Fyi, this is more than just a post, please read all the way to the bottom to get stuff and read some fabulousness from my girls.
Praying with my fingers
I didn’t go to India like Elizabeth Gilbert, but I did spend quite a bit of time at an Ashram of sorts, just like her. Three years, to be exact, at Kripalu Center in the Berkshires after it was no longer officially an ashram, but before it tragically became the NYC spa escape that it is today.
And I had all kinds of crazy out of body and mind experiences there – just like Elizabeth did. I, too, felt like I was sitting in the palm of God’s hand – a few times. I thought I found my religion, my faith, my practice, my place, my people, my community at least 100 times. Oh, how I wanted it to be so.
But the thing was this: it was fleeting.
Even while I was in it, I couldn’t keep the intensity or the practice up. My mind would literally have blown if I’d tried. So these AHA moments were saved for intensive retreats and programs – with time to just be live like a yogini in between (with smaller aha’s sprinkled about). And the people I was surrounded by, it turns out, were not really my people (honestly, they were too busy searching for themselves to be anyone’s people). It was a case of sole soul searchers in community’s clothing.
When I left Kripalu and the dizzying amount of yoga, meditation and pranayama that I was doing, those experiences, their impact, the lessons, my practices (which will be forever a part of me – and my DNA) faded. Perceptibly.
This was especially true of the spiritual practice side of things. I’d hear a dharma talk about self-acceptance or read a book about loving kindness – and for a day or a week or a month, put it into fervent practice. But something was missing. The sustenance, the stickiness, the sticktoitedness. No matter how exciting and deeply felt, these things always slipped away.
And, I blamed myself. I thought I must not have the drive or will power to stay with this! I should have tried harder, studied more, found my guru, been a better person, blah, blah, blahbbity, blah.
The truth was, I was just in the wrong church, balancing on the wrong parts of my body, talking to the wrong ‘God’.
I know this because two and a half years ago, I walked into this place: my Writing. (Well, I’d been writing all along, but I walked into this blog 2.5 years ago). As if it were my temple. It had been there all along, my writing, but I wasn’t using it the way I am now. Like the old woman who sweeps her floor for 100 years with an old broom, only to discover one random day in her 101st year that it can help her fly.
Here, in this Writing:
- I lean, in equal parts, on my heart, my brain, my gut and my fingertips.
- There is a community of friends and beloveds (that would be you) that share my faith and exalt my prayers – and display their own – in unique, overlapping, vibrant ways.
- My practice feeds me and makes me swell and expand.
- Everything is built to share.
- I am called to practice, repeat and find routine.
- I get better everyday.
- Even on the days when none of us can tell.
- IT stays with me all day and all night.
- Even when I’m not actually writing.
- I don’t have to make myself do it – it is as natural as my breath.
When I write, I’m tapped into something bigger than me.
Though some yogi’s maintain that this is impossible – because they believe that we ourselves are god. They trust that we are everything and everything is us, that there is no separation.
And that may be true, you know? Because most days I can’t tell where my fingers end, and my keyboard begins.
Wait! There’s MORE!!!
Here’s how this went down:
- My dear friend Andi and I were doing some work on her blog…via Skype – when we came upon the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love – the MOVIE. We both gasped and hit play at the same time.
- Then, we realized that combined with Alisa Bowman, we actually formed the trifecta. Alisa writes about marriage, love and sex; Andi writes about travel and food; and I write about writing, life, what it all means – and I’m a Yogini (over 500 hours certified, thank you very much) – so that apparently qualifies me for PRAY.
- Then, we decided that just because Elizabeth Gilbert forgot about the drinking, we didn’t need to – so we invited Anne Fitten, who is searching for the ultimate Brewgasm, to join the fray.
- Long story short – we’re quad-blogging this puppy, and Andi generously offered a giveaway for our readers: copies of Eat, Pray, Love and Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Committed.
- To win, you must comment on all 4 posts, then submit your name in this Google form for one chance to win. There will be 4 winners selected.
- SO: tell us your version of LOVE on Alisa’s blog, your version of EAT on Andi’s blog, your version of DRINK on Anne Fitten’s blog and your version of PRAY down below in my comments. And you could win good books from a fabulous writer, one who made the dream come true.
