This week in our fledgling virtual church community I am focusing on prayer, and I hope you will choose to join me. Each day I plan to focus on prayer in a different way. Today my focus is "Prayer, not worry" (#prayernotworry.) Yesterday, as I spent a lovely Sunday on the shore in Mystic, CT, I thought about my prayer life up to this point--prayer techniques I have tried, ones I have created, what worked and what didn't, and how sometimes my good intentions in regard to my prayer life sometimes get crowded out by everyday busyness and drama, until my prayer life becomes haphazard and I lose an abiding a sense of calm and joy in my life.
Prayer and spiritual practices like meditation are good for us, but like other things that are good for us (exercise, eating right, keeping an orderly home, healthy relationships) spiritual practices require constant attention and frequent fine-tuning.
I have a tendency to become frustrated with things in the world around me that seem to be going in the wrong direction. Sometimes I worry. More often I find someone that feels as if they are the source of my concern and get angry at that person or group.
I used to worry a lot, but that diminished a few years ago after I started taking probiotics. (I did this because of some very early but promising scientific data, which is now a growing body of evidence that probiotics influence things like mood and appetite.) For the most part the probiotics really improved my overall mood and quality of life, but over time I started to notice that instead of being worried I was feeling angry more often.
Worry and anger are negative spirituality. They are the flip side of prayer, meditation and other practices that ground us and heal us. It may feel selfish and self-absorbed to focus on healing our own minds and lives through spiritual practice, but we can only give to others what we ourselves have, so if we want to sow seeds of peace and love and compassion and generosity, we must first provide these things to ourselves through our spiritual practice. Healthy habits and proper use of perscribed pharmaceuticals can help people live longer, better, healthier lives, but no pill or superfood will totally substitute for an engaged spiritual practice. I have found that it helps to try things to figure out what works for me. And over time as my life changes, I find it is good to re-evaluate my spiritual practices and maybe even shake things up a little.
Today, when I find myself brooding about something, worrying and seething with fear, frustration and anger, I'm taking a deep breath, and finding a way to turn that negative spirituality into a prayer. Sometimes it will be a prayer for myself, to become less of an anxious, bitter knot of a person, and sometimes it will be a prayer for someone else. And sometimes, I'm sure, it will be both.
I hope you will consider joining me in my practice.