Distraction and prayer.

Last week I bought a rosary. I’m teaching my fingers to pray.

The idea is simple. Each bead stands for a prayer, recited repetitively, from memory. Across the course of the rosary, you say three or four different types of prayer; but each prayer takes on its own rhythm and the process becomes meditative. The chattering, whirling mind becomes still, distracted from its thoughts (shit, must add that to my to-do list; ok, can’t forget to do grocery shopping tonight; must remember to collect my music from home on the way to rehearsal; I wonder what sort of bird that is?; my foot hurts; I’m hungry, did I have lunch?; damn, is my lunch-break over already?) in the simple recitation of words; and that part of my mind which exists behind and beyond words is freed to find stillness.

Sometimes it works, and it’s easy. I feel myself lulled into the iteration and reiteration of simple prayers, each one of which says something about the Creator, each one of which lets me a little deeper into the Mystery with each echo. I feel my inner self – that part of me which exists deeper than words – still, and I feel a sense of Presence, of connection with Something, in a way that I cannot yet find the words to articulate. Sometimes I feel that this is something I’m called to do: to discover contemplation, and the Being of God, through this tactile rendition of age-old, oft-spoken words; to discover my own stillness and silence – and in that, to discover the Source of my being.

Today it didn’t work. Today was the day from hell, and even the act of recounting it in my journal left me exhausted and stressed and wanting a drink. Today my mind was whirring like a tiny tempest, like an engine in neutral when the accelerator is pressed to the floor: constant what ifs and I should have saids, and the circular going over and going over of all the day’s situations that went wrong, or could have been better handled, or that are still to be dealt with…and that part of my mind saying the prayers was distracted by that part of my mind screaming that this is a MASSIVE ISSUE! and NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH RIGHT NOW!, and all I could do was try to gently draw my mind back to the meaning of the words that it was saying so mindlessly, and try to remind myself that it’s ok to be distracted, and that God exists in distraction as much as in blissful, contemplative focus, and that it’s the mere act of trying to pray that is pleasing to the God who communes with us without our even knowing.

And that, in my year of care, and my year of enough: my attempt to pray is an attempt to live this sense of care. To care for myself; to care for the Source of all Which makes itself vulnerable in Its relationship with me; Which takes the risk of rejection in loving me. And that this is enough. Sometimes, the attempt is enough.

It’s all ok. And sometimes, that too is enough.

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2 thoughts on “Distraction and prayer.

  1. I have the following by Ralph Waldo Emerson written in my diary. On ‘one of those days’, It is a reminder, that I am human and fail but that through the grace of God I can begin afresh.

    “Finish each day and be done with it.
    You have done what you could.
    Some blunders and absurdities not doubt crept in.
    Forget them as soon as you can.
    Tomorrow is a new day.
    You shall begin it well and serenely.
    This day is all that is good and fair.
    It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”

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