Your turn…tell me your version of PRAY.
Image credit: romana klee
Join the discussion 30 Comments
Prayer is thought directed towards the unknown for the purpose of knowing.
.-= The Napkin Dad´s last blog ..Sports Do Not Build Character, They Reveal It =-.
Love this. It’s all about finding our own church. I am still looking, but suspect it’s somewhere near yours, which is to say, sitting right here at my computer. Emailing with brilliant and soulful people like you who I meet through my words. I like it here.
Lindsey, Me too.
Your timing with this post couldn’t be any better. I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love. There are parts I loved and parts I hated and the part I struggled with the most was “Pray.” Mostly because of the reasons you mention above – are people who go on these retreats really finding what they’re looking for in the long term? Although I don’t have my own experience to pull from, I was highly skeptical. I was, however, drawn to the idea of finding focus and simplifying. So I’ve set some goals for myself to help me get there. You’re post really helps to underline the steps I’m taking. Thanks!
So glad, Becky!!!
This post resonates with a comment my brother made about my writing thirty years ago, “that sounds like a prayer not an essay.”
.-= Tammi Kibler´s last blog ..Writing Career Goals – I’ll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours =-.
Thirty years ago, Tammi? Were you writing incredible things at age 2? Love that he said that!
I have prayed desperately and casually, vocally and silently, formally and slothfully. Prayer, in its definition of man communicating with deity, has been both comforting and vexing.
I seek for answers that never come; I find answers to questions I never asked.
But there is a feeling I can get, when the conditions are right, that completely blows me away every time. It’s a feeling of being completely and unconditionally loved.
It’s not a thought or an intellectual understanding, but a visceral feeling of being totally loved.
And when this happens it is followed immediately by a deep love for others. It’s as though my feeling of identity suddenly expanded from just one person to billions of people and I recognized their pain, longed for their happiness, understood and accepted their flaws as I do my own.
This feeling never lasts. It’s too easy to let my mind become fixated on other things or to drift aimlessly off in any other direction. But I always tell myself, that’s the way I want to be. That’s the feeling I want to remember and cultivate.
That’s when I feel like I’ve prayed.
.-= Siddhartha´s last blog ..Most Criticism is Unjustified; Different and Weird Are Okay =-.
Siddhartha – I know that feeling. It is so so delicious. Beautifully shared…thank you.
I love this post. There is no right or wrong way to pray. I’m hoping writing will do that for me too. Right now I’m just stuck in a place that’s full of fear.
.-= Kathryn´s last blog ..Is the Digital World Turning into a McWorld? =-.
I sure don’t like to hear that. Anything I can do to help, Kathryn? You know where to find me.
I pray continually. I talk to myself and to my God, whoever he or she is all through out the day. And at night, pray before I go to bed. It just makes me feel better that there is someone or something out there who has control over things when i feel like i dont.
I used to be a hard-core, incredibly devout Christian. Until I realized that the money going into the offering plate was being used to buy the pastor a new sports car, lest he leave our church for a TV show in sunny CA. I prayed all of the time, about everything.
It wasn’t until I stopped praying, or rather TRIED to stop praying, that I realized that prayer had turned into an obsessive-compulsive complex for me (if I don’t pray this prayer, at this exact time, something bad will happen…).
Now I do yoga. I love it. It’s been an incredibly healing process for me in so many ways. I am the version of myself that I strive to be by practicing yoga. I do it at home and in the studio and sometimes waiting for the bus, if the urge strikes. I can center myself in a way that praying in the conventional Christian sense never allowed me to. I can wipe out anxiety with yoga. I have let go of so many burdensome memories (and with that, I let go of 25 pounds). I don’t need to have the illusion of control any more because it just doesn’t matter in the moment.
So, for right now, yoga feels like home. It feels just right for right now, and maybe 10 years down the line I’ll need a something new, but for right now, right in this minute, I am happy and content about who I am right now, right in this minute. And for me, that’s all that matters.
I wasn’t going to comment on this blog because I just don’t have any faith anymore but that really isn’t true.
Here is what I still have faith in:
* The forgiveness that can be found from someone who truely loves you.
* The agape love, that selfless giving, that I have had the joy to experience in mere mortals.
