Times for Prayer

I have a ritual for when I travel by plane. I’m usually pretty relaxed as I’m waiting in the airport (I’m always 2 hours early even though I know an hour would probably suffice), and I’ll eat a snack or watch a movie on Netflix, chat with my wife or play the ABC game (My name is Alice, my wife’s name is Arlene, we live in Albany and we like to eat Almonds!). I wait patiently to board, hand the attendant my ticket, find a good seat and get comfortable. And then before we take off, before we’re asked to put our phones in airplane mode, before the attendants go over the safety procedures, I clothes my eyes and I pray. I pray to whoever is listening, whoever is out there keeping watch. I pray for a safe flight and a peaceful vacation. I pray for my family, that they stay safe while we’re apart, and I pray that we all are blessed with long and meaningful lives. I know that it might not change anything and that even with my prayer we could still crash or someone in my family could get hurt while I’m away, but I don’t feel safe on a plane if I don’t do this ritual before we take off.

Prayer helps to reduce my anxiety. It’s like, if I push my fears and my hopes out into the universe that maybe the Divine will hear it and maybe decide I’m worth saving or protecting. Or maybe if I pray for courage or wisdom or patience that by simply putting that out in the universe I will be more mindful and remember patience when I’m stressed or courage when I’m scared. Sometimes I pray for answers, like when I first started to realize my senior year that I had a crush on Kourtney and I didn’t know what to do about it. I prayed for months and was looking for a certain answer that I never got. I was certain that the answer to my prayers would be stay where you are, what you’re feeling isn’t real. But every time, the answer I got was Go! This is your chance! Do not squander my gift to you. It took me awhile to really receive that message and take it to heart. Nine years later and we’re married and getting ready to start a family. But I’m not always looking for the Divine to give me an answer to a question– most of the time I ask for peace or protection. There have been many times when I’ve been suddenly very anxious about dying, usually right before I fall asleep, and I feel the panic begin to rise within me. When I was little I used to get out of bed and knock on my parent’s bedroom door, crying about death and what ifs and my parents would tell me that when we die we go to heaven. I would be skeptical but would accept this answer because all I really needed was assurance that death wasn’t scary so I could fall asleep peacefully. I still get panicked about death as an adult but instead of calling up my parents I pray. My prayer is simple: Please god, don’t let me die scared, and don’t let me die alone.

And believe it or not, it makes me feel better.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 11

What are your thoughts about prayer as a spiritual practice?

I’m definitely a proponent for prayer. For me, it’s one of the easiest ways to connect with the Divine, and it’s a practice almost anyone can relate to because it’s a practice many religions use– they may use it differently than I do, but they still use it. For instance, Judaism has prayers you say by yourself and prayers you must recite in a group, but all of them are formal prayers, ones that you learn when you’re young. Knowing the same prayers, even if you’re from different regions, is a way to connect as Jews. On the other side is the church I grew up in, which emphasized prayer as having a personal conversation with God, where there were no real rules except to say what you feel, and then say Amen at the end. You didn’t have to say the words out loud. In fact, most of the time it was preferable for you to say your prayer in your head, to keep it between you and God (unless you had a prayer request, meaning other people prayed for you). Arthur_diehl_pagan_prayer

As I explored Judaism, I was really interested in formal prayer. I liked the fact that even though I was the only one in my house saying Shabbat blessings, I was joined by thousands of people across the state, more around the world, all saying the same blessing. I felt connected. It was like the world stopped for just a few moments and that  time was for us. At the same time, I’m all for impromptu, personalized prayer. I do it quite often, mostly when I’m anxious about something, because it calms my nerves. I’m a nervous flyer, and every time I get on a plane, right before we take off I say a prayer. It’s usually something like, “God, Goddess, everyone and everything out there, please don’t let me die on this plane. Please keep my family and friends safe on our journey. thank you for you protection and love. Also, please please don’t let me die on this plane. I would prefer a long and happy life with my friends and family if you would grant me that. Amen, blessed be, thank you!” Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 6

How do you like to worship?

