Do you have a prayer practice?
When the road is dark and the night is long, when the shadows are deep and the unknown is frightening—do you pray?
What does that look like, your prayer? What does it feel like? Who is listening?
Or maybe you don’t have one. Maybe you are thinking that it’s pointless. Maybe the idea makes you a little uncomfortable. What if I asked if you had a practice that brought you comfort? A ‘comfort’ practice. If the answer is still no, then I must ask, why not?
Understanding my own prayer practice is still fairly new to me. Until recently, the idea of ‘praying’ and the idea of ‘needing comfort’ were two separate ideals. For many years, I thought the right to pray was reserved for those that worshipped and believed in God.
I was a non-worshipper and a non-believer, so it follows that I was a non-prayer.
I’ve tried the practice a couple times throughout my life. The first time was when I was a child and my dog ran away. I was desperate and I was told that if I knelt by my bed and clasped my hands together and asked God to bring him back, that my dog might return. So I did, for many nights. I used my politest words and imagined that a large man in white robes would make it happen. He didn’t, and I never asked him again.
About eight years ago I was desperate again. And really, really scared. The future was uncertain at a time when I needed it to be very certain. So I pleaded, mostly to the clouds and open sky, asking for signs that everything would be ok. Every so often I would get one that would bring me comfort…an unexpected rainbow or a flock of geese taking flight. But maybe that was just me searching and those were just coincidences. Besides, who the heck was listening anyway?
Desperate times continue to grace my life.
I use the word desperate because this is when I, (we), most need to be comforted. When change is forced upon us, when everything seems out of control, when we are standing on the edge and a strong wind is blowing right towards us, we need a practice to comfort and guide us.
If you have one, you are likely nodding in agreement. Yours is unique to you and that is amazing. It doesn’t matter if it looks like a daily ritual, or a chant, or only takes place on Sundays. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your yoga, your dance, or your song. It doesn’t matter if you practice it alone, with another person, or with many other persons. All that matters is that you believe it and that it comforts you.
For the rest of you, what do you do when you are desperate and need guidance?
Without a healthy practice to snug yourself into, you risk dis-ease. This is when panic takes over. Anxiety and fear can overtake you and actions that evolve from this place can’t be trusted. This looks like binge eating, binge drinking, binge sexing. It feels like cynicism and doubt and disintegration.
My prayer practice is still a work in progress; sometimes, I prefer to call it my comfort practice.
It’s a simple practice: love, breath, witness. When that gust of wind is about to body check me off the edge, I respond with love. I inhale, exhale, repeat. I allow myself to be stunned by witnessing the beauty that is always around me. And I am comforted.
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Assistant Editor: Jaim Coddington/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum