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.
- Mohandas Gandhi
Still filled with Catholic guilt? Not quite sure how to make this connection with the Divine as a willing adult participant? Take time to communicate with a spirit that beckons you, whether it be Buddha, Jesus, or Elvis. Come to a comfortable place, carve out some time, and get into position. Prepare by lighting a candle, fasting, ringing a bell, or bowing to your altar – whatever resonates for you. Try a cross-legged seated pose, kneel near a window, or simply lie still on your bed. Create your own ritual. Find your own way to pray – it’s your party. Begin the prayer by singing, reading, reciting a favorite quote, or lowering your head. Express gratitude. Ask for courage. Send good thoughts to others. Seek solace. Share your thoughts. It’s like journal writing aloud. Finish with a bow, an “amen,” a ring of the bell, or by blowing out the candle. Voilà, you’ve had your own prayer party. Rinse and repeat as needed.
The way I combat those not-so-positive voices is with affirmations – short, pithy, positive statements made in the present tense. You may ask, “Really, I’m supposed to say things like ‘I am beautiful,’ ‘I can do anything,’ ‘I am a successful writer’?” Indeed you are!
There is a whole café built around affirmations in the San Francisco Bay Area called Café Gratitude. Every item on the menu is an affirmation. It’s inspiring just to place an order. I’m a big fan of their “I am bold.” If you’re in the area, why not try their “I am happy” or “I am peaceful”? Rather than simply ordering vegan nachos or pizza, the café ensures that you will take a moment to repeat a positive affirmation. Customers are asked: “What are you grateful for today?”
Next time self-doubt comes for a visit, ignore it and instead start your day, meeting, or event on a positive note by reciting the mantra “I can do anything” and watching what transpires. Your mind will quickly catch up with your mouth.
Next: Meditation and more
Pen Your Thoughts
Tap into your spiritual and creative sides through this time-tested tradition. Journal writing has been an important part of my life since the wise young age of eight. Writing your innermost thoughts on paper allows for reflection, the chance to capture the moment, and a private space where you can spill how you really feel without concerns about grammar, tear- or ink stains, or losing a friend. Do you find yourself complaining about the same thing repeatedly? Do you see patterns in your comments about relationships? If so, this is the perfect realm in which to explore ways to make changes. Do you notice a negative tone during certain months? Maybe that’s the time to dash off to a warmer climate for some much-needed R&R.
In the morning before your coffee kicks in, start writing whatever comes to the surface. This allows you to start your day with a clean slate. You can also do your writing before bed as a tool for reflection. Others use their journals to recap the day with basic information like where they brunched and what movies they saw. Some write to diffuse pent-up emotions they dare not share publicly. Over the years I have found that the volume of my journal writing increases during challenging times of transition, such as breakups or moves. How you use your journal doesn’t really matter; just using it is the point.
I find that handy phrases to jump-start my writing can be helpful tools on days when staring at the blank page seems overwhelming. For example, try:
Today I am feeling _______.
I am most happy when _______.
I am bothered by _______.
I really want ________.
I continue to struggle with ________.
These small springboards can uncover some interesting material.
Assume Your Meditation Position
Ah, the simple act of being – so much harder than doing. Why is sitting still and focusing on our breath such a tricky endeavor? For the girl-on-the-go, this single act can bring an enormous amount of tranquility. Meditation encourages us to slow down, empty our overactive minds, and provide rest for our bodies. One teacher describes the benefit of meditation as the chance to have space between a stimulus and a response. The practice of meditation allows us to be less reactive. Remember this tip the next time you receive an unpleasant email. Take deep breaths, create space before reacting, and notice that you can retrain yourself to more compassionately handle situations that push your buttons. The benefits may not seem obvious immediately after you’ve sat on your hot-pink cushion, but hopefully they will be apparent in your words and actions post-meditation. You, your colleagues, and beau will thank you for this newfound spaciousness and your thoughtfulness.
Now, let’s go through a simple seated meditation together. Gather these accoutrements: a kitchen timer, chime, meditation cushion or firm pillow to elevate your hips, and (optional) incense or a peony-scented soy candle. Sit comfortably cross-legged on the front edge of your cushion with your hips elevated above your knees (or in a chair), light your incense or candle, set the kitchen timer for ten minutes, and sound the chime. Rest your hands on your thighs with the palms facing down, let your elbows rest comfortably, and allow your eyes to close. When the kitchen timer goes off, open your eyes, do a few gentle stretches, and prepare to emerge from your meditation more grounded.