I am feeling it now, resistance to prayer. To pray, in the manner in which I pray, is to stop and to sit down, to relax and to let go. This is what I wrote about last month: relax and trust. But I don’t want to. It hurts.
As I relax, muscles that have been tense ache. My lower back is sore. I am tired.
As I relax, I feel sad. I miss friends and family I was with over the New Year break. They are dear to me and it hurts to be separated from them. And on the way home I scattered some of my father’s ashes in a favourite spot of his (and mine). I miss him. I feel a little lost and lonely.
As I relax a little more, I feel my anxiety. Work starts this week and I am not fully prepared. My home is dirty and in a mess.
And then, as I relax more, here comes the past. I am aware of failure. As Auden says:
Sighs for folly done and saidWH Auden, Fish in the unruffled lakes
twist our narrow days
I could go on.
When I feel into this body, I find I am full of feeling, much of it unwelcome.
There are many harbours of pain in this body. It would be easier to keep on working, or turn on the TV for a bit, than to set anchor here.
Despite all this, I also feel a deep sense of relief. I have resisted for too long, and now I am connecting more deeply (don’t ask me what with) and I remember that so many of my concerns are not as important after all.
It is as if pain assumes the guise of a barrier which, when properly encountered, is more like a stage of awareness. I have to let go of wanting not to hurt, which means allowing myself to feel the pain and to let it – myself – be. Each ache is a reminder of vulnerability, of finitude, of limits, of ageing, and of death. Very naturally I don’t want these reminders and I have many ways to anaesthetise the memory of this knowledge. Some would argue that everything we do and all that we are is an avoidance of the knowledge of death.
Spirituality must face pain. If you want to pray you have to remember. True prayer is the very antithesis of a flight from reality.
Thus prayer poses difficult questions: What is real? How should I live?
Prayer hurts. Don’t let that stop you.
What stops you from praying? Share your comments.
Next in the series.