Several weeks ago I set out to pray five times a day for a month, using the worldwide holiday of Ramadan as a container for my commitment. (See posts from 4/23 and 4/30). Ramadan ends in about ten days and I’d like to share my progress.
The first week or so was glorious. The fact that the prayers are repeated five times a day really helped me cement my commitment. I set an alarm on my phone to keep me on track. The weather was sunny and fine during the day, and I really enjoyed sitting outside in meditation. I found that my favorite prayer time is right after sunset, when I watch the stars come out one by one. My next favorite prayer is hours after that, when the sky is chockfull of stars and my connection to the Universe is clear and instantaneous. I feel somehow comforted that even if we humans kill ourselves off, there will still be a beautiful planet earth and cosmos remaining.
Best laid plans for prayer, but of course the hardest part is keeping it up, right? In the middle of the month I got distracted by physical injury. In a rather frightening ordeal involving rocky cliffs, I ended up with torn muscles in my thigh and ribcage. This has significantly altered most of my daily activities. Until I heal, I’m less mobile, of course. And sitting for any amount of time is difficult. But the main disruption is sleep. Most nights I sleep very poorly due to pain, some nights I don’t sleep at all. When I do sleep, I wake up fuzzy-headed from pain meds. I no longer set my alarms, because I have to sleep whenever I can. My Five Prayers took a hit.
I had to make adjustments. To relieve stiffness, I walk to the end of the driveway several times a day, out to the road and back. I use that as a meditative walk, going slowly and kissing the earth with my feet, admiring the trees and the birds. When I can’t sleep at night, I walk the driveway and admire the dark shadows and sparkly sky. I’ve had some luck falling asleep, even in pain, by listening to the taped book Zen Mind, Beginner Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki (read by Peter Coyote). Under the circumstances, I’m counting these things as prayers.
My prayer practice does not look like it did at the beginning. I think the important thing is that I keep trying. Every time I reach the meditative state of transcendence, I am creating a mind and body memory of the feeling. The more I practice that feeling, the easier it becomes to sense it and be in it.