“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”~ Mahatma Gandhi
There is too darn much going on in everyone’s life. S.O.S. Dear God, please help save our sinking ships. Lots of good, but lots of challenge, too. It’s too much.
The joke is in friends asking me how to handle this or that. All I know is a breathing technique or two and how to say S.O.S. Once in a while, amidst chaos, I’ve successfully placed my gaze on the positive things in my life, bringing some equanimity back into my existence. But, truth be told, the only reason I know any technique at all is because I’ve fallen out of balance enough to have fumbled and found what works. I’m not sure I’m in a position to give advice…
I think of these mindful techniques – mantras, meditations, and more – as the tools that bring little embers back to life when our fires have worn down a bit. It just takes a little fanning and fueling and praying before the fire gets going again. And, once it does, we can bask in the glow for a moment, but not long, because we’ve got to keep tending to it. The wood does burn down again, and wind and water is probably on its way because, well, that’s life. It’s a maintenance thing.
For example, you might set out to put together a peace blog and (misperception number one) think you’ll therefore experience a ton of peace. Not so. Perhaps it’s some sort of law of attraction that “the universe gives you what you need,” or a bit of Matt Dewar wisdom (“You don’t quench your thirst by talking about water”, which maybe I’ve been shooting for). Whatever it is, I need mindful techniques now more than ever. (I probably should have called this “40 days of trying to find peace when you are not feelin’ it!”)
If perhaps you are participating in this and you’re not feeling peaceful right now, or the idea of sticking with mindfulness longterm is wearing on you, or the baby is not sleeping, or your middle-aged self is not sleeping, or your kid is doing more drugs than homework, or the deal that should be coming together is not and money is tight, or you are simply feeling like you’re swimming upstream, just know you are not alone.
40+ days is really an obscenely long time to be expected to hold on. Jesus in the desert, Moses in the wilderness, Noah with a bunch of seasick animals watching the world go down the drain. (Are you friggin’ kidding me? Ironically, I’ve been saying that a lot.)
My way of dealing is to pray on every little detail. When I am exhausted, too tired for mindful practices, it is my last resort. Let me be blacklisted and booted out of every church in the country for sharing the following (apologies in advance, preacher friends):
I pray three ways. Sometimes, I say the Lord’s Prayer. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us… a cover-the-bases prayer. This can be kind of rote, which is often good. Sometimes, I use Anne Lamott’s “Help, Thanks, Wow” approach, adding “Please explain.” Third, and best, is the honest, running-dialogue type. This is the kind that could get me kicked out of church.
I speak it like it is, in my words. I talk to God like He really does know and understand and forgive me. And like he has a really good sense of humor, which I tend to think He must. I use my language, and it is not pretty. Back to the f-bomb thing…
A modified version might be:
“Are you friggin’ kidding me? If you’re gonna sit around and watch this much shit come my way, then you can damn well walk me through some answers. Pretty please put exactly what I need right in my path, so that even a dope like me can figure out what to do next. Yours, truly…”
I shared this approach with an exhausted mom dealing with an exhausting situation. She told me she recently prayed for her daughter, all the way to the airport: “Please help her get on the damn airplane, please help her get on the damn airplane.” Her daughter did, and then the plan was screwed as soon as she got off the plane. “So, now what, big guy in the sky? Wait, what? Keep it coming? Ugh.”
Sometimes it comes to that: honest angry words and no choice but to let go and give it up.
Mindfulness is about returning, even when we are not feeling it, to our practice. And for me, when even that starts to burn out, I turn to praying, honestly, from the heart.