* That I still prefer to find one thing at least that I can like in everyone I meet and hold onto that till I find more. It’s there, I know it.
* That my mother’s love is the most incredible love I have ever known and I love my children with the same love.
* That should there be a God in a heaven, I would much rather have to explain the footprints on my back than the heals of my shoes being worn out.
Beautiful, Joanne…glad you did comment.
And Becky…so glad you’ve found such a centered home.
Traditionalist me: has found her church and prayer in the Catholic faith. There is something about coming together and about repetition, about the structure that makes it easier to let go and listen for answers; wherever they may be coming from. My Catholicism is the parachute that makes the leap of faith safe.
Non-traditionalist me: finds prayer in the inexplicable hope and happiness that bubbles up inside when listening to good music. It is the kind of joy that makes you want to stand up and clap your hands, though you aren’t sure why – the melody or tone just sweeps you up. Those moments are the most prayerful.
.-= Heather´s last blog ..Point of Etiquette =-.
My first “pray” experience was when I was 9 years old. My beloved auntie had been in a tragic auto accident and we weren’t sure if she’d make it. Grandmother took me to church with her, where at the end of the service we were invited up to kneel and pray. I went forward and prayed for my auntie’s life while tears poured from my face. Many arms reached out and held me and a voice told me that those tears meant God heard my prayer. My auntie survived that horrific accident, and while she still bears significant scars (both visible and unseen), she is whole and now the mother of three in addition to my long time mentor.
It was then that I knew, God is good… even when bad things happen.
.-= Jamie´s last blog ..“Protein” Bars, Gluten and Dairy Free! =-.
I came here via Andi’s blog and wanted to leave a comment to let you and the others know that I read all of your stories. What a wonderful blog topic, and such a great way for people to share with one another in writing.
I have a lot in common with Becky up there, and also with you in having had the unsustainable, but very enlightening experiences, the ones that you and Elizabeth Gilbert write about feeling like you are in the “palm of God’s hand.”
What I am discovering is your revelation above: “When I write, I’m tapped into something bigger than me.”
I find that expressing myself in writing is as close to a divine act of prayer as I get. It is often putting my hopes, dreams, desires, wishes into words, as well as my fears, foibles, aches, pains, and errors.
If that is not communicating with the divine, then I don’t know what is.
I’ve got the two books already, so no need for me to enter the drawing. I was just really intrigued by the topic and wanted to throw in my two cents. Thank you for the format for me to do so!
.-= Karin (an alien parisienne)´s last blog ..Happy Something To Me =-.
I am an alcoholic. I have been told that the only solution to this is belief in a higher power (GOD)and prayer. I struggled against this. I believe that the source of all good comes from within and that is what I have learned to pray to. I do Yoga which brings me closer to my higher self. Like Siddhartha I have had those moments of divine love course through me, and yes it is fleeting. But I too hold those moments as what I strive for when I struggle with anything. I pray to and for LOVE within and without. I also have a god box :-). A tangible thing in which I place my dreams.
There’s an old Peter Sellers record where a street interviewer asks a woman, “Madam, what do you think of The Bomb?” She replies, “Well, I haven’t thought much about it……. Not until now anyway!”
You always make me smile. Now you’re making me think too. If I’d known how much I was going to enjoy the combination, I would’ve prayed for it.
I think that unfettered optimism is the ultimate prayer. An awfully long time ago I was a small child. I was told a story about some saint or other who was asked,”If you were playing a game and found out that you would be dead five minutes after the game finished, what would you do?” “I would finish the game” he replied,
Now that’s prayer.
As always, make sure you have fun,
I wandered through many a church but it wasn’t until this year I realized the truth for myself. I’ve sung in choirs for many years. It’s a powerful, spiritual experience for me.
I remember someone quoting something from the Bible to me. I don’t know if it does or where it is but te gist of it was: when you sing to God you praise him twice. It’s like getting a double whammy for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m somwhere else.
I am not religious at all, but believe most people undertake some sort of spiritual journey, either by choice or because of circumstances of life. Writing has become my spiritual calling, something I only discovered in the last two years. I feel exactly the same as you, fulfilled by it and that is something I can pray to every day!
.-= Andi´s last blog ..French Friday – Beyond Paris – To Lose Toulouse =-.
