If you’re like me, you are inclined to criticize yourself first thing in the morning. Everything from Why the hell did I have that fifth glass of wine to What is that smell and why is it so close by? Even now, there are days that my first thought in the morning is Not again!
Days can be hard, maybe even most of them are hard. For now, I try to make them better specifically for the hardest days.
I don’t exactly snooze, although I love to snooze. I do employ the snooze on my silent alarm, but rather than sleeping, I have a nine-minute prayer interval.
You were warned there would be God stuff.
It’s not fancy or smart. I recite the Lord’s Prayer, the serenity prayer and improvise some gratitude. It took me weeks to get through the whole thing without crying. The gratitude part really gets the waterworks going, because my gratitude has to leak out somewhere, I guess.
The Lord’s Prayer may not be your thing, but here’s what it means to me and why it’s first. It begins by acknowledging God and God’s nature saying Howdy God, You are entirely good.
I think this is a very helpful way to approach life.
If you are open to the idea that you are not in control of everything, you can enjoy your life so much more. If you are open to the idea that God’s got it and God wants good things for everyone, it takes a huge amount of pressure off of you to make things happen. You don’t have to believe you are operating in a benevolent framework, but you may.
The prayer goes on to humbly invite God to lead us because we don’t have the whole picture. After that, it asks God to let us have more life and to take care of our needs with kindness and forgiveness. As an extra twist, it reminds us to express that blanket of God-like kindness to others.
The kicker is the bit where it acknowledges we have to give evil the slip, pretty much every day. For me, this is the most annoying concept. Why should anyone have to worry about evil every single day? It seems unfair that everywhere you go, evil is hanging around too, like mildew.
The very last part is laying it on a bit thick, honestly. God doesn’t need our compliments after we’ve already acknowledged the all-good, all-knowing, all-loving stuff, right? Still, I don’t skip that part, because I have to admit that not understanding the purpose isn’t a good enough reason to gloss over the words.
Here’s the Episcopal version that was placed carefully in my baby brain:
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen.
Now, the serenity prayer was around before AA, but not much before. It was a favorite of all the most serene people I have known, and it is especially helpful to those of us who feel a crushing and intense need to fix things. When most of the things you feel moved to fix are other people, you will drive yourself bonkers. If you want to fix something, start at home with your own baked-in foibles.
It’s not really a huge leap from one prayer to the other, but more of a doubling down on the surrendering thing that is particularly difficult for someone like me. And maybe you!
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Again, I know that we’re all coming from the God stuff from different angles. I’m sure God prefers that, because it’s more interesting, and I like to kid myself that I know what God likes.
The function of prayer first thing is a lot more important than the form it takes. Your prayer might be looking at birds while you are on a walk. You may start the day with Howdy Dharma! or lighting a candle and singing. It’s all about giving a moment to the eternal beyond yourself, whatever that moment may look like.
When my priest was here to bless my new house, she asked if I had an altar and my instantaneous thought was FUCK. I am supposed to have an altar too? Of course I’m not supposed to have anything. I think we all get too carried away with thinking we should have this or that. Let’s avoid shoulding all over our lives and just try stuff and see what helps.
I’m told that gratitude is proven by science to improve our happiness, but I don’t have a gratitude interval because of that. I mean, I used to write down three things for which I felt grateful at night. Honestly, I think I did it for a week once. Anyhoo, it’s not something I do because I want to feel happier, I do it because I am very, very grateful and I don’t want to forget it.
When your mind is inclined to wander into very dark places, your spirit needs to be ready to give it a nudge back to the light.
Starting the day with a tiny ritual that feeds the spirit is just what I recommend.