When I travel and meet women, I love to create space for devotion. Many share that it is as if they have forgotten this essential part of human expression. One devotional expression, which some feel awkward about, is the practice of prayer.
Too often prayer has been associated with asking for something. We pray to someone outside ourselves to give us what we need or want. It is as if prayer makes us small and needy.
Yet as more and more people are exploring divinity as a direct experience of who we are, not as something separate from us or this realm, but as intrinsic to life, many have a totally fresh and spontaneous experience of prayer.
The form of prayer taught to us in church or synagogue for many may no longer feel natural, but prayer is still a language that can express the very depths of the feminine heart.
Prayer doesn’t have to happen on our knees with our hands folded. Simply being present with this moment is prayer. Prayer can be dancing, it can be singing, it can be opening your arms wide on a hilltop screaming at the top of your lungs. It can be closing your eyes, floating in the ocean, listening to the pulse of life.
Prayer can be taking a walk without thinking, opening yourself to the trees, the leaves and the smell of the soil. It can be walking as if you were kissing the face of the earth with your feet.
Prayer can be just listening. Prayer can be a ritual; it can be lighting a candle or chanting sacred words and sounds. It can be remembering and contemplating the wisdom of the ancestors or laughing for thirty minutes a day from deep down in your belly.
The artist prays as she gives herself to the creative process, the mother prays as she unconditionally holds her child through nights of stomach flu and the lover prays when she gives her most vulnerable and precious gift to her beloved.
Some enjoy having a symbol or an image as the object of prayer. In expressing our devotion and prayers to feminine images of the divine, we open ourselves to the qualities mirrored back to us, and we let them be present in our lives. When we pray to the Madonna, for example, to guide and teach us about unconditional love, the openness and receptivity of the act of praying itself allows a merging between the image and us. In fact, it is not so much a merging of two as it is a melting away of the illusionary assumption that we ever were separate.
Prayer is simply a way of opening our hearts; it is a way of expressing gratitude and surrender to life in all its dimensions. We surrender—if only for a glimpse of a moment—the assumption of a separate self, and in an instant we are merged into the totality of existence.
What is your favorite prayer?
~ Chameli Ardagh
Photo Credit: Bibbie Friman