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How to Pray 101. Hint: I Didn’t Learn It in Church

Reclaiming “God” and Prayer 101

Some of you might know I’ve been attending Breathwork classes at a meditation center in Los Angeles and that they’re changing my life. Historically, I’ve only breathed enough to stay alive.

how to pray

In Breathwork you take two breaths in; tummy … chest, then exhale once through the mouth rapidly and forcefully.

This floods the bloodstream with oxygen and brings up every damn thing you’ve ever repressed in this life and perhaps the previous life you shared with Shirley MacClaine as two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

I tend to have epiphanies while breathing that I instantly forget once the class is over. It’s like being hit-and-run by Intuition and Joy.

So, I’ve taken to leaving voice memos on my phone the instant I stagger out of class. My first one was a revelation.

I had no idea that I’d allowed the religion of my upbringing — which taught me I was a sinner with a lot of work to do to get into heaven — to thoroughly shut down my ability to connect with God.

Here’s what I blurted out while fellow over-oxygenated zombies filed past me in the lobby:

“I realize that when I pray, I assume I’m not perfect enough for God. I assume God disapproves of me, is disappointed in me.

“So, my prayer then comes from a place of neediness, shame, embarrassment, cynicism and rebellion.

“What’s becoming clear is that I approach prayer not believing God loves me exactly as I am right now.

“I don’t know that He’s proud of me, thinks I’m marvelous and unconditionally roots for me.

“And that He hopes I’ll realize that the only person who has the power to hurt me with judgment and shame … is me.

“So, when I can enter prayer knowing how loved I am, and wanting to love myself as much as God already loves me … it just completely changes the prayer.

“The prayer moves from:

  • neediness to gratitude
  • from shame to worthiness
  • from embarrassment to openness
  • from cynicism to optimism
  • from rebellion to humility
  • to even more gratitude that this available spirit would love me better than I love myself.

“That He loves me perfectly. Just as I am. (Much as Mark Darcy loved Bridget Jones just as she was!)

“And that He accepts me just as I am. And has no expectations of me, except the hope to walk with me on the rest of my journey.

“To support me in any way needed; in the decisions I make and actions I take.

“Perhaps the only time I should notice Shame (as a red flag, not a punishment) is when I shut out that unconditional love, appreciation and approval.

“Because when I do that, I’m left alone with my monkey brain, which is wired by all the negativity I’ve absorbed throughout my life.”

And it ended there, because I’d stopped breathing quite so deeply and had a sudden hunger for fried calamari.

But I want to remember, and never forget, that my relationship with the “God of My Understanding” is deeply personal. And I will not allow any person or institution to get between us anymore.

I hope my story has been helpful in some unexpected way and thanks for letting me share! xo S

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