?

Prayers: A Communion with our Creator by Don Miguel Ruiz

Don Miguel Ruiz was born into a family of healers in rural Mexico. He attended medical school and became a surgeon, but had an expanded experience of consciousness during a car accident that changed the course of his life. He explains how prayer provides a bridge to the infinite possibilities within us.

Prayer: A History by Philip Zeleski and Carole Zaleski

This 400-page book on the history of prayer is impressive and fascinating. It reads like a good story and is filled with interesting facts and compelling stories.

Cinque Terre, Italy – June 18, 2016

There’s something about traveling. It gives us the chance to see the world, and ourselves, in a new light. And in my case, on my recent trip in Italy, it gave me the opportunity to pray in a new way.

As I sat at the train station waiting, the railroad master emerged from her office to warn me and other travelers sitting nearby of two known pick pockets.

Evidently, she’d just gotten word they were seen heading this way to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers like me. I had packed more than was necessary or wise, and had already found it challenging, as I clumsily hoisted my big suitcase onto the various trains.

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I was touched by the concern of the railroad master and her wanting to protect her passengers from theft. As I listened to her description of how crafty these professional pick pockets are, I rolled my enormous suitcase closer and found myself clutching my purse a bit tighter.

We were told to look out for a young pregnant woman (or someone pretending to be pregnant) accompanied by an older woman, posing as her mother.

That is when my ‘get-ready-for-the-pick-pockets-defensive-stance’ softened and I remembered who I am. Then I began to pray.

I shut my eyes and imagined these beings as perfect, whole and complete. The awareness of each of them as infants came to me – maybe because the pregnancy was mentioned – and I thought about them as Spiritual Beauty and Love in the Heart of God, and I sent them my blessings. I opened my eyes and enjoyed the view.

I never did see them, but wherever they are, God bless them.

That is the amazing thing about travel, isn’t it? We see ourselves more clearly. How often am I tightening and clutching in my day to day life…in someway…rather than softening my mental/emotional stance and opening to prayer?

A good way to move into prayer is simple to ask ourselves:

What situation in my life has me feeling defensive?
How might I release fear and move into prayer?

Just by contemplating these questions, we’ve already begun. A simple prayer we can say once we are present to what we are holding in fear is:

“I release these worries to God, that I be replenished in Love Now. In gratitude, AMEN.”

Whether traveling or staying home this summer, may you enjoy the season, remembering the practice of prayer is always available. We can pray anywhere anytime and be renewed through this simple yet amazing power we all possess.