I came to Alisa’s blog when I was at my lowest of lows. Ready to file for divorce having given up on my marriage. Fast forward today I am now on the path to a happier marriage, on the path to peace in my heart and on the path to a happier self. All because of Alisa’s blog. Today I am visiting your blog.
Great post Julie. As usual.
When it comes to religion I completely love where I’m at–I am completely content with the knowledge that I’m on my own journey–and IF there is a god-like-thing entity ….it/she/he is equally as content as I am. I barely even think about it at all. I’m totally there.
When it comes to my writing–oh–it’s in my most fundamental DNA strand, I know. But I feel as if I’m carefully making my way through the “fog”, waving it away as if I’m swimming through it, looking for a clearing. And I’m not sure IF there is a clearing. I just really hope there is.
Yet, I feel something great inside me? And I know it can only come out through writing. I just really hope I can find it.
Did you ever feel like that?
.-= Laurie´s last blog ..Chris Brogan =-.
I too had an “out of outer body” “into inner self/divine” moment at Kripalu in the Berkshires. Praying is still difficult for me, but I practice and get better every day – just like writing.
.-= Julie Hedlund´s last blog ..How to Research Editors and Agents =-.
I found your blog through Andi’s blog and really enjoyed your post! What a great idea for you guys to collaborate. Thanks for inviting us all to play along.
I’ve been a Christian for about 5(ish) years now and the whole journey (up to & since conversion) has been pretty out of control in the best way possible. Prayer has been a huge part of the journey and is something that continues to develop and evolve for me. As it becomes more and more vital to my daily life it becomes less and less easy to define or explain. I love that basically prayer is just a conversation with a friend, so it looks different depending on the day or where I am physically or emotionally.
.-= Molly´s last blog ..The Home Stretch =-.
If I had to define prayer it would be ‘life lived impeccably.’ I have a belief in this ideal of living as if my life is a prayer of gratitude, faith and love. I seldom attain this but surely it’s OK to have high ideals and fall short; it means I’m always stretching.
If that’s too out there I prayed to meet my partner a couple of years ago using a technique by Susan Jeffers (Feal the Fear and do it Anyway). Susan has a little book called ‘Inner Talk for a Love that Works. It is a series of affirmations designed to attract love into your life and to make sure you’re ready to receive it. It took about three or four weeks I think; we’re still together and deeply in love.
I am a Christian. I’m not religious. I love God. Prayer to me, is talking with God. The hard part for me is being still to listen! For me, it’s about relationship. I believe you can have a personal relationship with God, and am striving for a better one all the time.
In 2000, I should have been dead several times over. It was medically impossible for me to be alive. The carbon dioxide levels in my blood were over 70. (Normal is 35). Usually at 60, you are placed on a ventilator. I was still working 55 hours a week.
I was hospitalized in October, and stopped breathing during an MRI. They had to do an emergency intubation, and keep me breathing. I was flown via helipcopter to a large University hospital, and was on a vent for almost 3 weeks. I got staph. pneumonia. They couldn’t get rid of it. I almost died.
There were literally hundreds, maybe thousands of people praying for me. My sisters and mother both had their own church families who prayed, the friends of THEIR friends prayed…an so on.
So. I believe there’s a God in heaven. I talk to him through prayer. I try to listen, and I know He’s there because He saved my life. Oh…and gave me a miracle child to boot. I never should have been able to conceive, let alone carry and give birth to a child. My son Jacob is 3 1/2. He’s perfect and brilliant and gorgeous and crazy. My husband and I love him more than anything.
Blessings to you all!
I never feel more “connected” to everything than when I’m walking in a quiet, sun-dappled wood – the energy filling my soul; or when I standing on the summit of a mountain on a clear day feeling totally alive; or walking along the shore of a lonely, sandy beach – a sea breeze washing away my worries and reminding me of what’s truly important.
These are my church, my cathedral.
Writing is my act of prayer to that connection.
.-= Werner´s last blog ..Being a Writer is a Mental Disorder =-.
For me, prayer is the experience of wishing beyond everything that there is more to life than the irrealist nihilists claim, and vocalizing that wish a few times a week, and the subsequent horror of 33 years of total lack of any example that there is anything on the other side of my prayers.