Do I pray? In a traditional sense, no. I can’t remember the last time I got down on my knees and did any type of prayer asking, thanking, or listening to a higher power. Yet it has been bothering me since a quick study of the most resilient, internally aware, and heartfelt people seem to have something in common – prayer.
When I looked deeper into what prayer means on a universal and spiritual scale (not just what I was told at church) I realized I actually do pray and that the awareness of what prayer means for me helps me incorporate spirituality into my everyday life.
Praying for me is listening to what’s deep in my heart, sometimes so deep it’s way at the bottom having been ignored for years, and being truly present. And it’s hard! I sometimes wish I was one of those people with deep unwavering faith that believes asking for things before bed and going somewhere once a week to connect makes a difference.
But I’m not. I’m not really comfortable with the ‘G’ word but I’m open to believe that God or some universal energy does lives within us. I know I’m getting into sticky territory here since God and Religion are personal but I will say the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People actually opened my eyes to being more accepting to the idea of God. The author, a very conservative Rabbi, challenges the conventional thoughts about God, suffering, and dying. I took three things from this book:
1. Bad things do not happen for a reason or to only strong people, but we can can give them meaning.
2. God does not cause our misfortunes, does not fix them, and has no grand plan while we are on earth. Some things happen because of free will, inflexible natural laws or just plain bad luck. God does not take 2 year olds because he needs them or young parents because he has better plans for them in Heaven.
3. Instead of why did this happen to me either by pitying myself (poor me) or thinking I’m somehow special and was called to be awakened. I ask: “Now that this has happened, what do I do about it.” As a side note I will say this is why I don’t talk about what is happening with Axel’s case very much. While I’m deeply grateful that the Mexican authorities are moving forward with justice so this does not happen again I can’t base my life on the outcome of the trial. Life needs to be lived for something not just against something.
And for life to be lived for something I do think prayer is an important everyday component. Listening to what’s deep in my heart and being present allows me to focus and be clear on my intentions and connect a greater spiritual power to my everyday life.
Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts. ~ Mother Teresa
Here is how I pray:
Biking: Biking, especially mountain biking in remote areas, gets me in synch with my true self. I imagine surfing could also do this for me if I ever got good enough to get into the flow and not get frustrated.
Writing: Pulls things from deep in my heart and allows me to express them. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou
Travel: The part of travel where I’m truly present in new surroundings and focusing on just being there. Listening to the waves at the beach, watching the sunset over desert red rock, riding through fresh wildflowers. I can’t think of better form a prayer than being grateful in nature.
Children: That time before bed when the body is still but the mind is awake is when I ‘pray’ with my kids. I don’t label it as ‘prayer time’ and sometimes there aren’t even words but it’s a powerful time to connect.
Those four things, while they sound idyllic, aren’t easy. I’m grateful to not get stuck in the past I do think about the future way too often. When I’m at the desert I’m often planning a beach trip in my mind. When I’m trying for the 4th time to get a child to sleep I’m wishing I was already tucked away in my own bed. When I’m mountain biking I often worry about the next obstacle ahead and how I will react when I reach it. When I write I worry I’m not writing what I should, not enough, or too much. When I’m trying to be a better person and make the world a better place I can get intensely annoyed by those around me.
But thinking of each of those 4 acts as prayer helps me recognize the importance and worthiness of everyday life and the greater impact on any type of spiritual practice.
Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. ~ Mahatma Gandhi