Just Like A Prayer
I used to pray every night as a child. It was a part of my bedtime ritual. After my pyjamas were on, and my teeth and hair brushed, I’d kneel beside the bed, press my tiny hands together, and ask the Santa Claus of the sky for whatever my little life was lacking. I always requested that God bless and protect my family and friends, but I also made sure to ask him for toys and to be real life friends with Jem and Anne Shirley.
I never got hung up on it afterwards, when no new toys appeared and Jem remained a cartoon character that failed to synergize into a real life person. My child mind understood that the beauty was in the intention of the prayer, not the outcome. The idea of the thing is sometimes more enjoyable than the actual thing, anyway.
I fell off the prayer wagon as a teenager, when praying became something only tots who believed in Santa and my pious Nonna did. I had loved the connection, the communication and the ritual of prayer, but I was disillusioned with religion and couldn’t dissociate praying from the religious institution that had taught me how. My questions outweighed available answers, and God wasn’t getting back to me.
I didn’t the mourn the loss of religion; instead, I pretended it was never there in the first place. As cliché as it sounds, I filled the spiritual void with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. I sought out the edges of society, the occult, astrology, shamans, Ouija boards, yogis, myths, tarot readers, more drugs, self help gurus, metaphysical books, silence retreats, psychic massages, and much, much more. All this, and I suspect what I was ultimately after was the peaceful knowledge I seemed to possess at five-years-old: that we are all protected by something we can’t see, and that something is always there for us.
As an adult, I’ve reconnected with my own spirituality in small ways. While painting, doing guided meditations, journaling, hiking, attending concerts, swimming and traveling, I’ve had moments of lovely connection and peace. But my challenge has been figuring out how to keep that fleeting feeling around, and how to access it in everyday life.
A couple months ago, while trying to meditate at midnight in my living room, I sat up on my knees, closed my eyes, made the sign of the cross and said, “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” What the hell was I doing? I didn’t know. I was following some instinct and decided not to judge my lapsed Catholic self for it. Instead, what I did was open a dialogue that had been missing from my life: a conversation with God, Gaia, the Universe, the void, whatever you call it.
I’ve been praying every night since, and while I’m still honing my practice, I like the ritualistic aspect of it and aim to keep it consistent. I position myself in the same spot in my living room, pyjamas on and teeth brushed. I hold a moonstone in my hand, and I speak to Bert, a money tree my dad bought me years ago at Ikea. If I can’t think of how to begin the prayer, I simply say, “how are you, Bert?” and take it from there.
I no longer pray to the Santa Claus of the sky, although that was fun. I pray to and for the light. I express gratitude for the positive things and wonderful people in my life, for my health, and for life itself, and I ask for what I need and what I’m lacking.
While praying, I often ask spirits on the other side for guidance: goddesses, gods, guardian angels, David Bowie, my aunt Gloria, Elizabeth Taylor, my grandfathers, Genius loci the house ghost, Kurt Cobain—sometimes all of them. I ask for the help of the helpful spirits, and I request that any vile, low vibration energy hovering around be sent back to where it came from.
Looked at from the outside, my prayer practice might appear as though I am conversing with a plant, because I am. But so what? It makes me feel connected, cared for and calm. And as a sober person constantly trying to subvert my lower-Neptunian tendencies, feeling connected, cared for and calm is hugely important.
I see every prayer as the ultimate self check-in and a continuation of an ongoing conversation with a higher power. Belief, like anything else, grows out of patience and practice. Sometimes, it’s a struggle to keep it up, but there’s beauty in that fight, because it’s a fight for a better, fuller life.
Sending your deepest wishes out into the ether on the invisible boomerang that is belief is scary, but it’s the crux of almost every self-help guru’s shtick for a reason. You have to summon the things you want. You have to make room for them. You have to believe you’re worthy of them. You have to call them into your life. Whether you do that by writing letters, developing a spreadsheet plan, jogging, journaling, going to therapy, or praying, the important thing is to give yourself and your dreams a voice—even if you only ever share it with the plant in front of you.
Do you pray?
Image: Chris Koehler
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