I worship mainly through prayer, I suppose. I’m real big on prayers of thanksgiving, basically showing my gratitude to the Divine for a pretty good life. I have a great job, clothes on my back, a home to rest my head, and food to eat everyday. I have great friends and family who support me and believe in me. And my wife….. she is truly a gift from above (not sure how I got so lucky!). Really, I consider any conversation to the Divine as prayer, but I’m sure others would disagree. I also have an altar set up (so far it’s pretty lackluster since I’m not able to afford everything I would like to have on said altar, but it is functional!), and I use that as my space for ritual work. Again, my ritual work is very simple and is mostly prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. I try to turn off anything that is distracting, and light a candle to focus my energy. Ritual time is for me and the Holy Ones, without distractions, so I try to create an environment of quiet. That’s surprisingly hard to do– I live close to an airport, so there’s a lot of airplane noise around the neighborhood. But I think I should get an A for effort, right?

I’ll talk more about prayer later this month (there’s another question about it in this series, so I don’t want to give too much away), but I will say that I use prayer in formal and informal settings, pretty much anytime and anywhere I feel the need to do so.

I always imagine myself doing grand, formal ritual (like at night, under the moon, with people in cloaks and “the grandest of wordsmithing” to cast a circle and call the four corners and it would be beautiful and tears would run down my face because of the intense moment I shared with the Divine. But yeah, that never happens (not that it will never happen, I still have hope). But I try to at least try to make a habit of doing some kind of ritual at home, even if it means lighting a candle and saying a prayer. I would love to perhaps meet with a group for Sabbats and Esbats, but that is a whole other conversation, for another day.

Impromptu Prayer for a Rainy Day

So the last week has been pretty hot here in my neck of the woods– and when I mean hot, I mean almost 80 degrees. What can I say, I live in the bay area, that’s hot here! And I’m so used to 65-70 degree weather that when it pushes 80 I’m sweating. This has made sleeping difficult because our bedroom is so stuffy, even with the window open, and we have no air conditioning in our home (and no fan, currently).

This has made me pretty grumpy for the past week.

I was anticipating the weather to continue this way for the foreseeable future. It’s the beginning of summer, we’re in the middle of a pretty intense drought here in California, so I thought this is it. This is my life now.

And then it rained.

I heard it through the night as I moved in and out of sleep, kicking covers off and then piling them on again as a shield against dangerous nighttime creatures (my dreaming self is a scaredy-cat). I heard it still as I got dressed this morning and packed up my work things. And when I opened my front door I saw puddles on the ground and the raindrops falling and thought yeeeeeeessssssss. Finally. I didn’t even bother with an umbrella– bad news for anything made of paper in my backpack– I walked down the street to the bus stop with nothing but a jacket to protect my skin, hood down, letting the drops fall on my hair and face. It felt so good. I had forgotten how much I appreciated the rain. And I thought about how badly our state needs it. I know that the amount of rain we get today won’t make a dent in our water deficiencies. It’s pretty inconsequential considering how much water we need to get back to normal. But it felt like hope. It felt like the rain was washing away some of the bad.

I made my way to the Bart station and up the escalators I went, onto the platform to wait for the train. I couldn’t help myself, I pulled my hands out from my pockets and felt the rain on my skin. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling, the coolness of each drop and I began to pray.

Thank you goddess for this rain

Thank you for the sky above

Thank you for the ground below

Thank you for your nourishment

Thank you for this day

For a moment it felt like no one else was there. It was just me and the rain.

Blocked: Writing Prayers That Don’t Suck

I’ve been having a bit of a hard time this week with a few things. Firstly, writing my own prayers has been more difficult than I anticipated. I think it’s because although I appreciate pre-written prayers (I think they’re beautiful), I’ve spent most of my life just saying prayers on the fly. As a child I would pray when I woke up, before meals, and before I went to bed, and most of them went something like this:

Hey God, thanks for being awesome. Thank you for all the good things in my life. Please don’t let me die in my sleep. Also, please keep all my family alive today because I really like them. Again, you’re awesome. Thank you. Amen.

I mean, it didn’t go exactly like that, but you get the general idea. Even our grace over meals was short and sweet: Continue reading

3 Things To Boost Your Spiritual Practice

I don’t think I’m the only person in the world who sometimes has trouble walking the walk when it comes to spirituality/religion. Perhaps you’re new to a path and are struggling to move beyond the memorization of ritual to fulfilling connection to the Divine. Maybe you’re a longtime practitioner who’s become stuck on autopilot. Whatever the reason, it’s important to check in with how you’re doing, and if you need to, add a little something to revitalize your practice and live your faith. Here are some simple things you can do that can really boost your connection to Spirit even if you only have a few minutes to spare.

Animals pray, too!

Continue reading