So, what is a Research-Prayer? What are its contours and origins? What is the need to revive this term and concept?
I came up with this term instinctively when writing Senhora da Orada, where I wrote: “This is a journey, of Research-Prayer, which reveals and remembers chimerical beings as living and eco-mythological forces.”
So, what is a Research-Prayer?
What are its contours and origins?
What is the need to revive this term and concept?
Let’s start with the terms used. Research seeks to discover and investigate closely, following traces in pursuit of footprints and tracks. Prayer refers to asking, requesting, or petitioning in worship. The oral shapeshifting sounds and body breaths that warm the throat and make the chest move, in fractal synchrony with the rhythm of the heart, pick up remnants and fragments, finding glimpses of other ways of being amidst the wreckage and shadows of collective memory. We have two actions, which, intertwined, allude to the movement of uncovering and recovering clues and fragments in worship. It resonates with me as the recovery of ancient ways of encountering and participating in the world. What I call the “prayer psyche layer” — the porous devotional attunement, the pledging beyond the human, the intent on communing/communicating with/for/to something unintelligible — is a form of ecstatic relation, a porous trance-like mode of engaging with the world; not in the narrowing of categories, but in the fractal opening of vast and wide encounters, while entangled with active research.
Research-Prayer is, therefore, a polyvocal affluence, that incorporates imagination, ritual and fabulation. It’s a mythopoetic practice that entangles echoes, whispers and threads that go beyond, or live underneath, linear or dry facts. It evokes, fertilizing the imagination, recalling and calling into being other layers of being. It also invokes, asking for help or protection, pleading for testimony from different realities and eco-mythological beings.
Research-Prayer does not aim to achieve scientifically verifiable truths but rather to dance reflexively to the various chimerical melodies of fantasy, poetry, dream and fiction — folktales and all — , which open up like portals from the fragments of the facts of the investigation. It opens us up to revelation in the breaths and epiphanies that confess the complexity and paradox of things. It’s a push and pull between the lines of a research paper.
Research-Prayer rigorously follows the rhizomatic threads that unfold under the floor of our modern/Western psyche — feeble traces of other ways of walking and creating the world. I realize now that this has been my instinctive process ever since I wrote the book “Tales of the Serpent and the Moon,” continuing in “Sanctuary” and subsequent small publications — in multiple sensory journeys of reunion and interweaving between stories, facts, metaphors, and unlikely connections.
Research-Prayer undoubtedly comes from my unraveling and following the threads of indigenous research practices and community psychologies (*), where ceremonies and stories are an intrinsic part of the symbiotic process of research, unlearning and learning. Indigenous research is participatory, lively and multi-directional, and in this concept the researcher is never neutral or distant, being a natural part of the matrix of questions and answers.
This way of investigating is very different from the concept of research in our modern Western cultural context, even what is accepted as possible and “true,” because this paradigm opens up to humor and love, imagination and cross-fertilization between different layers of the territory, the body and the psyche. Here, dreams are as important as rigorous, numerical measurement values. Research-Prayer guides us through an emergent and symbiotically responsible path. In this practice, there is no neutral objectivity, but there is rigor, and the paths of transformation are emergent and not imposed, knowing that good intentions are not enough.
Research-Prayer opens up to the relational phenomena between somatic ecology and the more-than-human, in an invitation that is always inter and transdisciplinary, not aseptic or limited, but an activism of social, ecological, community, and contextual incorporation.
Research-Prayer converges in the credit of agency and sentience of contexts that are not only intra-psychic, but also relational, mythical, and ecological — incorporating the vastness of more-than-human beings and consciousnesses. It is intrinsically animistic.
Research-Prayer is based on affection, sharing, and belonging — of how shared stories generate culture and lift the veils from our vile conditioning. This is an invitation to change our worldview, moving beyond anthropocentrism. The power of affection is rooted in the plurality and ecology of knowledge and in constant critical self-reflection, recreating a collective and organic imaginary. Research-Prayer is thus a living and plural process that aims to work with the relational, with perceptions of power and the construction of reality.
I see the choreographic aesthetic of Research-Prayer as a medicine and antidote to literal and illusory uniformity, as well as to the modern West’s restricted notion of reality. Within this practice, fiction fertilizes reality with hybrid and chimerical possibilities, making alternative narratives possible.
Research-Prayer opens us up to intentional deviations from the straight lines of facts and metrics that we mistake with the reality of the world. This mythopoetic practice frees us from our deep conditioning and reductive ontological imprisonment. These two intertwined actions, research and prayer, alluding to the movement of uncovering and recovering clues and fragments in worship, expand our vision and affection, bringing complex patterns to the cloth we weave as a world.
For now, I will continue to research and pray, to tell and write the multiple stories that keep unfolding — or at least part of them.
- Applying Indigenous Research Methods: Storying with Peoples and Communities (Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education)
- Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods
- Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
- Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
- Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World
- Introduction to Community Psychology