Or: How I stopped scoffing and lived the questions instead!
Okay, I get it, you are a busy person. I really do. It is so easy to get bogged down in the day to day work we all do and forget to take time to feed yourself physically let alone spiritually. I also get how that last sentence may make you cringe a little- “feed yourself spiritually?” Really? Being a bit of a cynic, I often find myself somewhat put off by characterizations like “finding your inner goddess” or “energetic manifestation” or “letting Jesus take the wheel.” If I can, I’d like to explain to you what I mean, and regardless of the language I use, I hope you can find some meaning in it. So please suspend that good ol’ disbelief for a moment with me. Cool? Thanks!
Have you ever heard a song in a concert or on the radio and felt a strong connection to it? I know I have. I can still hear songs and remember exactly where I was emotionally and physically when I first heard it. The same can be said for literature and other forms of art. I think many of us read something we never would have picked up ourselves in an English class and had our minds totally blown by it. Sometimes these moments happen in the car when we hear someone make an excellent point on the radio that resonates with truth. These experiences form a deep connection for us and can be relived any time we open that book or play that record again, if we are lucky enough to remember them.
A reality of my life is that sometimes I feel utterly drained. Sometimes I have given so much to others that I have nothing left for myself. Other times I struggle to see the point in it all. It is in these moments that my natural inclination is to reach for a way to connect; whether back to myself, or to something else. These connections lift me out of my current mental state, they challenge me to think or remind me of why I believe what I believe. Sometimes, however, the struggle is real.
That brings me to that word up there in the title- Prayerbooking. I sense that disbelief returning. I was first introduced to the concept my senior year of college in an interfaith discussion group. I too scoffed a little at the title. Prayerbooking? Sounds like a fancy religious scrapbook. Not exactly. In our group we met every week or so over several months, each meeting focusing on a topic of spiritual or emotional significance. We discussed everything from our religious backgrounds to favorite poems. We recorded those meaningful passages individually with the goal of eventually sharing them. Each person presented their “Prayerbook” differently. Some had simple journals with handwritten copies of book quotes, others had mix cd’s; my prayerbook was a hand bound book of clips, pictures, song lyrics, and poetry. In the end we all had our own little personal meaningful guide that we could reach for at any time to experience once more those pieces that truly mattered to us.
I can’t tell you how many times since then I have picked that book up. I reach for it when there are more questions than answers. I reach for it when I need to refuel after a long and stressful week. The best part of it is that it never has to be finished. Each time I experience something that I want to remember I can add it to my book. It is a physical reminder that, despite my cynicism, I do need to connect to something outside of myself, to recharge my energetic battery and reconnect to the bigger picture. Through this process I came to know myself better, I came to enjoy the questions I couldn’t answer, and I let my guard down. It is my belief that this vulnerable practice is exactly the type of experience that we are all craving but cannot put a finger on. Maybe through such practices we can discover that the questions we ask may be in different languages, they may come from different religious and cultural backgrounds, but they are strikingly similar. We are all looking for connection and meaning. If we can learn to live with the questions we cannot answer and find significance in that journey maybe, just, maybe we could all get along. But don’t ask me. I’m a cynic.
-Abbey, Marvelous Minion